The idea of a Super Smash Bros.-style platform fighter bringing together some of Nickelodeon’s most beloved cartoons across generations just makes so much sense, and it’s kind of a wonder it took so long for something like Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl is over. But despite the clear inspirations from Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl, developer Ludosity went to remarkable lengths to differentiate its mechanics and overall combat flow from Smash Bros., resulting in a fighter much faster than any Smash game since Melee’s Year 2001 This makes All-Star Brawl a great alternative to Smash Ultimate, available on virtually every platform – but the under-par use of the abundant source material, as well as the general lack of polish and a couple of annoying mechanics mean it’s not a recommendation to go without some major caveats.
The first thing that strikes you about playing All-Star Brawl is that it feels like a game on a pretty tight budget. The character models and backgrounds are lacking in details, the original themes for each level are extremely generic, there is only a barebone single player arcade mode, a hardly-to-mention sports mode and no meaningful unlockable or progress rewards outside of a few pictures and songs in a jukebox. But perhaps the damnest thing of all is that while it’s a game about celebrating the best of Nickelodeon, very little Nickelodeon charm comes through. There’s no voice acting, no remixes of themes from the many cartoons featured, and while the stages are littered with fun Easter eggs for fans to spot, it all feels kind of soulless.
Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl Screenshots
So it’s an impressive win from behind that it’s still really fun to play All-Star Brawl. It follows the same basic formula as other platform fighters by removing life bars in favor of damage percentage: the more you get hit, the higher your damage percentage and the further you’ll fly from each hit until you KO an enemy who knocks you off the stage (unless you enable critical KOs). This means two important things: you can potentially be killed after taking little harm, or you could even survive if you suffered a tremendous punishment. It’s a really exciting style of action that feels like there’s always a chance for a miraculous comeback, even if you’ve had several lives behind you.
This type of fighting game really comes to life in a party setting with up to three friends, and All-Star Brawl is no different. It’s super easy to learn, receives minimal instructions on how to play, and has a good time regardless of your level of experience. However, the developers themselves are clearly huge Smash fans, as they developed the deeper mechanics behind this accessible coat of paint with the more hardcore fans of these games in mind.
All-Star Brawl is characterized above all by its movement. It’s exceptionally fast, facilitated by high running speeds, quick recovery from most attacks, and its unique puff of air that works as a recovery option, waveash, and fastfall all rolled into one. The air dash lets you whiz left and right for a quick, substantial boost of horizontal swing that you can still take action from, or down in either direction for an even bigger boost in speed. The downside is that it is specifically an Air Dash, not an Air Dodge, which means there are no Invulnerability Frames while doing this.
However, it is a tradeoff well worth it. I love the extra mobility given to each character thanks to this unique take on traditional air evasion mechanics. It enables unpredictable approaches, helps characters who would otherwise struggle immensely with their recovery when trying to get back on stage after a big hit, and is a great tool for mind games with your opponent and guessing at them let what you do might do.
There are also a number of minor mechanical differences that help further establish All-Star Brawl’s identity in the platform fighter genre. There is no rolling or dodging. The only way to avoid damage if you are hit is to fend off or negate the attack with your own attack. instead of smash attacks, there are powerful attacks that can be carried out in the air; and each character has a throw that allows them to pick up and move their opponent before throwing them (unless the opponent can crush out of their grip).
While I appreciate most of the ways All-Star Brawl tries to be different, I’m not a fan of all of its mechanics. I particularly don’t like the fact that all characters basically have the same throw, nor do I like the throwing mechanics in general. It looks choppy, is too easy to crush at low percentages, and feels like a cheap knockout at high percentages. But worst of all, it feels like a missed opportunity to add personality to each move list while further diversifying their playing styles. .
There is no toon like a nicktoon
They may not look good enough to really flood my brain with nostalgic chemicals, but the cast of All-Star Brawl is largely great from a design standpoint. It’s a healthy mix of some obvious must-haves and interesting weirdos that might not immediately come to mind when you think of iconic nicktoons, but end up being quite inspired decisions – like Nigel Thornberry, whose eccentric moveset is in it insists that he attacks and poses by. mimics various animals with a hilarious effect.
There are definitely some blatant omissions, like all of the characters from Rockos Modern Life, Angry Beavers, or The Fairly Odparents to name a few, but all in all, this is a pretty admirable starting lineup of 20 characters that is primarily a decent spread of Nicktoons from the 90s to the early 2000s. There are classics like Rugrats and Hey Arnold, megahits from the 2000s like Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra and then The Loud House as the sole representative of modern nicktoons.
Each fighter plays exactly as you would expect. My personal favorite, Avatars Aang, has a weak overall power but can string his light airbender attacks in pretty much any percentage and becomes an absolute combo machine. Reptar plays the role of the Bowser-like beast with slow attacks that you can pack up close to the edge with just a strong attack or two. Meanwhile, Lucy Loud transforms into either a vampire or ghost form when she bonds with her bite attack, which alters the properties of some of her movements. I wish not every character had a spike move on their light-down attack from the air because – it’s such a powerful finisher it feels like overkill to give it to characters who are already super powerful – and some characters have raised eyebrow moves at what can be found in Smash Bros. – but those issues aside, everyone on the list feels very different.
What doesn’t feel any different is when multiple people choose the same character. For some reason, none of the characters have alternate colors or costumes. When you are playing with four reptars, the only thing that sets you apart from your opponents is the small symbol above each, which can make it difficult to see who you are at first glance, especially in larger phases.
Each character has their own stage, 20 total, which is a pretty decent number of arenas … want to visit is likely to be much lower. Whether you play competitively or casually, most gimmicks are just not fun to fight on. You often compete against the stage more than your friends as you try to keep up with fast-moving little platforms in the Space Madness stage or avoid roller coaster cars on the two solid pieces of land in the glove world stage, to name but two frustrating examples . These types of levels are nothing new, but they don’t have the kind of visual spectacle that this type of sacrifice would be worthwhile.
The handful of stages that are worth playing are the ones that you are likely to expect. Relatively flat and uncomplicated substitutes for Smash’s legendary Final Destination, Battlefield, Smashville and so on. While most gimmick levels are a nightmare, there are a few that can be quite funny under the right circumstances. The showdown on Teeter Totter Gulch Level by Rugrats is a personal favorite of mine because its teetering central platform isn’t too intrusive and offers a nice change of pace. And although it’s a bit too difficult to get kills due to its enormous size, the Powdered Toast Trouble level is full of fun interactive elements and reindeer and stimpy Easter eggs.
Perhaps the secret weapon of the Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl is the online rollback netcode game, which in my experience has been relatively smooth for the most part. There have certainly been bad matches, especially at certain levels like the Rooftop Rumble Stage, which I had numerous issues with when playing online, but the vast majority of my online matches went without any issues. It’s definitely not a Guilty Gear Strive in terms of the quality of its netcode, but at least it’s good enough where I can confidently say that this is the only area where All-Star Brawl has a clear edge over Smash Ultimate .