Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl review (PS5)

Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl does what you’d expect in delivering a Super Smash Bros-like experience with Nickelodeon characters, and is available now on all current and last-gen consoles. We played the PlayStation 5 version, which is being distributed by Maximum Games and was developed by Ludosity and Fair Play Labs.

Gathering up Nickelodeon’s wacky and diverse cast of characters for an ensemble game sounds like a great idea on paper, but in reality the results have been mixed. And by mixed we mean that we got an especially awful party game in Nickelodeon Party Blast followed by a rather formulaic kart racer in Nickelodeon Kart Racers. That one represented an upward trend though, and All-Star Brawl continues that trend with a surprisingly decent brawler.

With immediate parallels to Nintendo’s hugely successful platform fighter it’s almost impossible to look at All-Star Brawl without comparing it to the genre-defining title that’s out there and still getting content updates – something that makes it challenging for any game in this genre to break through and be successful. Luckily, this one does a decent job, especially for Nickelodeon fans.

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Content is crucial there, and it’s an area where Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl both succeeds and drops the ball a little. The roster has 20 different characters to choose from, and includes an assortment of characters from shows like SpongeBob Squarepants, Ren & Stimpy, Avatar: The Last Airbender and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. While 20 is a decent number for most fighting games, Super Smash Bros. has up over 80 to choose from already – though some are DLC characters. It’s a shame that All-Star Brawl didn’t go for a larger roster when you look at the competition in the genre, especially when you consider that only two of the TMNT are included – Rafael and Donatello are missing, as are plenty of fan favorites from other shows. The game’s a bit cheaper than Super Smash Bros, but not by much – so the roster is where it hurts. Sure, there might be DLC, but we’d rather see the roster go from from 40 to 60 than from 20 to 30.

Luckily, the game does deliver when it comes to stages. Every character has a stage, so there are 20 in total, which is a good number for showcasing some iconic environments from the shows that were licensed for the game. With both classic shows and current ones represented, there’s something for everyone here, and the 20 characters and their stages all feel distinct. They have their own unique movesets, and their locations are full of fan service references as well. Unfortunately these don’t extend to the official soundtracks or soundbytes and voice clips from the shows though, which is a shame.

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The game’s controls are intuitive if you’ve ever played a game like Smash Bros before – though other brawlers are a fine reference point as well. Regular and heavy attacks are available, and each character has unique special moves. The game also succeeds where it matters most – in making the controls feel fun and responsive rather than floaty. Combine that with fun stages that allow for a good amount of traversal, and this becomes a surprisingly competent alternative in the platform brawler genre.

It’s hard to shake the feeling that it’s short on content though. That doesn’t just apply to the roster, but also the lack of in-game pickups or weapons that help turn the tide of the battle – especially when balanced in such a way that everyone will eventually rack up a few wins. Of course this uses Smash Bros as a reference point again, but it’s hard not to do that. What’s there is absolutely solid and fun, and the wacky nature of many of Nickelodeon’s franchises makes it a missed opportunity to not see that represented more through gameplay.

But while there’s some stuff missing, what’s actually there is a ton of fun to play. Beloved characters have been well realized and animated, and the blow-by-blow gameplay is great. We wish there was more content, but for anyone not on Nintendo’s platform this is a good choice if you’re looking to pick up a platform brawler.

Score: 7.6/10

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