When Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl was first announced, it immediately captured the attention of fighting game fans. Whether it be the roster of beloved characters or the promise of rollback netcode, fans were excited to see what Ludosity was cooking up with the Nickelodeon platform fighter. While there’s a couple things to be excited about in Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl, it ultimately falls a bit short of what it could have been.
The Salty Spitoon
Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl is a platform fighter that plays similarly to Slap City, the previous title from developer Ludosity. While the game is drawing many comparisons to the Super Smash Bros. titles, I wouldn't say the games have much in common outside of genre and design philosophy. Players take on the role of iconic Nickelodeon characters like Spongebob or Reptar, fighting against the CPU or other players online. The goal is to knock other players off the stage, and matches are won by either depleting the opponents stock, or getting the most knockouts before time runs out.
Each character in Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl has a unique feel from the other, thanks to their varied sizes and movesets. While Aang is a much more floaty character that can pull off fast moves and keep enemies at range, Reptar is a heavy, with most of his attacks centered around dealing strong melee damage. From light attacks, to heavy attacks, to special attacks, there’s a lot of moves to master in everyone’s arsenal.
Other than fighting CPU opponents in quick matches, there aren’t any gameplay options outside of Arcade Mode, where you battle a series of CPU opponents with a limited stock. While this mode can be fun while you’re getting a hang for the game and its characters, it can grow old pretty quickly. Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl would have benefited greatly from a campaign, even if it wasn’t very involved. Just something that gave a sense of linear progression.
The most excitement in Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl comes from battling other players online. Whether it was an exhibition match or a ranked battle, matchmaking was fast, and battles were always competitive. The rollback netcode was also a breath of fresh air, as even when the connection wasn’t the greatest, the game still felt playable.
Outside of the actual combat, there's a clear feeling of shallowness in Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl. There’s no voice acting at all, making matches awkwardly quiet outside of the stage music. With so many iconic characters, it would’ve been great to have lines from Patrick Star or the Ninja Turtles while they’re duking it out. It’s a fairly big detail, and would have made the game feel more alive.
I was also disappointed that there are no alternate costumes or appearances in the game. It would have been awesome to see Toph in her Fire Nation attire, or Sandy Cheeks in her Kill Bill-inspired karate gear. These characters have a rich history that could have given Nickelodeon All-Stars a strong sense of personality, but it’s just not there. They’re faces that we recognize, but it doesn’t go any further than that.
I was also disappointed to find that there was practically no music from the characters' respective shows in Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl. There is music, but it’s mainly a tame selection of originally composed songs for the game. Yet again, Nickelodeon has an endless catalogue of memorable tunes that would have fit in perfectly. It would have been amazing to hear whispers of “he’s a phantom” as Danny Phantom posed on the victory screen, or to blast “Sweet Victory” as Spongebob eliminated his opponents final stock.
Stepping away from the cosmetic side of things, I found that the stage design in Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl left a good deal to be desired as well. Stages like Harmonic Convergence and the Flying Dutchman are a neat return to some excellent Nickelodeon locations, but most of the levels don’t do anything to really stand out or set themselves apart. This issue is worsened by the fact that there’s only five maps playable in the game’s competitive mode
Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl simply feels like a barebones platform fighter. Combat is pretty decent, but there’s just so little surrounding it. The game’s greatest sin is how little it leans into the over-the-top zaniness that is Nickelodeon and its extensive history of memorable characters and moments. It lacks identity while being based on some of the most unique entertainment properties of the past few decades.
This review is based on a digital download code provided by the publisher. Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl is available now on PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, PS4, PS5, and Switch for $49.99 USD.
Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl
- Decent combat
- Rollback netcode
- No voice acting/costumes
- Stage design is lackluster
- Very little to do offline
- No classic soundtracks
Donovan Erskine posted a new article, Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl review: Slimy around the edges