Want a Smash Bros. type brawler that’s not exclusive to a Nintendo platform? Enter Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl.
This type of game is nothing new: a multiplayer stage-based brawler where your goal is to defeat your opponents either by dealing damage or sending them flying off the edge of a platform. Plenty have come and gone in the past, and outside of Nintendo’s Super Smash Bros. series, very few ever hit the mark. Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl, though, does a decent job of incorporating familiar characters and engaging gameplay, and it might just be the best brawler that isn’t Smash Bros.
There’s an interesting roster of characters here, bringing familiar faces from a range of Nickelodeon properties. Some are strange choices, though, with lead characters missing. From Rugrats there’s only Reptar – but at least here, the omission of the babies makes sense; having babies fight against each other is probably in bad taste. But, for example, there’s only Helga from Hey Arnold and Oblina from Aaahh!!! Real Monsters. As nice as it is to see those franchises included, more characters would have been welcome. I suppose we can keep our fingers crossed for some DLC character packs if the game proves successful.
Onto the gameplay itself. Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl has several modes available, spanning single-player, local multiplayer and online multiplayer. The single-player ‘campaign’ sees you work your way through a series of one-on-one battles across a number of difficulty modes. But a game like this relies on multiplayer to truly succeed. Thankfully, when we’ve played on PS5 we’ve never had a problem finding a match, but only time will tell of how buoyant the community will stay. You can choose to play casual matches or ranked, or simply create a lobby to hang out with friends (or make new ones).
Each character has their own range of moves and, surprisingly, they’re fairly in-depth. Pushing the face buttons will see your character perform light, heavy and ranged attacks, but combos and more complex button-presses will allow you to perform fancier moves. It’s the type of game that’s very easy to pick up regardless of your skill level, but only those who take the time to master it will truly reign victorious. It’s a level of depth that I’m pleasantly surprised to see.
Every character plays slightly differently too, and so you’ll undoubtedly find your preferred characters rather quickly. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ Michelangelo and Leonardo are fun to play as thanks to their sword skills, while Reptar’s long-distance fire-breathing attack – and fire ground sweep – makes him a rather powerful fighter. Even Oblina, the black-and-white cane-shaped monster from Aaahh!!! Real Monsters packs a good punch for her small size if you take the time to learn her moves.
Playing on PS5, it looks rather nice, too. Character models are pleasantly detailed, and although their 3D renders make them look slightly different from their 2D cartoon counterparts, they’re all instantly recognisable (and lovable). There’s a decent range of stages to choose from, too, all based on the same franchises as the character roster. I’m disappointed that Tommy Pickles’ playpen doesn’t make an appearance, but since Reptar is the only Rugrats character available, we’ve got a Reptar-themed location instead.
Ultimately, the success of Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl lies in how lively its online community is. We’ve found players easily enough so far, but who knows if they’ll stick around. It’ll be a shame if they don’t though, because this is a competent brawler. Its pleasant visuals, varied roster of beloved characters and surprisingly deep combat make it one of the better Smash-type games out there. But if there’s nobody online to play with, its offline content will quickly lose its fun.
Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl Review: GameSpew’s Score
This review of Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl is based on the PS5 version, via a code provided by the publisher. It’s available on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, Switch and PC.
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