Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl Review (PS5) – Ever wondered how many punches Sponge-Bob can soak up in a triple threat at Catdog’s house? The good news is; Slap City developers Ludosity have beckoned your call! The bad news is; you’re probably a bit deranged.
In any case, Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl is the platforming fighter you didn’t know you wanted until you saw Michelangelo chucking pizzas at Ren and Stimpy. Despite being essentially a Smash Bros clone, All-Star Brawl manages to inject the signature zany Nickelodeon humour, and surprisingly still hold up as a genuine competitive fighter.
Whilst there’s definitely the bones of something in this offering, there isn’t quite enough meat for a full sitting. Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl is an imperfect but enjoyable bash that’s unfortunately too short lived.
Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl Review (PS5) – A Competitive Smash Clone With Too Little Smashing
Square Pants, Round Hole
Regrettably, the obvious comparisons have to be made when describing Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl. The reason being is that it really is just a carbon copy of the Super Smash Bros games. Replace Bowser for Reptar, the Mushroom Kingdom for the Loud House, and you’re basically there.
There’s no doubt that Smash Bros regulars will be happy for a new horizon to test their mettle in. However, with this cartoon combat action, they may get more than they bargained for.
Intriguingly, All-Star Brawl seems to have been built with the more advanced play of its main influence in mind. Rather than make a hyper accessible button basher, Ludosity have opted to focus on the more intricate elements of the genre.
Most, if not all characters seem to be able to set up combos quite easily. The game features 3 kinds of attacks; heavy, light and special. Generally the knock back of all attacks is significantly less than what is genre typical. However the light attacks in particular seem intentionally primed to set up combos.
Experienced players of the games style will feel right at home juggling opponents with the dainty April O’Neill, or setting up a smashing kill confirm with deadly animal impersonator Nigel Thornberry. Furthermore, pulling off these combos feel unusually accessible, allowing rookie players into a higher level of play.
Unfortunately there are downsides to the competitive set-up the game opts for. All-Star Brawl just doesn’t have that party game feel that you would expect from a Nickelodeon character melee. None of the characters moves feel spectacular. Everything feels very conservative for a game attached to such a wacky brand.
What’s most deafeningly noticeable about Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl is in what is omitted from the core gameplay. An obvious omission is the lack of a standing dodge. To be specific, there is no standard dodge button for all characters. Some characters have a special move that essentially acts as a dodge, such as Leonardo’s evasive backflip. However it doesn’t appear to have the utility that a flanking roll might have.
Strangely enough, you can perform a midair dodge. Additionally, you can actually perform heavy attacks and throws in the air. As a result, aerial battles can be a more interesting exchange than grounded ones.
To top it off, there’s no control over traversal speed. Fighters have one speed on the ground, making this area of combat feel very basic and cheap. Sloppy moment can really remove the agency a player feels in the fight.
Probably the most obvious omission is the lack of items in the game. This alone might just remove Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl from viably passing as a party game.
In similar games, items can typically level the playing field for a newcomer against a veteran. Subsequently there’s usually opportunity for everyone to compete. Without this in All-Star Brawl, as well as the more competitive focus, casuals and genre newcomers might find the gameplay alienating.
As Content-Lite As It Gets
At this point it would be a fair analysis to judge Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl as a less than perfect game. Unfortunately, the issue of what is lacking in the core gameplay is just the tip of iceberg. All-Star Brawl is severely lacking in content.
There are 4 game modes for a single player to explore locally. However you could argue that one of these is completely redundant. Arcade mode is barebones to the extent of being pointless.
In arcade mode, you have a series of randomised stock battles, irrespective of what character you choose. The only difference between that and the regular stock battle mode, is that each character gives a bit of blurb before the battle. The content of which is, again, completely irrespective of the characters involved.
What of the rewards for competition you might ask? None. Nada. Zilch. Well not quite nothing; you do unlock a few underwhelming snapshots or jukebox tunes in “extras” each time. It’s very disappointing that there are no meaningful unlockables. It’s not only disappointing, but absent those, there’s little to no incentive to bother with this mode.
Other than the timed mode (which isn’t all that different from stock) there is perhaps one way this game can be enjoyed as a party game. All-Star Brawl, for all its unoriginality, does manage a unique feature.
Sports mode places two hoops at either end of a stage, and teams must scramble to knock a giant ball to score a point. This is probably the only part that could perhaps qualify All-Star Brawl for party purposes.
Despite being good frantic fun, eventually Sports Mode will reveal a few inequalities. Some characters simply don’t have effective moves to launch the ball. On the other hand, characters such as Patrick can quite easily launch the ball horizontally at force with a jumping spin attack.
Ultimately the best way to enjoy the game is to fight regular stock battles, or challenge people online. Thankfully, due to strong net-code, the online experience is incredibly stable. However, you will be very discouraged to find that there are only 4 levels to choose on online mode.
Surely this is something that can be improved upon in future updates. It’s very disappointing to have such limitations on such an already content starved title, and we’d hope that it can be improved upon. As it stands, whatever novelty players can extract from All-Star Brawl is extremely finite.
A Poor Imitation
The levels that you can choose from in the standard modes actually offer a nice kick of nostalgic fun. Players can duke it out Powdered Toastman’s kitchen table, or wreak havoc in front of Krang’s Technodrome.
Not only will you be placed warmly in your childhood memories, but you will have to be careful to avoid the many hazards that spring themselves into the action. Generally the level design is good, certainly they carry the zany fun you’d expect from a Nickelodeon game.
The only real downside is that in some cases it’s not obvious which ledges are interactive. In levels such as Omashu (from Avatar) there’s scaffolding in the background and the foreground. The difference isn’t distinct enough that on first attempt, you might just find yourself hurtling towards oblivion where you thought you’d be safe.
Whilst the level design adequately captures the spirit of Nickelodeon, the character models do not. Not only do they look like weird porcelain dolls for the most part, the animation work just makes them look really dead.
Worst of all is the underwhelming repertoire of each character. Though we touched upon the implications of the conservative move set earlier, it’s even more disappointing as a spectacle.
Whilst the likes of Leonardo are behaving well within their expected means, you’d anticipate something far more ostentatious from Aang (The Avatar himself). Despite having the power over all elements, all he can really do on this occasion is knock a stick about.
Perhaps the studio didn’t have a big budget for this title, because there are holes in the production so big that it feels really detached from the brand it’s representing. A Nickelodeon branded game that has absolutely no voice work for its established characters is fairly unforgivable by modern standards.
The DNA of a Winner That Hasn’t Yet Got Out The Gate
There’s definitely enough in the DNA of Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl that could be expanded upon to create a genuinely engaging fighting game. Unfortunately at this moment in time, between a lack of items, game modes, and unlockables, All Star-Brawl feels incredibly bare bones.
The word that comes to mind most often in critiquing the game is “cheap” , sad to say. The animation is severely budget, furthermore the characters just don’t do enough to satisfy how you’d imagine these characters would be like to fight as.
Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl could be worth a punt for those who particularly enthusiastic about this style of fighter, but a fan of Nickelodeon IP probably isn’t going to get much of kick out of this game.
Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl, a platform fighter featuring all your favorite Nickelodeon characters is available now on PS5 and PS4.
Review code generously provided by the publisher.