It was just two years ago that we got Battle for Bikini Bottom Rehydrated, a faithful remake of the original SpongeBob game that ended up being my personal game of the year. Now, we have the spiritual successor to that game. The question is, can it maintain that same level of quality?
So for those that have played Rehydrated, you can expect a lot of that same style of gameplay here. The game world is divided into areas where you need to jump, dash, and swing your way to victory and you’re given an assortment of tools to do so. Among these are some returning ones, like the ground pound, but also some really cool new ones, like the karate kick which is effectively identical to the homing attack from Sonic the Hedgehog.
This mechanic in particular gives the game a nice sense of speed to it that the previous did not have and was easily my favorite of the new moves. That said, not all of them stick. Cosmic Shake introduces a seahorse riding mechanic, for example, that felt too “on-rails” for my liking. Like, you literally get the invisible walls and everything during these sequences and it is nowhere near as exciting as the tongue sliding segments of the previous game – which granted, are still present in this game, just not to the same scale.
The experience as a whole is a lot more linear, with some levels being these straightforward things (the prehistoric level being the worst offender) and others having a bit of exploration, but not quite on the level where it felt like I was free from a set path. This might not even be a problem for some, but it made the game feel far less rewarding and challenging. I mean, yeah, it is a kid’s game at the end of the day, but I feel like Rehydrated struck a nice balance there that Cosmic Shake is now lacking.
You also lose the ability to play as other characters, which sounds bad at first, but I think the devs actually did a good job giving SpongeBob all these other abilities to make up for it. Rope swinging, bubble surfing, karate kicking across the screen – it’s nice to be able to do all of this without having to worry about swapping characters at a predetermined location.
The combat itself is practically identical to the last. Most enemies can be taken down with a simple swing of your basic attack, but there are a few that require a ground pound or karate kick to set up for that basic attack to finish them off. Nothing too complex and if anything, the enemy variety could have used just a bit more to reduce some of the monotony.
Which brings me to the pacing. As a whole, the game is relatively well-paced. Most levels last just long enough that you don’t get tired of the setting and the story moves quickly to match. The experience is slightly shorter than the last game, taking me just five hours to clear, which may be disappointing for some, but honestly, if they wanted to make this one any longer they would definitely need to up the enemy variety, boss fights, and exploration to make it worthwhile.
The story is a plus though. It has that same energy you’d get from a traditional episode of SpongeBob with all the one-liners and character cameos and the like, but with the added bonus of the devs really feeding into the culture surrounding this show with plenty of references to famous scenes from the series’ glory days. The hash-slinging slasher, the chocolate guy, SpongeBob’s famous mocking pose – it’s all there and although cheesy, it is done in good fun.
The references continue when you get to the whole unlockable costume thing. In order to enter new areas, you’re given a new costume to match the theme – like pirate, prehistoric, etc. However, you’re also able to purchase new costumes using the collectibles you find and there are over 30 of these to choose from – a nice incentive to collect shinies as you play.
On the technical front, I had a few issues worth mentioning. Although I did not have issues like crashes or freezing, I did have numerous occasions where enemies would glitch into the ground, I would get stuck in-between some random objects, and all sorts of different audio issues. Whether that be audio clipping before finishing, audio starting abruptly, or just stuttering, it definitely happened enough to note here.
On a grander scale, I feel like the game’s sound design could use some work. There are several scenes where it feels like there should be sound effects, but there just aren’t and it leads to such scenes coming off as empty and pretty much goes against the spirit of what this series is about.
Otherwise, the game does at least run well. I played at 4k and hovered around 120 or so fps for the entire experience. It never really dipped below 100, but I should note that the game was also using my entire GPU, so it does run pretty hot.
Settings-wise you get resolution, screen mode, Vsync, and gamma correction. That’s it. No graphical fidelity sliders, no shadow options, none of that. The controls also do not appear to be rebindable. I played through on a controller – which felt fine – but tested keyboard and mouse for this review and although those controls were also fine, the ability to rebind them is a must and is unfortunately lacking here. Overall, it’s a fairly straightforward PC port with just the bare minimum of options.
SpongeBob SquarePants: The Cosmic Shake, while not quite as good as its predecessor, still manages to carve its own identity through its fun platforming and storyline. The new mechanics like karate kicking are genuinely fun to use and the experience is well-paced on top of that. That said, the game was a bit too linear for my tastes and not all of the new mechanics landed. And yeah, the PC port could have been better. Still a fun game and a worthwhile play if you enjoyed Rehydrated.
Quote: SpongeBob SquarePants: The Cosmic Shake, while not quite as good as its predecessor, still manages to carve its own identity through its fun platforming and storyline.
SpongeBob SquarePants: The Cosmic Shake retails for $40 USD on Steam, but you can get an official Steam key for 10% off using my Gamesplanet partner link. It is also available on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, and Switch.
I was provided a review copy of the game in order to write this review. Read more about how I do my game reviews here.