All-Star Brawl is a fighting game that takes place in the Nickelodeon universe. It has some interesting mechanics, but its shallow story and characters make it hard to recommend.
When talking about an unusual game like Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl, it’s hard not to mention how successful the platform fighter’s marketing has been. Everyone likes an underdog, and the novelty of a licensed product from a firm known for poor budget games having a chance to compete was undoubtedly appealing.
The issue is if there is more to the product as a whole. This is a fighting game where Nigel Thornberry can wavedash — the question is whether there is more to the product as a whole. While Slap City creator Ludocity put a lot of love and care into the combat mechanics, licensing issues and a lack of funding show up in the final product. There’s a lot of fun to be had, but minor flaws may push Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl closer to Shrek Super Slam than Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.
Super Smash(ing!) Bros. is a video game developed by Nintendo.
Nickelodeon All-Stars Brawl image
You probably already know what this is: a Smash Bros. game based on Nickelodeon cartoons. Characters and levels in this four-player game come from a variety of brands, ranging from SpongeBob SquarePants to more recent programs like The Loud House. Each character has their own set of techniques for inflicting damage and knocking other characters off the stage.
The controls of All-Star Brawl and Smash Bros. are fundamentally different; for example, whereas Smash Bros. is a two-button game, All-Star Brawl uses three buttons: standard, strong, and special. There are also several new mobility choices in All-Star Brawl, such as an air dash and the ability to walk backward. Even with the additional choices, though, control seems disappointingly restricted.
While the fact that it plays differently than Smash Bros. shouldn’t be used against it, the fighting in All-Star Brawl still leaves a lot to be desired. There are several odd choices, such as the inability to leap using the control stick or the need to utilize the jump button to descend down platforms. While players will have to get used to the controls after playing Smash Bros., they are unique in any game.
On the surface, tactics like teching and wavedashing seem to be more of a feature than a problem, which should delight Melee aficionados, but fighting feels watery and unpredictable. Many of these characters are difficult to assess, and even with a measurable damage meter, most of these confrontations lack a feeling of development. When players are knocked off the stage, it seems to be a fluke or owing to a lack of stage limits.
The Study of Nostalgia is known as Nostalogy.
GameMill Entertainment provided this image.
The selection of characters on the box cover is what will most likely bring this game into the hands of youngsters. Characters from Nickelodeon classics like The Fairly Oddparents and The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron are absent due to likely rights problems. Despite the game’s small roster, the team behind All-Star Brawl has managed to cram a lot of winks, nods, and amusing allusions into the language and movesets of the characters.
Fans will laugh at Patrick Star screaming “Leedle leedle lee!” at the start of an Arcade Mode encounter — albeit that implies that this game has vocal lines, which it does not, except for a sour announcer. Most of the characters have aesthetically unique combat techniques that showcase their personalities and certain fan-favorite moments from their programs, however this seems to be more for fan service than for practicality at times.
Call me cynical, but I’m not sure why Toph from Avatar: The Last Airbender has a special move where she simply picks up her championship belt, or why Michelangelo from Ninja Turtles has a special move where he throws pizza — sure, they’re fun personality moments, but in the context of a fighting game, these are both experienced martial arts that are undercut for a quick laugh. Then there’s SpongeBob’s trash talk, which includes “Ravioli, ravioli, give me the formuloni,” which is certainly a funny deep cut, but it’s not a phrase SpongeBob says, and it makes no sense in the context of the game. Nitpicking? Probably, but the use of these characteristics is still visible.
All-Star Brawl is too reliant on our jumbled recollections of these episodes and shows little love for the IP. While there are no music tracks from any of these programs in the game, there are likely copyright problems. A gallery displays game graphics but lacks any narrative or context on who the characters on exhibit are or where they came from. It’s more like a brochure for a Nickelodeon museum than a museum of Nickelodeon.
The final decision
Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl is, at most, a pleasant diversion with friends. Minor issues accumulate, and there are a few quality-of-life horrors – for example, exiting the character selection screen to alter the rules will deselect all of the characters. Despite the game’s original selling point of rollback netcode, I had a lot of stuttering when playing on the Nintendo Switch edition, whether on a wireless or connected connection.
This game is just a stripped-down version of Super Smash Bros., with only an useless “Sports mode” to call its own. If this game has any legs, it will undoubtedly be determined by software upgrades and downloadable characters.
Regardless, Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl exemplifies how precise marketing can be, providing competitors with particular bullet points while attempting to cast a broad net with its famous IP. Playing it will almost definitely make you grin, and you may experience some excitement as a result. But, in the end, it’s a long-form meme at best, and a monument to capitalist cynicism at worst.
||Platform combat mechanics that are surprisingly complicated
||References to Nickelodeon programs that are objectively funny
||a lack of appropriate curation or context for the usage of these characteristics
||Control choices with floaty combat that are unusual
||Character voices and vintage music aren’t present.
I was given a game code in exchange for an honest review.