IGDB/Ludosity

‘Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl’: review

Rating:

As a kid, if you had offered me a fighting game with characters from Nickelodeon’s shows, I would have been over the moon. Even now, allegedly an adult, I couldn’t turn down the prospect of Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl, which promised exactly that. Does it deliver? Well, in part – it boasts a solid and distinct control scheme, and a strong roster, but it really suffers from its lack of polish.

This gameplay is surprisingly intuitive, and it really feels like you have control over your character

At first glance, the game appears like little more than a Smash Bros. clone, but its fighting mechanics are surprisingly different. Each character has three different types of attacks: light attacks, which are weak but quick, strong attacks, which are slow but do more damage, and then the special attacks. There are also the customary throws, grabs, and dodges, as well as a ‘strafe’ move that I’ve never seen elsewhere, enabling you to attack an opponent even as you run away. The objective, a la Smash, is to knock your opponents off the stage. This gameplay is surprisingly intuitive, and it really feels like you have control over your character.

As you fight, the Arcade mode offers the usual choice between stock and timed battles, and there are also a few Sports modes – they make you do things like attacking a ball to score a goal. There are also online options – a quick mode to fight someone else, and then a competitive option with a restricted number of stages and a basic ranking system. I’m not trying to undersell this – that is all you get, apart from some really basic unlockable rewards. Playing and winning a song and an image that barely fits the screen isn’t too much of an incentive, but that’s about it – it feels like a story mode would have gone a long way, especially with this cast.

There are a number of ‘must-have’ characters who really headline the show…but the whole roster feels like a love letter to the channel

One of the key selling points of any fighting game, and especially one like this, is the roster – in this respect, NASB fares well, if not as brilliantly as it could. There are a number of ‘must-have’ characters who really headline the show – Nickelodeon mainstays like SpongeBob SquarePants and Aang from Avatar – but the whole roster feels like a love letter to the channel. It’s brilliant seeing Zim, CatDog, Powdered Toast Man, and even Nigel Thornberry, especially if you grew up on these shows (and if you are still growing up on them, you may know Lincoln and Lucy Loud, the only modern representatives).

More characters are going to be added, and that’s just as well, because there are a lot of characters that feel like they’re missing. There should be fighters from, say, Fairly OddParents, Jimmy Neutron, Doug, or Rocko’s Modern Life, and their absence is noticeable. And it all ties into the big problem here – the lack of polish, and the way in which so much of NASB is missing out on that Nickelodeon charm.

…it’s clear that this is a labour of love by the development team at Ludosity, but the lack of budget and polish really hits the experience

All the characters we do have are silent (according to the devs, voice acting would have swallowed half the entire budget), and there’s not too much in the way of the original music, cutscenes or anything that could really bring the game to life. There are no alternate character outfits or any colour swaps that could pay homage to their shows, and although each fighter has their own stage with a few Easter eggs, many of them aren’t that good. The whole thing feels like it needed more time and a lot more polish – I appreciate that patches are being released as I write and that more content is coming, but the game often seems half-finished in terms of its actual presentation.

NASB is really a game of two halves – the fighting mechanics are really solid and it’s clear that this is a labour of love by the development team at Ludosity, but the lack of budget and polish really hits the experience. Down the line, with more content and patches, this may become a new essential fighting game on Switch, but at the moment, it only feels like half an experience, and that’s a real shame. I’m rooting for this game to succeed, but as it stands, my recommendation is a very half-hearted one.

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