A solid attempt to crack a genre which will only ever have one winner, Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl gets the basics down, but not much else. The Finger Guns Review;
It’s difficult to really differentiate Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl with a certain other fighter that shares its mechanics, so in this instance, I’m not going to try. Getting this out of the way right at the top, it’s not Smash Bros. It’s not even close. From less refined mechanics to the incomplete roster, if you’re a Switch owner looking to pick this up, it’s somewhat baffling that you would choose this over Smash Bros. Ultimate, perhaps one of the most accomplished and celebrated fighters ever made. There’s little here to even compare.
However, is that necessarily a bad thing? If we look at the ‘Smash’ mechanics as a genre rather than a straight up style, All-Star Brawl is a fairly well-rounded package, albeit with the bare minimum seemingly being enough. I’ve seen the ‘Smash’ genre called a ‘platform fighter’, mashing the intricacy of platforming with the speed and tactical play of your favourite fighting games. In that regard, yes, Smash still rules that particular roost and nothing All-Star Brawl or even Brawlhalla does will knock Mario from his perch but again, if we’re looking at All-Star Brawl as an entry in a genre, it’s really not that bad.
So that’s what I’m gonna do. Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl is a pretty good fighter, and whilst it doesn’t do an awful lot to differentiate itself, mechanically it’s nearly spot on. You’ve got your four player battles, damage percentage gauges, ever increasing until it’s simple enough to smash them out of the screen, a multitude of attack options and a roster of familiar characters ready to do battle. Essentially if you’ve ever wanted to knock seven bells of sponge out of Squarepants, you’re not going to find a better place.
If you’re new to the ‘genre’ of platform fighters, each attack is divided up between light, strong and specials. Your jump is mapped to Triangle (or your system’s alternative) and that does take a little while to get used to if you’ve been used to playing Sma..I mean this genre elsewhere. If you’re struggling with the standard layout you are able to remap the buttons should you want to.
Perhaps surprisingly though, there’s plenty here that will satisfy the core of the genre’s fanbase. The depth in the variety of attacking options should be commended. The frenetic pace of battles is exciting, with strong reaction times (even if they feel a millisecond or so slower than Smash) and tactical plays that allow you to easily knock your opponent off platforms and the edge of each map with little fuss. The blocking option being tied to the triggers is a bonus, away from the core attacking buttons and the shoulder buttons working as taunts and grab attacks. There’s a hefty speed that encourages persistent movement, particularly if you’re playing online, but I’ll get into that shortly.
The maps themselves are fun representations of the variety of Nickelodeon’s output, but there’s every chance you’re going to want to avoid a good amount of them as they are either frustrating (sinking sand at Teeter Totter Gulch is just a pain), infuriating (Space Madness can eat a great big bag of dicks) or simply dull (Jellyfish Fields), there’s little here to excite the hardcore fans of all the IP included, and it’s a real shame there wasn’t a little more nostalgic energy put into celebrating these locations rather than simply ensuring they were included.
Then there’s the roster and if you’re anything like me, you’re going to feel properly short-changed. Featuring the full line-up from the off, classic characters from Nickelodeon’s history is included, but it certainly feels like there’s still a ton missing. So of course you’ve got SpongeBob SquarePants, Ren & Stimpy, The Wild Thornberries, Avatar The Last Airbender, Danny Phantom and two (TWO?) of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, along with everyone’s favourite roving reporter April O’Neal. It’s a solid line-up, but the lack of all of the Turtles is baffling, particularly leaving out Rapheal, whose entire ‘anti-hero’ nature would fit a fighting brawler like this perfectly.
There’s little to suggest otherwise that some huge omissions are either being saved for DLC or simply won’t be included, which doesn’t feel all that great. Where on earth is Jimmy Neutron? All that’s here from the Rugrats is Reptar, you know, that super famous main character from one of the biggest cartoons in history. There are some odd choices here that might disappoint some fans hoping to tear up Patrick’s starfish face with the coolest Ninja Turtle. Or maybe that’s just me.
There’s a cracking ‘Sports Mode’ included which honestly, makes everything else worth the price of admission. Two players (or you and an AI) each have a goal at either end of the stages and it’s up to you to score goals. Sounds pretty basic but the absolute hilarity we’ve had playing that this week really elevated the entire game. Whilst it’s damn near impossible on certain maps (hello again Space Madness), grabbing an American football and then legging it over to your opponents goal, jumping as high as you need to to throw it in whilst your opponent is chasing you and throwing it inch perfect only for the ball to hit the goal itself is such a heartbreakingly hilarious moment myself and Kat (who shares her thoughts on the game below) played this mode for far longer than we needed to.
