SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom – Rehydrated was a pleasant surprise in 2020, refreshing the fondly-remembered PS2-era platformer for a new generation and doing a great job of it. Naturally then it was incredibly exciting to hear that Nickelodeon would once again be tapping the talented studio at Purple Lamp to revisit the SpongeBob franchise – only this time with a completely original game.
And so SpongeBob Squarepants: The Cosmic Shake was born. But what is the Cosmic Shake? It’s pretty simple, really. See, SpongeBob and Patrick have gotten hold of a vial of wish-granting mermaid tears and have decided to use them to grant not just their own but the wishes of their friends across Bikini Bottom. A noble effort to be sure, but this is SpongeBob and Patrick we’re talking about so it doesn’t take long for things to devolve into chaos. Too many wishes start to tear the fabric of space and time and their entire world becomes mixed up into “Wish Worlds”, trapping their friends in dimensions of their own desires. That means it’s up to the pair to once again save the day by rescuing their friends and bringing order back to Bikini Bottom.
Before getting my hands around the game itself at Gamescom this week, I was lucky enough to sit in with some of the team from Purple Lamp to talk about their experience of developing a brand-new SpongeBob platformer with The Cosmic Shake. Straight off the bat one of the most exciting things to learn is that not only has the studio managed to nab the entire voice cast from the show to record an inordinate amount of dialogue (over 2000 unique lines for SpongeBob alone) but the show’s writing team is also on-board. Not only that but the inspiration for the new game’s narrative, worlds and humour comes specifically from the series’ earliest episodes and the tone of the writing of the late Stephen Hillenburg. That should be enough to excite even lapsed SpongeBob fans.
The team also kindly walked me through quite a few looks at some of the game’s seven worlds in a hands-off capacity, from the Western-themed Jelly Fields, to the Prehistoric world, a world set in downtown Bikini Bottom where Squidward is directing a karate film and finally the Halloween-themed Rock Bottom area that sets the stage for the Monster Gary boss fight you may have seen in the game’s marketing. It’d take me 1000s of words to talk about everything I saw within each of these but the running theme is that they’re all largely based on specific episodes of early-era SpongeBob and packed with unique enemies, situations and environments that are on-theme. SpongeBob will also pick up special abilities from each world that he’ll be able to take back to others to further explore and find secrets.
All throughout the hands-off demo it was great to see just how much work Purple Lamp is putting into details. Few ideas are recycled between worlds, and each look positively stuffed with gags and references to the show. In a matter of minutes I saw at least a dozen different types of Jelly enemies with their own unique looks, behaviours and strategic implications. The banter between SpongeBob and Patrick is charming as well, especially since Patrick’s wish was to be turned into a balloon version of himself – resulting in him floating around as a constant companion on your adventure. There’s gameplay implications to that, too. Patrick can help guide you to points of interest and even drop health when you’re running low.
After giving us this brief glimpse into the basics of gameplay and some of the world themes we’ll see in the full release, the Purple Lamp team proudly took us through some of the cosmetic unlockables that’ll be available. Each world comes with its own new look for SpongeBob to match the episode it’s based on, but there are also dozens more costumes to unlock that represent some deeper cuts in the SpongeBob lore. I won’t spoil any here, and I didn’t see them all, but diehard fans are sure to get a kick out of some of them. The studio says the core game path should take most people around eight hours to complete, but obviously there’ll be much, much more to do beyond that to see, collect and unlock everything.
On the Gamescom show floor itself, fans can get their hands around a playable demo of The Cosmic Shake, taking them through the Western-themed Jelly Fields world. Not quite satisfied with my more in-depth look thanks to Purple Lamp I naturally had to give it a go for myself. It was only 15 minutes or so but I managed to get a good feel for how the game plays in comparison to Rehydrated, and the great news is it retains that nostalgic PS2-era platform vibe while also feeling as fluid and dynamic as you’d want from a modern game. It looks positively gorgeous in motion as well.
There’s sadly no current-gen SKU but you wouldn’t miss it – everything looks much larger, more dense and more detailed and the animation work on SpongeBob and friends is top-tier. I wish I had more to say about the level and gameplay designs but this is an early world in a classically-styled 3D platformer so it’s all incredibly familiar territory (not that I mind one bit).
Still, I don’t think it would’ve taken much to convince me to jump into another SpongeBob platformer, and it would’ve been easy (and reasonably expected) for this to be another rushed tie-in platformer aimed squarely at a very young audience. Knowing that Purple Lamp is putting so much love and care into The Cosmic Shake then, both as genuine fans of the source material and as a talented team crafting a meaty platforming experience, has me unfathomably excited and ready to play more of what feels like a proper video game extension of the series.