Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl is a Smash Bros-esque fighting game full of iconic characters from Nickelodeon history, featuring cartoons like SpongeBob SquarePants, Avatar: The Last Airbender, Rugrats, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Invader Zim and more. It’s a phenomenon that combines many elements of our childhood and throws them into the gauntlet to beat the crap out of each other.
Moreover, rumors suggest Ludosity is working on a slew of DLC characters for Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl. This leak claims Zuko from Avatar: The Last Airbender and Squidward from SpongeBob SquarePants will be joining the roster, with many others potentially on the way, including Garfield. While this may sound exciting for those who grew up watching these shows, the game’s foundation needs serious tuning before downloadable content is purchasable.
Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl is enjoyable because fighting as your favorite cartoon character sparks joy. The game’s bizarre movesets, janky animations and unbalanced characters result in hilarious battles, but Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl is missing the features necessary for it to thrive.
Items add personality
Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl’s most surprising omission is items. While Super Smash Bros is sometimes played without items to focus on skill-based battles, their presence adds personality to casual match-ups; they do a great job elevating the chaos and creating ridiculous scenarios. Summoning unique Pokemon, whacking others with the Home-Run Bat, and spearing your foes using a Bullet Bill is tons of fun.
Focusing on skill-based battles isn’t necessary for Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl. It’s horribly unbalanced, with many characters possessing spammable moves in their arsenal that are almost impossible to deal with. Something like Reptar's downward flame attack sprays over a wide area and deals an absurd amount of damage. Korra’s side dash attack covers the entirety of many stages, and if you’re hit with it at a high percentage, you’re almost guaranteed to die.
Hitboxes are inaccurate, as there have been a couple of times where I managed to hit someone with an attack even though it was clearly nowhere near them. In YouTuber videogamedunkey’s video about the game, you can see Danny Phantom knock another character off the stage even though they were at 0%.
These broken mechanics and a lack of balance make Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl function best as a party game. It’s fun to play with friends, but I can’t imagine it’ll thrive competitively. As a result, the omission of items is a massive oversight. These have the potential to make hilarious callbacks to beloved Nickelodeon properties while also spicing up the moment-to-moment combat.
No items also means ultimate moves are not present in Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl. In Super Smash Bros, destroying a Smash Ball gives your character access to their Final Smash, which is essentially their ultimate. There’s no alternative for this in Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl, which is surprising since PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale, another Smash clone, ties your ultimate move to a meter that increases by attacking other fighters. If the game won’t have items, there should be a way to feature ultimate moves of some kind as they’re a great way to give each character a unique personality.
If players select the same brawler before a match, those characters will look identical during the fight. Super Smash Bros solved this issue by forcing two of the same character into alternate color palettes. This helps avoid confusion, but even then, it was already difficult to discern your place on screen due to the high levels of chaos and zoomed out camera.
Because Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl doesn’t have alternate color palettes, the game is even more confusing. It’s especially difficult to manage this chaos since the combat is faster paced. Getting knocked off the screen is easier since the death borders are tighter, and movement speed (along with the speed at which you fall) is greater. Nickelodeon All-Stars Brawl is somehow even more chaotic than Smash, which makes the lack of character skins detrimental.
Beyond skins serving a beneficial mechanical purpose, the existence of alternate color palettes and costumes allow for the game to bear a more endearing personality. It would be awesome to fight as a shorter-hair Korra, boasting her more serious boxer-esque aesthetic. And even if it doesn’t make sense for some characters to have an alternate costume, they should at least get a wide selection of distinct color palettes.
Underwhelming aural experience
Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl’s lackluster audio could be a result of licensing issues and a low budget, but these problems are worth noting. First and foremost, none of the playable characters have voice lines or dialogue. In fact, they don’t even grunt or gasp. Hiring every popular voice actor from their original Nickelodeon shows would be an expensive endeavor, so this isn’t surprising coming from an indie-studio like Ludosity.
Fans have noted that the team could just reuse voice lines and noises from each character’s respective show. However, considering Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl is not directly published by Nickelodeon, Ludosity likely lacks the freedom people think they might enjoy. GameMill Entertainment has published plenty of other tie-ins for movies and shows, including Steven Universe, Frozen, Big Hero Six and even Cobra Kai. This publisher is not directly associated with Nickelodeon, which means they do not have ownership of these properties.
This is more clear with Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl’s music selection, as every track is wholly original. Iconic tunes from your favorite Nickelodeon shows do not return, and although this is unfortunate, it wouldn’t be so bad if the game’s soundtrack wasn’t so amateurish. One awful track in particular reuses the same three notes in a basic electronic dance melody. Many other tracks attempt to emulate the feeling of the associated show, but always sounds too simplified to provide a sense of familiarity. Instead it’s uncanny, easy to tell what it’s trying to sound like, yet it ends up sounding nothing like it.
Channeling the feeling of Nickelodeon isn’t effective with only visuals. Is SpongeBob iconic without Tom Kenny screaming “I’m ready?” And of course, an Avatar: The Last Airbender fan will always associate the show with its phenomenal soundtrack. The lack of these elements isn’t necessarily the developer’s fault, but it’s a huge part of why the game fails to encapsulate the ethos of Nickelodeon.
Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl is a mess. It’s lacking the content to be worth its $50 price of entry, and although it can be fun to play, the mechanics are poor. However, this issue would be acceptable if the experience felt whole. The lack of items, character skins, voice lines, and iconic music make it difficult to get immersed in playing my favorite Nickelodeon characters.
While I might not play it often, I’m sure I’ll revisit Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl on the occasion to have some messy fun with friends. With time, I hope Ludosity can craft this into a richer experience.