My son, who is 10 years old, loves Nintendo. He has all the consoles, all the games, but his absolute favourite is found in the many varieties of Super Smash Bros that he has. I have watched him playing online, and have been absolutely in awe of how he just destroys players who are probably several years older than him. Well, now, developers Ludosity and Fair Play Labs have decided that it’s about time that the Xbox got some of that action, and they have released a carbon copy, almost, of Smash Bros with Mario et al tippexed out and the characters from the Nickelodeon channel shoehorned in instead with All-Star Brawl. So, is it a case of imitation being the sincerest type of flattery, or should Smash have stayed on the Nintendo? Seconds out, Round One, let’s find out!
Now, the first thing to mention is that I have absolutely no idea who a lot of the characters in Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl are. I know Leonardo and Michelangelo, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and I know April O’Neil, who was their buddy. I even know Spongebob Squarepants and his friend Patrick, largely because my daughter used to like him, but the rest? Powdered Toast Man? Lincoln Loud? Invader Zim? Not a scooby – He was more my era; him and that annoying Scrappy Doo. Still, there are a good number of characters to pick from in Nick’s All-Star Brawl, and they do have different moves that are apparently based on their “personalities”. What I can say is that Spongebob’s move, in particular, seems to be based on the legion of memes that infect the internet, and that of the Turtles, based around their trademark weapons. I’m not sure why only two of the Turtles are represented, mind.
So, how does the game look? You’d hope with such a breadth of source material to draw upon, that the animation and mannerisms of the characters you play as are accurately represented on screen, wouldn’t you? Well, rest easy there, the animation is pretty bang on, whether that be Spongebob’s trademark run, or Aang from Avatar’s martial arts stylings, it’s all very good indeed. The graphics pop with personality, and it all runs silky smooth in single player or local multiplayer. Playing online does have a few issues, however, and lag is a real issue. In this day and age, and with how smooth the likes of Smash Bros is, with it running on a less powerful console than my Series X, well, it isn’t good enough really. The sound is all great as well, with the smacks and thumps you’d expect, and soon very nice music as well, even if it is a touch on the loud side.
Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl looks good, it moves well, and sounds good. How does it play? It’s here that any fighting game lives or dies, after all, and with the bar being set high by the presentation, how does the action match up? Well, again, pretty well is the short answer.
You have a jump button mapped to Y, which confuses my tiny brain no end, as I always think that jump should be A. And when you are falling off a platform to your imminent death, remembering the correct button to jump is pretty vital. All the other face buttons are mapped to attacks, and then to make it more confusing, each button attack can be modified by pressing a direction of the left stick. This has led to shouts of “Use your Up Smash!” and “Use the Down B!” coming from my young co-reviewer and I honestly thought he had been possessed and was speaking in tongues. It turns out that certain attacks can counter others in a kind of Fire Emblem kind of way, with up countering down but losing to a forward attack. It’s all very confusing for an old man, but luckily the tutorial does do a good job of explaining what is what. Or if you are a Smash Master, it will all make perfect sense. My game style here with All-Star Brawl has mostly revolved around pressing all the buttons, all the time and seeing what happens, and while this will work against the AI in the Arcade mode, online your weaknesses do get shown up pretty quickly. Let’s just say that time spent in the practice mode won’t be wasted.
There are a lot options to choose from when it comes to actually playing the game as well. In addition to 20 stages (including one that seems to be set on a space station of some kind, where if you stand still, your perch floats down and off the bottom of the screen, causing a loss) there are multiple game modes. Local play is the big one, where you and up to three friends can engage in cartoon-themed combat, either every man for himself or in teams. You can also challenge the AI in this mode, and even have two AI combatants go up against you on your own if you’re feeling cocky.
There is also Sports mode, where you have to either score a goal with a football (no hands) or a touchdown with an American Football (all hands, no kicking). The AI in all these modes can be set to be as hard or as easy as you wish, yet it is the Online mode which pits you against people out there in the world, and there is no shortage of challengers to be found. Lag remains an issue, however, and I would hope and pray that this aspect gets patched as it does spoil things. Finally, Arcade mode does what it says on the tin, pitting you against a series of bots in an attempt to win, well, whatever it is you win. There is no story or endings to unlock, mind, making it a pretty pointless pursuit.
All in all, Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl is, in the words of my son, “not as good as Smash Bros”. However, as we are unlikely to ever to see Smash on a Microsoft console, this is a pretty close facsimile. The AI bots are dumb, but it’s really in the local play and online where the game shines. It’s fast, fun and furious, with a pace that makes the older gamer wince, but when it all comes together, Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl is more than capable of delivering a decent old time.
If you wanna have an All-Star Brawl, you’ll find this Nick offering available from the Xbox Store