Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl makes obvious comparisons to Nintendo’s Super Smash Bros. series, and rightly so. It’s heavily inspired by Nintendo’s classic in that it puts together a cast of popular characters and pit them against each other in a platform fighting game. We only received the game a few hours before it went live, so I’m not ready to give a final verdict yet. However, my first few hours with the developers Ludocity and the fighter from Fair Play Labs impressed me. While it lacks some of the critical components that I expect from this type of fighter, I’ve been enjoying it a lot so far.
All-Star Brawl has a fun cast that has spanned decades of nicktoons. From Ren and Stimpy to SpongeBob SquarePants to newer Nick Faces like the Ninja Turtles or Lincoln and Lucy Loud, there is a large selection of characters. Each of them looks great, has a unique style of play, and is packed with references from their show. I have no concerns with the current selection of All-Stars, though I’m excited to see who will hit the streets in the form of DLC.
The controls are similar to Smash Bros but have an extra button to split your regular attacks into light and strong attacks. This eliminates the possibility of performing the wrong attack which sometimes happens in Nintendo’s Smash series with Smash attacks and props. That being said, there’s nothing brand new except a penalty button that allows your character to look in a single direction no matter where opponents are. This detail doesn’t matter to me, but I would expect it to play a more prominent role for those playing at a higher level of competition.
Characters move quickly; Players used to Smash Bros. Melee might feel at home with Nick Brawl’s speed. My main concern was whether I was in control of the characters at all times, and I’m happy to say the controls are snappy and responsive. I seldom feel like I am not in control of my chosen nicotoon. More advanced techniques are easy to pull off. For example, wave washing is a skill that I’ve always struggled with in similar games, but I’ve found ways to incorporate it into my strategies after just a few hours. Overall, I am pleasantly surprised and happy with the way the stages were navigated and the feel of the fights.
Where I find the Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl falling short are the game modes and the lack of extras. Players can choose between local and online multiplayer – with up to four players not supported in competitive mode, training mode, or a handful of 1v1 arcade games. While the core of such a game should be multiplayer modes, it lacks a fun element of games like Smash, and those are items that can be used in combat. Nick Brawl lacks the party feeling where anything can happen and everyone can win regardless of their ability. Do not get me wrong; I had a lot of fun from bell to bell, but stages and fights feel sterile without bombs, swords or other weapons to make a match more dynamic and unpredictable.
Music and sound effects were an issue after learning that there were no licensed melodies or voice overs. When it comes to voices, I honestly haven’t missed them. A lot happens during a fight that I don’t think would add much to Spongbob’s crunching laughs or Oblina’s cries of movements, but some of the sound effects fall flat and are ineffective. Music is very hit or miss. The composers had to create songs that were inspired by the shows, and some are absolute jams like the ones on the stages of Hey Arnold or Avatar, but those like the Spongebob Glove World theme get boring quickly.
There’s a lot more I want to test out before I give Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl a final score. I’ll delve more into testing the online game, which felt great after the couple of matches I squeezed into it. There’s also roughly half the cast to try and learn, so expect a verdict on Nick Brawl later in the week. For now, I’d recommend it to those who love the Nickelodeon catalog, want a different game like Smash, or want to take part in a platform fighter.