Spongebob Squarepants: Battle for Bikini Bottom was the first game I ever played on the PS2. My parents got me a second-hand console with a handful of games for Christmas back in 2003, with classics like Final Fantasy 10, Dynasty Warriors 2, and Tony Hawk Pro Skater 4, changing my outlook on the medium forever. They don’t make them like they used to.
Except they kinda do. An explosion of remakes and remasters in recent years have seen fondly remembered classics once clouded in nostalgia resurface for a new generation of players. Of course, much of their popularity is owed to people like me who played them as children, but to see younger, more curious audiences jump into the fray is so much fun.
Rehydrated was bigger than anyone expected. It wasn’t just a licensed platformer with a decent following in the speedrunning community, but an underrated classic with fresh visuals and renewed mechanics that so many were talking about. Even back in the day it didn’t rewrite the rulebook, merely existing as a solid platformer that managed to stand out above the usual avalanche of licensed fodder. But it was enough for us to commit to memory.
While I would have settled for additional remasters in a similar vein, Purple Lamp has instead gone one further and created an entirely new game in the cartoon universe. The Cosmic Shake is designed to be a comprehensive love letter to some of Spongebob’s best episodes. The recent trailer from THQ Nordic’s summer showcase features Spongebob and Patrick speaking gibberish as cavemen, kitted out in karate gear while scaling rooftops and even riding a seahorse in dope outfits that feel pulled straight from a classic western.
Not only are these references to moments fans will remember, but also represent Purple Lamp’s reverence for the source material as it simultaneously strives to create something new. From a gameplay perspective, there is very little to write home about here. Platforming has been enhanced with the addition of a gliding mechanic, and combat appears to have a few extra attacks to provide some welcome depth, but otherwise it isn’t trying to innovate.
Cosmic Shake is building on the success of a remaster fuelled by nostalgia, and would almost be foolish to abandon that path in search of something new. That, and a distinct lack of similar platformers on the market will make a game like this feel new again. It isn’t trying to push the medium forward, and Spongebob is still so relevant in the current zeitgeist, so all I want from this game is a fun, familiar, and nostalgic time. That’s exactly what we're getting.
Costumes designed to be both easter eggs and have mechanical significance means that Purple Lamp has put thought into things, but none of this seeks to usurp the formula at its core that so many of us know so well. Without it I wouldn’t be remotely interesting, fearing that an homage to the tie-ins I grew up with were being left behind. But here we are, twenty years later still drinking from the well of licensed platformers that the majority of developers and publishers have left behind. I’m glad someone is keeping things alive.
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