Review – Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl

Right in the Nostalgia

Overview

Developer Ludosity
Publisher GameMill Entertainment
Genre Fighting
Platforms PC, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PS5, PS4, Nintendo Switch (reviewed)
Release Date October 5th, 2021

We first heard of Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl back in July. To our surprise, this was a platform fighter we couldn’t help but be curious about. Much like Super Smash Bros., All-Star Brawl goes right for the nostalgia by including characters from their biggest franchises, both new and old. While GameMill publishing may make some folks take a step back, fans of Slap City should be pleased that its developers are at the helm. While I haven’t played Ludosity’s previous work, I was pleasantly surprised with GameMill Entertainment’s Cobra-Kai video game last year and excited for All-Star Brawl‘s release. Now that I’ve had a chance to throw hands as my favorite characters and fight against opponents online, I’m happy to share that this platform fighter is a strong contender in the genre, but don’t expect it to overthrow the top dog.

Content Guide

Spiritual Content: One of the characters, Danny Phantom, has ghost powers. Lucy Loud has vampiric abilities. The character is a monster that scares humans.

Violence: Combat in All-Star Brawl is best compared to Super Smash Bros. The objective is for players to knock their opponents out of the ring. Some characters use weapons and random objects to get the job done, while some throw projectiles. There is no blood or gore to be found in the game. The term “cartoon violence” found in many ESRB ratings is very literal in Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl.

Crude Humor: Ren & Stimpy use farts as a weapon to knock out their opponents.

Review

I was very optimistic about the release of Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl, but I kept my expectations low. When I first got my hands on the game, though, I was very impressed. You won’t find loads of content as you would in its ultimate counterpart, but what is there makes a solid platform fighter that has a place in the genre. The roster is full of unique characters—some easy to use and some very quirky. Sure, those characters draw players in, but there is a game mode for everyone, whether you’re coming to the game to have a good time with friends or to see viability on the competitive scene.

While the Nintendo Switch may not be the best platform on which to play All-Star Brawl, I wanted to experience it there to better compare it to Smash Bros. Right away, I could tell that this game is doing some things to make itself unique, such as having three different attack types. It also handles defense, dashing, and throws much differently as well. One of my favorite mechanics is the ability to catch projectiles with the throw button and send them back to your foes or deflect it with an attack. At the same time, the game exhibits some similarities, such as how you’ll need to raise your opponent’s damage percentage to knock them out. Another common trait is that each character has a recovery move, though it threw me off that executing that technique is Up+Y instead of Up+B. All-Star Brawl’s gameplay does enough to stand out but also sticks to its inspirations where it’s most important to do so.

The fighter roster currently sits at 20 characters, and all of them vary significantly from one another. Some of them are simple to use, such as Sandy and Spongebob. Characters like Toph, Nigel, and Danny Phantom are weird and maybe best for more experienced players. Then you have Reptar, a heavier fighter that is best compared to Donkey Kong or Bowser. My favorite is Ren & Stimpy, who act as one fighter; they have a skill that stores up a fart cloud on a successful parry. With the expectation of Lincoln and Lucy Loud, I am familiar with the source material from which all of these fighters come. Some more popular shows have two to three representatives on the roster, while others only have one. The Loud siblings are from the newer era of Nickelodeon television, so there are characters from every era that people of all ages will recognize.

Each character also has a stage, which matches the roster’s total of twenty. Of course, a handful of stages with a simple design are great for competitive action, such as Spongebob’s Jelly Fish Fields and Korra’s Harmonic Convergence. Then there are more unique stages like Glove World or Ren & Stimpy’s Space Madness, which strongly resembles the infamous Poke Floats stage from Smash Bros. Melee. The one stage I noticed that slowed down the game was TMNT’s Rooftop Rumble. Frames drop significantly when playing this stage online, so I don’t recommend choosing it. That one aside, the variety in both characters and stages proves to be Nickelodeon‘s greatest strength.

An area that All-Star Brawl lacks variety in, however, is the game modes, which currently only include the standard offline versus, arcade, online, and training. Playing offline offers an alternative “sports” mode that puts a ball and two goals on the map; the match type can be quite chaotic and seems ideal for some a fun party activity. Arcade is a short ladder that has branching paths that let you choose your next opponent. Beating arcade mode unlocks art, music tracks, and online profile pictures for the character you used to complete it. Online offers both casual and competitive options, with a ranking system that utilizes numbers to determine a player’s skill level, similarly to Smash Ultimate.

It seems that the community has a couple of gripes with the game: first, that it lacks official tracks from any of the shows in the game, and second, that voice acting is also completely absent. I can see the case for the first complaint, as including official music would be a welcome extra dose of love in the presentation. However, for the second, I don’t feel it is necessary. How often do we hear Super Smash Bros characters talk anyway? If voicework is something fans desperately want, I could see it being added down the road like how it was with Power Rangers: Battle for the Grid. These issues are minor, but fixing them would be welcome improvements to what is already a solid presentation.

Lastly, I was very impressed with the A.I. in Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl. My CPU opponents gave me a solid challenge, whether during training or in the arcade mode. The difficulty of non-player opponents can be changed by level, again very similar to the Smash Bros. games. While I liked my time online with almost zero connection issues and a few wins under my belt, I mostly enjoyed my time in the training room. Over so many years of playing Smash and knowing how almost all of those characters work, I operated on a clean slate with this game. As I was learning the game, I found myself going all out against the training bot, which required me to use my character’s arsenal of techniques properly. Most of my time with Nick All-Star Brawl has been in the training mode, and it was well spent.

Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl has some room to grow and improve, but don’t sleep on it. This is a game that all ages can enjoy, including players of all skill levels. The presentation obviously lacks the level of polish found in Smash Bros. Ultimate but isn’t far off in some ways. I doubt we’ll be seeing this game at the next EVO fighting championship, but I believe we could if the community wants it and the developers put in the work. The platform fighter genre is still young, and I have enjoyed seeing more of them pop up over the last few years. I don’t expect All-Star Brawl to overthrow the king over at Nintendo—the real competition may be WB’s recently leaked multiverse game.

The Bottom Line

 

All-Star Brawl lacks some polish and personality, but packs and unexpected punch.

 

7.0

L.J. Lowery

Born in southern California, but currently residing in Lafayette, Louisiana. Loves Hip Hop music, comics, and video games. Events/Media Coordinator, Podcast Producer, and Public Relations.

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