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Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl: Review

If you’d asked me during my tragic and sheltered childhood ‘Who do you think would win between Danny Phantom and SpongeBob SquarePants?’ I would have had to think about it with no proof of who would come out on top. I would also ask you why you’re questioning a 9-year-old on animated battle royal results. However, in 2021 whether we liked it or not we got the tools to answer this…. well rather stupid question.

With the release of Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl in 2021, fans of late 90’s, and early 2000’s cartoons were treated to a cast of beloved characters beating the snot out of each other.

Like the Nickelodeon kids’ choice awards it was barely spoken about and involved far more violence than anyone intended. Like many stage-based fighters that mimic the formula of Super Smash Bros, this could be a hit or miss of a party game that would need to reach high to stand out. I guess we should see if Nickelodeon can stand up to Nintendo’s Smash series like many before have failed to.

Starting out in the menu the design is of a similar setting and style to the Smash Bros menu, highlighting large colourful buttons to navigate to different game modes.

The game modes we have on offer are Brawl which consists of a standard 2-4 vs match which can include players of computer-operated characters.

Arcade which is the level-based mode that mimics the adventure mode aspect of Smash titles. Matching you up with characters on random stages and allotting a set number of lives to progress through the whole ordeal.

Sports mode, which allows you to select from a number of balls (Football, Rugby ball etc) with the aim of passing the selected ball through an opponent’s goal.

Online mode, which connects you to players around the world and offers brawl and sports mode.

These game modes are entertaining in concept, but in reality, they do get boring quite quickly, especially with so few characters available.

Speaking of the characters, the entertaining cast provides faces both new and old from shows still ongoing like SpongeBob, all the way back to older shows like cat-dog. With a total of 21 characters from varying shows on the network, there is admittedly an entertaining variety here that all use familiar and unique moves.

The characters are also designed and animated to a fairly high standard, truly bringing these beloved characters to life. The same amount of detail has also been shown to the stages, providing beautiful scenery and changing stages that feature many call-backs to the shows they are pulled from. There was clearly a lot of love put into both the visuals and the audio for this fighter, and it shows in every match on every stage.

Where this title falls short in my opinion is in the fighting itself, which is the one aspect that should have been tightened the most. The moves are slow and also don’t have a vast amount of variety, leading to the age-old method of button bashing.

The movement at times feels very stiff, leading me at multiple points to find some high ground and spam heavy moves until the enemy was knocked out. Much as I was happy to find a tested method to victory, this lacked skill and joy.

Titles like these need to be tightened and allow you to turn a hard hit into a solid recovery. I felt like I was at the mercy of physics or luck based on what my opponent or I did, which again sucked the joy out of the experience.

Game modes such as the sports mode or adventure mode throw variety into the mix to provide a difference in style or format. But this is not enough to make up for just how boring the game can get after you’ve played what little it does have to offer.

To finish up, All-Star Brawl is a good starting point for what could be an incredible and nostalgic party game, featuring characters we rarely see nowadays. But its greatest fault is what should have been nailed at step one, and this lets the experience as a whole grow stale quicker than other games like this.

To take a page from The Smash series again, the combat needs to be tight and reactive to truly allow the fun to begin when things heat up. As a free entry in this month's PlayStation Plus lineup, I would give this a go with a sibling or some friends. However, if you want the tried and tested experience, stick to Nintendo’s smash formula.

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