Licensed video games have had a spotty track record over the years. During the GameCube era, getting a licensed video game (especially 3D platformers) was an almost monthly occurrence. Now that trend has died down, but every so often a company tries to bring a license IP to video games, and usually it doesn’t work out great. SpongeBob SquarePants: The Cosmic Shake might be one of the first licensed games in years to break that mold. While it still suffers from the usual licensed video game trappings, SpongeBob SquarePants: The Cosmic Shake is a 3D platformer that stands out and should be checked out.

The main premise of SpongeBob SquarePants: The Cosmic Shake is that SpongeBob and Patrick are given a bottle of mermaid tears to use as bubble soap. These tears have magical powers, and, as is normal for SpongeBob and Patrick, things get out of hand and literally tear the fabric of the universe apart. Now, it’s up to Patrick and SpongeBob to repair the damage. The story is your typical licensed video game story, which honestly isn’t a bad thing. What makes SpongeBob SquarePants: The Cosmic Shake so wonderful is that it does a great job of re-creating the feel and humor of the first three seasons of SpongeBob SquarePants. To be fair, I only watched the first few seasons of SpongeBob before dropping off as I got older. However, I have some nostalgia for those older episodes, a time when the episodes felt genuinely funny and incredibly clever. SpongeBob SquarePants: The Cosmic Shake does a great job at providing that level of humor. It’s clever, witty, and genuinely goofy, but not so goofy that you roll your eyes.

The actual gameplay itself of SpongeBob SquarePants: The Cosmic Shake is a 3D platformer. You are put in these large sandbox worlds to run around and explore, beat up enemies, and pick up a ton of collectibles along the way. Throughout each level, you learn new techniques to help you progress, such as learning how to grapple and swing or to use a surfboard to glide across large distances. Each level features a unique theme and generally changes up the techniques you need to use in order to progress. Honestly, the platforming is quite fun and surprisingly accurate. There was a long period of time when licensed 3D platformers made the actual platforming feel floaty, janky, or just plain broken. SpongeBob SquarePants: The Cosmic Shake thankfully feels good to play and feels even better to control the actual platforming.

SpongeBob SquarePants: The Cosmic Shake is a really good looking game. If you’re familiar with the recent Battle for Bikini Bottom remaster (which looked…meh), this game is a huge visual improvement across-the-board. Characters feel more alive and convey a lot more expression than the previous remaster. Plus, the worlds feel far more in-depth and full of life than ever before. It’s a jump in quality that I wasn’t really expecting but was happy to have. It genuinely feels like you’re playing an episode of the TV show.

My main issue with SpongeBob SquarePants: The Cosmic Shake has to do with its puzzles and combat. No doubt this game is aimed towards a younger audience, so the puzzles are aimed to be more simplistic and easy to solve. The issue is that the puzzles never really change. So, that super simplistic puzzle at the very beginning of the game is the exact same simplistic puzzle at the end, which is genuinely disappointing. It gives you the feeling of once you’ve seen one puzzle you’ve seen every puzzle. 

The other main issue has to do with combat. In SpongeBob SquarePants: The Cosmic Shake you come across plenty of enemies you have to karate chop, attack with your bubble wand, and/or ground pound. The problem is the combat never feels great. There’s always a half second delay between pressing the attack button and it actually happening, which gives the combat a janky feeling. It also doesn’t help that nearly every enemy can be defeated using the exact same attack. It just felt fairly boring after an hour or two. It would’ve been great if there was some way to change up what attack worked on what enemies or to just change up how the actual attacks feel. Maybe this is something that can be addressed in an upcoming patch, or maybe this was a purposeful design choice. Either way, because combat is such an important part of the gameplay, it just doesn’t feel overly great.

Overall, SpongeBob SquarePants: The Cosmic Shake is a fun game fans of the 3D platforming genre should check out. It’s easily one of the best licensed games to come out in a number of years. Visually, the game looks like an episode of the TV show, with super vibrant colors and worlds that are full of life. There’s also the great humor found within the game, reminiscent of the early seasons of SpongeBob when the jokes felt clever. That said, it’s not without its faults. Ultimately, the puzzles and combat—two major areas of gameplay throughout Cosmic Shake—aren’t great. The puzzles are incredibly simplistic and never change as the game goes on, and the combat just feels off throughout the entire game. Neither thing is a game breaking element, but they do take away from a fun experience. In the end, if you’re a fan of 3D platformers or fan of SpongeBob SquarePants, there’s enough fun to be had in SpongeBob SquarePants: The Cosmic Shake that you should check out.