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 boasts a great cast that includes representatives from countless 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. They all look great and have a different playstyle. 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.
Similar to Smash Bros’ controls, the additional button allows you to divide your normal attacks into stronger and lighter 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. It’s easy to learn more advanced techniques. 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.
Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl’s game modes and lack thereof are the areas where I feel it falls short. 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 doesn’t have that party feeling where everything can happen, and everyone can win, no matter their level 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.
After learning about the shortage of licensing tunes and voice-acting, music and sound effects became a problem. 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. It’s very difficult to find the right music. Musicians have to make songs that are inspired by these shows. Some of the songs can be a real jam like Avatar or Hey Arnold, while others like Spongebob’s Glove World get old 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.
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