Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl Review – Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl Review – Almost Ready for Slime Time

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To say that Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl is having an uphill battle is an understatement. It wears its Super Smash Bros. inspiration firmly on its sleeve by bringing together a host of much-loved characters in a platform fighter, but Nick Brawl does so without the spectacle. While I think it has a big heart and is a good fighting game at its core, All-Star Brawl lacks the magic and wonder that Smash Bros. embodies and lacks meaningful casual appeal.

All-Star Brawl brings together different eras of Nickelodeon cartoons to battle on stages based on scenes and locations from different Nicktoons. The roster isn’t extensive, but it’s diverse enough, hitting several notable eras in its 20 characters. Famous faces like Ren and Stimpy and backgratsReptar mixes it up with Nigel Thornberry, Zim and Danny Phantom. Current favorites like Lincoln and Lucy Loud hold onto the fortress for newer toons. Still, the cast also has some notable big names: Spongebob Squarepants and Friends, a handful of Ninja Turtles and the Avatars duo, Aang and Korra, bring some highly regarded star power into the mix.

My favorite part of Nick Brawl is how it plays. You have buttons for jump, attack, special moves, throws and block. Your goal is to smash around your opponents and increase their damage rate, making them more likely to fly off the screen when hit with a strong attack. Characters move quickly, which made me worry that I wouldn’t always be in control, but the snappy and responsive input alleviated those concerns in practice. Advanced techniques like wavedashing are surprisingly easy to perform, and the faster tempo makes performing combos on the fly a cinch.

The fighting fundamentals of Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl make the experience enjoyable, but there’s not much to fight besides the basics. A standard story-free arcade mode and training are the only single-player content available. Arcade mode rewards you with unlockable art and music to listen to in the Jukebox, but unlocking that content didn’t feel meaningful. You can also compete against up to three friends or CPU opponents in custom timed matches or battles where each player has a certain number of lives.

These fights reveal Nick Brawl’s biggest drawback, which is a lack of prominent party content; you won’t find any items or weapons here to use in battle. Since the gameplay places a strong emphasis on quick reflexes and masterful character-controlling skills, I missed having some outrageous gadgets to level the playing field for new or casual players. Stages provide extra personality from the Nickelodeon licenses and shake up fights. Set in the world of a Nicktoon, each stage features a series of platforms and moving obstacles to keep players on their toes. These locations look great and provide much needed flavor. Some of my favorites are the Hey Arnold-inspired Traffic Jam (with a great, chill saxy tune) and The Flying Dutchman’s Ship out spongebob

The closest party mechanic to All-Star Brawl is a sports mode, a somewhat fun feature that divides competitors into two teams, the goal being to hit or throw a ball through targets placed around the podium. Footballs only react to attacks, the Plankton-themed ball is heavier and moves more slowly, and a football with a hat on – a cute nod to the lead of Hey Arnold – interacts exclusively with grasping and throwing movements. Sport mode isn’t a very exciting distraction from the regular fist fare, but it’s there if you want to try something different.

You can fight online in 1v1 competitive or fast match scenarios, and 12 player lobbies where players can break out into individual matches of 2-4 players. The battle-watching seat is a fantastic addition for tournament organizers or those who want to watch friends go hand-in-hand for a while. Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl features rollback netcode, which is designed to smooth out animations during online play. However, this implementation is quite rough. Half of my one-on-one matches had lots of freezes and stutters outside the normal range of rollback frames. Sometimes rematches against someone with a great connection resulted in a jittery, delayed mess; this happened several times when playing online. Four-player brawls brought out the worst of online play, with even more freezing and connection issues. I’ve been able to get quite a few good matches with little to no issues, but your mileage may vary online.

Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl is a complicated package. The core combat and attention to character details are great, but everything around it is bone dry. Playing as these lovable Nicktoons may interest some, but I didn’t want to stick around for the no-nonsense matches. Hopefully, Ludosity and Fair Play Labs can continue to complement Nick Brawl after launch and fill in what’s missing, while getting Nickelodeon’s full support to make it a better product for fans.

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