I grew up watching Nickelodeon on a religious basis, so I’m always all-in when a game comes out featuring characters from its shows – even if they can be of a mixed quality (I’m looking at you, Nickelodeon Kart Racers). I’m also a fan of Super Smash Bros, so everything about Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl appealed to me from the get-go. Who doesn’t want to see some of their favourite cartoon characters beat each other up, right?!
Check out a gallery of screenshots down below:
If you’ve played a Super Smash Bros game before, you’ll know what to expect from Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl. Up to four players will compete in battles across a variety of stages, with each player’s damage represented by a percentage. As that percentage increases, they become more vulnerable to being launched off the stage by a powerful attack, costing them a life in the process. The winner is the player who has all their lives left by the end, though the varying game modes can change this up a little.
It’s a tried and tested formula that’s been done for YEARS in Nintendo’s famed series, so it’s no surprise that Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl has completely embraced it. Even the characters’ attacks feel similar, with a mixture of light and heavy attacks joined by more powerful moves that are performed with button combinations. Then you have your double-jump that’ll get you out of sticky situations, as well as a launch attack that’ll send you upwards as a means to stop yourself falling off a platform to your doom. If it’s in Super Smash Bros, it’s very likely that it’s here too.
“It’s fun to learn each character’s moves and how best to utilise them, with the depth that each one offers ensuring the game will be more than just a button-masher for experienced players.”
That isn’t a criticism, though, but rather a compliment. See, whilst Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl does copy a lot of what Super Smash Bros offers, it does a good job of it. Combat is surprisingly deep thanks to each character’s varied move set, whilst they also have their own unique distinctions that help them stand out from one-another. It’s fun to learn each character’s moves and how best to utilise them, with the depth that each one offers ensuring the game will be more than just a button-masher for experienced players. Most of the characters’ moves feel befitting of their personalities in the shows too, so it’s clear that an effort has been made to make their fighting styles feel… well… authentic. It actually surprised me because I was expecting a really simplified experience, but Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl is far from that.
Of course, a fighting game is nothing without a good roster, and Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl certainly delivers… mostly. It’s great to play as the likes of SpongeBob and Patrick Star, Ren and Stimpy, Leonardo and Michaelangelo from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, CatDog, Zim, Korra, or Oblina from Aahh Real Monsters, but other shows feel a bit weaker as far as representation is concerned. Only having Helga from Hey Arnold is a bit disappointing for example, whilst Reptar is the sole Rugrats representative. Other shows like The Angry Beavers, Rocko’s Modern Life, and Jimmy Neutron haven’t shown up at all, which also feels like a shame. Of course, there’s the promise of DLC characters coming in the future so they might eventually arrive, but it was disappointing to see them omitted at launch.
“It’s great to play as the likes of SpongeBob and Patrick Star, Ren and Stimpy, Leonardo and Michaelangelo from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, CatDog, Zim, Korra, or Oblina from Aahh Real Monsters, but other shows feel a bit weaker as far as representation is concerned.”
At least there’s a good selection of stages lifted from the characters’ shows though, with each one not only looking varied in their locales but also featuring different mechanics that change up the gameplay. Moving platforms, scrolling stages, dangerous hazards, it’s all there, whilst they’re also packed with small easter eggs that are guaranteed to catch the eyes of long-time Nickelodeon fans. There are twenty in total spread across thirteen different shows, so there’s plenty to play through – even IF, like the characters, you’ll feel a little disappointed that some locales aren’t represented.
Between the genuinely enjoyable fighting and selection of characters and stages, Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl really has a lot going for it. It gets the core gameplay mechanics right whilst the roster is strong too. However, it was really lacking in other areas, with the game’s single player experience feeling a bit bland and dull. You just go through a sequence of fights, with minor interactions shared between characters at the start. These are never unique though, so they feel a bit meaningless – there’s a lack of voice acting across the entirety of the game too (even with grunts and moans), which doesn’t only feel like a weird omission but also took away a lot of personality from the game.
“There’s a good selection of stages lifted from the characters’ shows, with each one not only looking varied in their locales but also featuring different mechanics that change up the gameplay.”
At least the multiplayer is great though, whether that’s when playing locally or online. Admittedly, I haven’t played a lot of online matches yet (and the ones I did I got thumped in), but I’ve had plenty of local four player battles that were chaotic but a whole lot of fun. One surprising but addictive addition is a mode called ‘Sports Ball’ that sees you trying to score goals against your opponent by attacking a ball… we spent HOURS playing that and laughing at how bad we were. It’s clear that the multiplayer experience is where Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl’s strengths lie, especially since single player felt so weak, so it’s nice to see that it offers plenty of entertainment.
Presentation-wise, Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl looks pretty enough, with the character models all feeling like perfect re-creations of their cartoon counterparts. The same goes for the stages, which are packed with vibrant colours and little details; some aspects of their visual design can be a little simple, but they look nice.
It all looks good when played handheld too, though you will probably notice a few more jagged edges around the character models. It’s nothing too bad so it won’t hinder the experience in any way, but it does look prettier played on a TV. The only disappointment as far as presentation was concerned was that the frame rate could be a little inconsistent; whilst it mostly stayed stable, there were times where there’d be some sudden hitches. They’re not frequent enough to be a problem, but they’re noticeable nonetheless.
Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl Summary
I expected Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl to be a dull Super Smash Bros clone, but it’s actually a surprisingly deep fighter that’s a lot of fun to play. I had a really good time learning the ins-and-outs of each fighter thanks to their unique move sets, whilst the enjoyable multiplayer action and varied stages kept my friends and I laughing for hours on end.
There were some disappointing aspects such as the weak single player modes, the lack of sound effects, and some omitted characters, but there’s certainly a lot more good here than bad here. It’d be easy to dismiss Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl as a simple nostalgia-fest, but there’s actually a genuinely enjoyable fighting experience to be found beneath it all.
Developer: Fair Play Labs
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PC