Following the footsteps of crossover platform fighters in the likes of Super Smash Bros. and Cartoon Network: Punch Time Explosion, Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl brings together colorful characters from various Nickelodeon properties. Characters from SpongeBob SquarePants, Avatar: The Last Airbender, The Loud House, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1987), The Ren & Stimpy Show, and many more engage in battle across multiple stages.
Developed by Ludosity and Fair Play Labs, as well as published by GameMill Entertainment, Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl was released on October 5, 2021 for Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStations 4 and 5, Nintendo Switch, and Microsoft Windows.
Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl Official Trailer
From a glance, the visual style is simple yet colorful, fitting for a game starring multiple Nickelodeon characters in a massive crossover. Although the game was developed on a smaller budget compared to mainstream titles, I feel that the aesthetics works to the game’s advantage. The character models also translate very well from traditional 2D to CGI, even maintaining the “cheated angle” in characters like Jenny and Danny. Some artistic liberties were made from the source material, such as characters’ canonical sizes, but they can be forgiven for maintaining playability.
The stages are also well-designed, capturing the spirit of the shows they represent. Character cameos additionally add flavor and life to the stages, so the energy is not just coming out the characters that are actively fighting. However, it is unfortunate that the original show’s soundtracks are not used, likely because of legal processes required for the developers to obtain permission to use them.
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It is clear that the developers behind Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl are fans of Super Smash Bros., and as such comparisons between the two games are inevitable. Although there are similarities between the two, there are distinctions in the way the two games function. Unlike in Super Smash Bros, characters in Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl have only one level of walking/running speed, can move backwards, and air-dash, to name some differences. Muscle memory from one game might trip up players with the other.
Although the A.I. puts up a fair challenge on harder difficulties, it does have some occasional lapses in judgment. Sometimes when the computer is standing on a platform or ledge just above the player, the player can stay still for several seconds without the computer doing anything.
Most of the stages in Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl provide a fair battleground for the characters, but I think that the most hindering one is Space Madness. Not only is the entire floor a bottomless pit, but all the platforms are constantly moving and will sink if any character stays on one for too long. Toph players will find this stage quite annoying, especially when the platforms are too small for her two Strong Attacks to cover ground. Quite often, the best bet to winning against the computer player in Space Madness is to hope that the A.I. makes a slip-up. Glove World faces a similar scenario with only small platforms for safety and a roller stage hazard.
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As this is a crossover between multiple Nickelodeon properties, the playable roster consists of multiple iconic characters. While there are clear picks such as SpongeBob SquarePants, Aang, and Lincoln Loud, the developers made some creative choices with other characters. Not all represented properties had their central protagonists as playable characters, but the choices make sense with what is established in the source material, particularly with Oblina (she is the best scarer of her school) and Helga Pataki (she is quick to fight, whereas Arnold never resorts to violence in conflicts). The clever roster selection even has the positive side effect of diversity with its female characters, in design and personality.
Seeing the characters in action, the characters show off a lot of personality in the way they move and spar with their opponents. As with the stages, there is great attention to detail as almost every move references an episode from the character’s show. Patrick Star and Nigel Thornberry in particular demonstrate the developers’ awareness of internet memes without coming across as desperately pandering to specific audiences. The June update’s addition of voice acting enhanced the energetic nature of the gameplay, with returning actors alongside newcomers, who provided solid performances in their roles.
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That being said, it would have been nicer if the Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl characters had more alternate costumes and voice lines. Currently, each character has only one alternate costume; in multiplayer matches with more than two people playing the same character, it becomes difficult to distinguish which character one is controlling. Pre-fight dialogue is also restricted to lines from each characters’ home series, limiting any opportunity for characters’ personalities to bounce off each other.
Overall, Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl is an entertaining experience that brings together Nickelodeon fans new and old, with colorful characters and energetic gameplay. Although there may be some rough edges, they do not heavily detract from the fun. As of writing, the game is still receiving updates, with more characters and quality-of-life additions on the way. If you are a fan of crossover platform fighters and Nickelodeon, then this might be the game for you. Let us know what you thought of Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl on our social media!
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