Wednesday, May 31, 2023

SpongeBob SquarePants: The Cosmic Shake (PS4)

When developer Purple Lamp made SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated in 2020, I became curious about their next SpongeBob endeavor, The Cosmic Shake, since I overall liked how their previous game turned out. However, I didn’t know that the game had come out earlier this year until I saw reviews come out, since I hadn’t been aware of any release date prior. Once I finally got a PS4 copy, which I played through a PS5, I generally enjoyed it, though not quite as much as Rehydrated.

While on a trip to Glove World, SpongeBob (Tom Kenny) and Patrick (Bill Fagerbakke) meet a mermaid named Madame Kassandra (Sirena Irwin), who gives them magic wish-granting bubble soap. While using it to fulfill his and other people’s wishes, SpongeBob accidentally overuses it, creating a disruption in the fabric of reality. With Patrick now stuck as a balloon, SpongeBob must now travel to each of the Dream Worlds to collect enough Cosmic Jelly to restore Bikini Bottom back to normal.

While the story is simple, it is one that fits in line with the source material, with all the returning characters feeling in-character and somewhat closer to their portrayal in Battle for Bikini Bottom. Although the game doesn’t bother hiding that Kassandra is the main antagonist, this combined with SpongeBob and Patrick’s oblivious nature make this more humorous than frustrating.

For better or worse, the gameplay is very similar to Battle for Bikini Bottom, including recycling the Tikis from that game as well as some similar enemy types, although the level layouts are different. While many of SpongeBob’s abilities are the same, albeit with fewer bubble powers as well as new abilities being learned over time, one addition is being able to use a bubble to trap enemies or hit faraway objects, but you can only have one bubble active at a time. Additionally, SpongeBob is able to glide using a pizza box obtained in the early game, which even includes him sometimes singing the classic Krusty Krab Pizza jingle from the episode “Pizza Delivery.” While Patrick and Sandy are not playable, the former acts a guide character who constantly floats near SpongeBob and saves him from falling off ledges, taking the place of Hans from Battle for Bikini Bottom.


There are also sections where you can ride a seahorse.

One major addition is costumes, which are rewarded when unlocking Dream Worlds and are designed to match the respective one for story purposes. Outside of this, players can collect Dubloons scattered across the Dream Worlds, also rewarded for completing side quests given in Bikini Bottom, to unlock additional costumes. These costumes, however, require Jelly to purchase, which can be obtained by scouring levels and defeating enemies. Progress for additional gameplay objectives can be viewed within the pause menu, which also serves as a convenient way to keep track of Trophy progress without leaving the game, a feature that I actually wish more modern games could implement. Also worth noting is that the game features options specifically for speedrunners, which are labeled as Quickster under Gameplay Settings, seemingly acknowledging the passionate speedrunning community surrounding Battle for Bikini Bottom.

The game also looks similar to its predecessor, retaining the same visual style that perfectly captures that of the show in a 3D space. The map screen is also very intuitive and easy to navigate, with helpful checkpoints in each level you can skip to to make side quests easier, which can also double as a progress bar on a first pass. Noticeably, several idle animations have also been recycled from Battle for Bikini Bottom, mainly the ones that acknowledge various internet memes related to the show, but whether this enhances or detracts from the experience may depend on the player. That said, one attention to detail that I was a fan of was how the Pirate costume specifically gives SpongeBob different footsteps than the other costumes, complete with a pegleg noise.


SpongeBob memes can appear in other places as well.

The game also features the same voice cast as the show for all returning characters, including the return of Clancy Brown as Mr. Krabs, completing the experience offered by the visuals. The VAs also definitely show a lot of experience in their roles, contrasting Rehydrated simply recycling the audio of its original release, although it can sound a little weird hearing Tom Kenny re-record famous lines from the series, such as the aforementioned Krusty Krab Pizza jingle, if you’re used to how it sounded originally. I will also say that Sirena Irwin’s performance as Madame Kassandra also fit well with the tone of the game and the rest of the cast, making her feel like a natural part of SpongeBob’s world.

While all of that is good, there were still some audio issues, mainly with the cutscenes. These include various SFX being noticeably slightly out of sync with the rest of the audio, as well as the voice acting doubling in some places, causing that to also go out of sync and get cut off. SpongeBob also has a disappointingly small pool of barks, which can eventually cause some lines to become more frustrating to hear. The game also uses the music from the series rather than having any of its own like in other SpongeBob games, which, while completing the experience, can be disappointing for some, especially those fresh off of Rehydrated.

Though flawed, SpongeBob SquarePants: The Cosmic Shake is a decent follow-up to Purple Lamp’s previous endeavor with the franchise that fully captures the spirit of the show and is worth playing at least once. Should Purple Lamp continue to work with IP in the future, I would still be curious to see what they’d do with it next.

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