Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl – Yep, What a Concept
Our own Paul James and Jess Zammit have been bashing and brawling their way through the roster of Nickelodeon characters in Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl. Having been duking it out for a while now, the pair go head-to-head with their thoughts!
Paul: Well, that sure was something wasn’t it? On paper, All-Star Brawl sounds atrocious. A Nick licenced Smash Bros knock-off should make most feel sick, and yet, they kinda pull it off? Let’s not beat around the bush, All-Star Brawl isn’t even as good as the original Smash on the N64, but I still had a bit of fun with the game despite its flaws. How about you Jess?
Jess: Look, it didn’t sound that bad to me. Nickelodeon has a lot of cool characters across their products who have quite a diverse range of abilities, so there was ostensibly a fun game that could be made here. But you’re right – I’m sad to report that it definitely doesn’t take advantage of just how cool those characters could be. I have more attachment to some of these characters than I do to any of the Smash Bros rosters, but no amount of nostalgia or hope could make this feel like it was bringing anything new to the table that other games (it’s really hard not to just directly compare it to Smash Bros) don’t already do a better job of offering. I feel like we should talk about the characters first though because it’s technically the thing that sets this game apart. Did you have a favourite?
Paul: What pleased me the most is the suite of fighters to choose from. I was a little scared that the dev team may lean into modern Nickelodeon too heavily and I’d be spending the majority of my time scratching my head. Thankfully, that’s not actually the case, with the roster stacked with Oblina (Aaahh!! Real Monsters), Ren & Stimpy, Reptar (Rugrats), the two coolest Ninja Turtles, Leonardo and Michaelangelo, Catdog, and Aang, Toph, and Korra from the Avatar series. I was very happy with who was available to me, 3/4 of the roster was of my vintage, it was great, but I kept coming back to Catdog. The duo has great range, a cool variety of moves, and let us not forget, dog at one end, cat at another. Who do you find yourself maining?
Jess: When I saw the line-up, I thought it was going to be a really easy choice. I went straight for Korra, and then Toph, partly because they’re badass, but also because I thought their control of the elements would make for some cool attacks. I actually ended up finding their attacks kinda lacklustre and enjoyed my time with – like you – Catdog, who actually have some pretty cool moves. I had some more fun than expected with Helga from Hey Arnold! too. There are some inclusions from newer shows like The Loud House, but I was also really happy to see a whole lot of familiar older characters in there because without them I think I would have lost interest in this game pretty quickly. There isn’t a huge amount of stuff you can do here, especially in single-player, and while there’s an ‘arcade’ mode to take on with each character to unlock items for your multiplayer profile, I didn’t feel particularly motivated to repeatedly make my way through it. You can battle against your friends or computer-controlled characters, train, or fight online – and with the fights feeling a little repetitive to me, I found the whole thing to be a little bare. It had the bones of a good game, it just felt like there was something missing – like items in matches or an extra mode. But maybe that was just me?
Paul: Sports modes were a thing, but they were brief, unfulfilling novelties that I really only pursued for PSN trophies and then bounced off from and didn’t engage with any further. You’re right, the offering is pretty lean, and the title would have greatly benefited from a “World Of Light” or “Subspace Emissary” style of story mode – neither of these have much meat on the bone, but both offer enough of an alternative to the standard fare, and in the case of the World of Light from Smash Ultimate, have given players hundreds of hours to additional playtime. Online multiplayer lobbies have been largely empty, making online play a bit of a chore. It’s not a particularly inspiring package despite the occasional glimpse of something exciting. Mechanically things feel a bit clunky, even when we’re playing as my favourites, there’s a fluidity of Smash or even PS All-Stars that simply isn’t present here, would you agree?
Jess: I would totally agree. The move system works fairly similarly to Smash Bros in that your character will have a unique set of attacks that can be activated by pressing the attack button, plus the directional stick, which will then slightly change the nature of the attacks (punching into the air, or pounding into the ground, etc.). But I found it hard to consistently land any of my intended attacks because the inputs felt a little laggy, so instead of developing a strategy like I wanted to, I felt like I just had to take what I could get and wildly push my character towards my opponent and hope. There was a similar feeling when I was just trying to stay on the stage. A number of the characters have moves that allow them to float back onto the course and grab onto the edge, or jump higher into the air, but I didn’t feel that I was consistently able to do them. Maybe that was a lack of skill on my part, but it felt like it was strangely difficult to execute some of the game’s most basic moves, which is particularly problematic when some of the courses require you to be in constant motion just to survive. I couldn’t think about trying to inflict any damage, because I was just trying not to plunge into the abyss, but it felt impossible to keep up with the stage. Did you feel like the courses were sometimes fighting you too?
Paul: I didn’t have any difficulties with the various jumping techniques personally, though they are perhaps a bit too effective, prolonging matches more than they could/should be. As for the courses, I’m in complete agreement, some cruise along way too fast meaning that you don’t get sufficient opportunity to inflict some hurt, and are just not that enjoyable either. There are others, where insta-death strikes any who (for example) fall to the base of a bowl of cereal. In that scenario where do you think I’m going to stand? That’s right, millimetres from the edge with my down/heavy attack ready to go! There are just too many dodgy levels that can be exploited for my liking. I think we’ve spent a bit of time bashing on this one, any final thoughts?
Jess: I’ve been pretty harsh here, but I did have some fun with this game. Even though it wasn’t as tight or polished as I would have liked, I did get a kick out of sending some rocks flying as Toph, and reigniting my love for some childhood favourites like Catdog and Oblina. There’s definitely still room here to have some fun playing couch co-op with friends, just not a whole lot to keep a single player engaged unless you’re planning on becoming a tournament pro. I can see people using this as a way to introduce kids to some of their favourite characters, though. Any last thoughts from you?
Paul: Despite its numerous flaws, there’s plenty of fun to be had with Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl. Sure, a lot of that is probably a result of the nostalgia I have for many of those characters, and I’m certainly watching this space for the characters revealed next… Rocko’s Modern Life please?
Nickelodeon All Star Brawl was reviewed using a key kindly sent by the publisher. If you want to check out more of Player 2’s coverage of the game, take a look at Paul’s episode of P2 Plays to see some gameplay!