Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl draws obvious comparisons to Nintendo’s Super Smash Bros. series, and rightly so. It pulls heavy inspiration from Nintendo’s classic by assembling a cast of beloved characters and pitting them against one another in a platform fighting game. We only received the game a few hours before release, so I’m not ready to render a final verdict. However, my initial hours with developers Ludocity and Fair Play Labs’ fighter impress me. While it lacks some crucial components I expect form this kind of fighter, I’m having a lot of fun so far.
All-Star Brawl has a fun cast, with representatives span decades of Nicktoons. From Ren and Stimpy to Spongebob Squarepants to newer Nick faces like the Ninja Turtles, or Lincoln and Lucy Loud, there’s a wide range of characters. Every one of them looks nice, has a unique playstyle, and comes packed full of references from their show. I have no qualms with the current selection of All-Stars, though I’m excited for who might come down the road in the form of DLC.
Controls are similar to Smash Bros but have an additional button to separate your regular attacks into light and strong attacks. This eliminates the chance to execute the wrong attack, which sometimes happens in Nintendo’s Smash series with Smash attacks and tilts. Outside of that, there’s nothing brand new besides a strafe button that allows your character to face a single direction no matter where opponents are located. This detail is minor to me, but I’d expect this to play a more significant role for those who are into playing at a higher competitive level.
Characters move quickly; players used to Smash Bros. Melee might feel at home with Nick Brawl’s speed. My main concern going in was whether I felt in control of the characters at all times, and I’m happy to say, the controls are snappy and responsive. I rarely feel like I’m not in control of my chosen Nicktoon. More advanced techniques are easy to pull off. For example, wavedashing is a skill I’ve always had trouble with in similar games, but I have found ways to incorporate it into my strategies after only a few short hours. Overall, I’m pleasantly surprised and happy with navigating stages and the feel of the fights.
Where I find Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl falls short is in its game modes and lack of extras. Players have the choice of local and online multiplayer – with up to four players supported when not in a competitive mode, training mode, or playing through a handful of 1v1 arcade matches. While the crux of a game like this should be multiplayer modes, it’s missing a fun element from games like Smash, and that’s items to use in fights. Nick Brawl lacks that party feel where anything can happen and anyone can win regardless of skill. Don’t get me wrong; I’ve had a blast from bell to bell, but stages and fights feel sterile without bombs, swords, or other weaponry to make a match more dynamic and unpredictable.
Music and sound effects were a concern after learning of the lack of licensed tunes or voice acting. When it comes to voices, I honestly haven’t missed them. Plenty happens during a fight that I don’t think Spongbob’s grating laughter or Oblina calling out moves would add much, but some of the sound effects fall flat and aren’t impactful. Music is very hit or miss. The composers have had to create songs inspired by the shows, and some are absolute jams like those in the Hey Arnold or Avatar stages, but those like the Spongebob Glove World theme get tiresome quickly.
There’s still some more I want to test out before giving Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl a final score. I’ll be diving more into testing the online play, which felt great from the couple of matches I squeezed in. There’s also about half of the cast to try and learn, so expect a verdict on Nick Brawl later in the week. For right now, I’d recommend it to those who love the Nickelodeon catalog, want another game like Smash, or like competing in a platform fighter.