Safe to say she kicked my ass but I wasn’t even mad. On certain levels such as Powdered Toast Trouble (where you’re seemingly miniaturised and can sink into milk in a breakfast bowl), running and running only to slowly disappear into the milk with only the ball there is just a small moment in how much fun this mode is. A perfect mode for party nights.
The online component also worked well, the aforementioned sports mode we tried out over online and whilst it’s a little fiddly to get a custom match going, connection was fast and stable, absolutely necessary when playing a fighter of this tempo. No real complaints here then, if you want to play online it’s easy enough to get a match going with little fuss.
What makes Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl feel like there could have been a little bit of extra love for the IP is the real lack of personality. What’s on offer feels like the bare minimum and little else, which is a real shame considering how high the game flies when you’re actually brawling. Whilst there’s fun nods to Spongebob memes and character traits aplenty in individual character attacks, the lack of VO for any character is a huge miss, instead adding pointless written dialogue that offers nothing to the game.
The roster menu doesn’t include the names of the characters (instead shouting them by an announcer you can barely understand), so if you’re not hugely familiar with the entire roster you aren’t going to have any idea who the other characters are or where they came from. The music is terribly annoying (and for PS5 owners the PS5 UI music for the game is perhaps the worst of all so don’t hover over the game too long).
As the full roster of characters is available from the beginning, you’re only unlocking random nonsense that you’ll never look at as you progress. Concept art and avatars? Yeah no thanks, I’d rather have costume options, unlockable specials or character-focused taunts. It just all feels a little bland and straightforward. Snapshots of Nickelodeon’s history rather than properly celebrating it. And well, you can’t zoom into the custom art so what’s the point?
But those are the extras, and if you don’t want to look at them you don’t have to. As a whole package, Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl is a solid if not remarkable achievement. It’s fast and furious and gets the core foundations of the ‘genre’ correct with nods that fans will appreciate, but the hardcore will be wanting more. In terms of a real Nickelodeon explosion, I’d hasten to argue that Kart Racers and its sequel do it better.
And come on, having only two of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is an absolute travesty.
Second Opinion – Written by Kat who beat Rossko over and over. And over….
Here is the thing. I had a lot of fun Nickelodeon All Star Brawl, but it was like eating your favourite meal with key ingredient missing.
The game itself is a great idea. Who wouldn’t want to kick the crap out of SpongeBob as fun loving Patrick! Nothing feels more satisfying than being able to launch Hey Arnold’s Helga off the slippery slope and be crowned king of the Castle.
There is something really special about being able to pick and choose your characters and encompass them in an all star brawl.
Nickelodeon All Star Brawl allows you to encapsulate your beloved character perfectly. The nuances of each characteristic are implemented within your play. For example, Patrick and his hilarious walk, or Leonardo’s swish sword movement. This makes the experience feel real, and not some random rip off trying to be something it is not.
In other modes, such as timed, stock or sports, you can adjust how many CPU’s you’d like to play against and their CPU level ranging from 1-9, adjusting their difficulty to suit your play=style and challenge. The star of the show here is truly the sports round and that is where Nickelodeon All Star Brawl comes into its own. This one mode is EXTREMELY fun to play, and when I tell you how much I laughed when playing against fellow Rossko during these rounds, you wouldn’t believe me. Sports mode allows you to not only fight your opponent but challenges you to score points whilst doing so and it is just a clusterfluff of fun.
Beyond that, this is where Nickelodeon All Star Brawl I feel meets it’s downfall. The multiplayer mode in setting up matches is a bit more complicated than it needs to be, with unwanted boxes and weird lobbies to join. It is hard to not compare this game with the likes of Smash Brothers, and it certainly feels like a ‘Smash Lite’.
For those who no longer have a Nintendo console, and miss the franchise, it certainly does fill a hole. Although it is fun, it feels that more could have been done to each aspect of the game. More in the way of a campaign mode, more options on how your character is damaged, Will I play it again? Yes probably! Does this make me miss Smash? Also yes. This is great for nostalgia, and good to gather friends around with a pizza to play, but it just feels like there could have been more.
Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl doesn’t bring anything new to the table, instead offering a certainly competent if not hugely exciting brawler with a confusing roster of characters cynically chopped up seemingly for future monetisation and very little to actually fight for in terms of unlockables for the fans. The fundamentals are here, and the Sports modes are terrific fun, but there isn’t much else to get too excited about when the content included is this lacking.
Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl is available now on Xbox One, Xbox Series S|X, Nintendo Switch, PS4, PS5 (reviewed on PS5) and PC.
Publisher: Maximum Games
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we were provided with a promotional copy of the game. For our full review policy, please go here.
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