Whenever I hear about a new game releasing that’s even somewhat reminiscent of the Super Smash Bros.franchise, I get really excited. Not only because I’m a huge fan of those games, but because I’m always really keen to see how other developers can package multiple intellectual properties into a similar project. I was a big fan of PlayStation All-StarsBattle Royale and and I do play Brawlhalla regularly. Naturally, I was excited to get my hands on Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl. The game is far from perfect and definitely leaves a lot to be desired. However, the charm that comes with the source material does carry on into this game in a way that’s worthwhile. And while there is a clear inspiration from Smash, the developers have gone out of their way to create a game that’s unique to them and these characters.
As you would expect, your goal here is to build your opponent’s percentage points in an attempt to knock them off the stage. The first thing I noticed when jumping into battle was the speed of the game. Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl is incredibly fast. It plays much faster than either of the last three Smash Bros. titles. It took a little while to get used to, but it was ultimately a welcome change. Because of this, precision is key here. I found it really difficult to hit other players early on because of how fast everyone was moving. When I learned to place myself and time my attacks, things became easier. I found that the quickness of the gameplay fit it’s aesthetic really well.
The source material these from which these characters come is undeniably zany and off-the-wall. With that in mind, a Nickelodeon game wouldn’t exactly seem fun if it was super slow. Attacks are delegated to three buttons: light, heavy, and special. You can also guard and throw other players, as expected. However, one key difference is that there are no items. This leaves players to focus entirely on the combat. Stringing combos together is rather difficult depending on the character, but I never found any one of them to be unplayable or “broken.” Each character feels unique, and none of them feel like a copy-and-paste of another. The developers at Ludosity definitely put in the effort to set All-Star Brawl apart from those similar to it.
The stages and character models were really impressive to me. Everyone displays much of their original charm and give off a really animated feel. Many of the stages are serviceable and hearken back to iconic areas from different Nick shows. From Jellyfish Fields, to the Flying Dutchman’s Ship, to the Irken Armada Invasion from Invader Zim; the settings are well realized and invoke a true sense of nostalgia that only classic Nickelodeon can supply. Online play operates with minimal lag, making for some satisfyingly functional battles. There are dips in the frame rate at times due to ping, but it never makes the game unplayable or overtly frustrating.
What’s great about Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl is it’s appreciation for the overall history of the beloved kid’s network. The expected popular characters like SpongeBob, Patrick and Danny Phantom do make their appearances. However, what really impressed me is the appearance of more obscure Nickelodeon characters like Powdered Toast Man from Ren & Stimpy or Oblina from Aaahh!!! Real Monsters. I found these inclusions surprising and really pleasing, as the developers really put thought into who would fit into a Nickelodeon fighter apart from the staple characters that everyone recognizes. My favorite character to use is Korra from The Legend of Korra. She has an earth bending special attack that allows her to dash at an opponent without a moments notice. Really useful for those sudden death situations.
Where Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl lacks is in it’s presentation and the amount of content it provides. There’s only one arcade mode with no real story attached to it. Characters will say their generic dialogue through text boxes, and the fight simply begins. There’s also a sports mode that doesn’t really add anything to the overall package. It’s essentially you and up to three other players all attempting to hit a soccer ball into a star shaped goal. It seems like a placeholder, and once again, doesn’t really add anything to the experience as a whole.
There isn’t much to unlock outside of some gallery models and in-game music. The most disappointing aspect of this game by far is that it features none of the classic voice acting and music that typically accompanies these iconic characters. I was really saddened to not be able to hear Danny Phantom shout “going ghost!” or to hear that annoying, classic, lovable laugh from SpongeBob. The music that the stages do have is incredibly catchy and serves the game really well. There’s this specific dance based song used in the Jellyfish Fields stage that’s been stuck in my head since I started playing. Other than that, it’s just the announcer and the generic sounding combat.
Overall, I really enjoyed Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl. As someone who grew up with all of these characters, it’s beautiful to see them re-contextualized in a game that shows them the love and care they deserve. While it lacks content and a key component of Nickelodeon’s formula in the absence of voice acting, it is a fun, inviting fighting game. If you’re someone who holds Nickelodeon and it’s character’s close in any way at all, or if you’re just a fan of the Super Smash Bros. style fighters and need a break from them specifically, I would pick this one up.
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