Let’s face it, when it comes to platform fighters, a certain Super Smash Bros. has long been considered the biggest cartoon-crossover battler in town. But for fans of Nickelodeon shows, there’s a new contender ready to flex its toony muscles. And Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl has quite a bit of fun in itsrolled-up SpongeBob sleeves.
If you’ve never played a game like this, the basic concept is pretty straightforward. Gamers choose a favorite Nickelodeon star—plucked out from recognizable shows from the ‘90s through today—and then employ a variety of attacks and grabs in an effort to weaken the opponent to the point where they can be sent hurtling from the ring in a knockout.
The battling roster at this point (before adding on any extra downloadable content) contains some 20 different characters, including headliners SpongeBob SquarePants and his best bud Patrick, some Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Aang and Toph from the Avatar series, Ren & Stimpy, Danny Phantom and more. (Helga is the only one who shows up from Hey Arnold! But hey, she’s probably the only one you’d expect to be punching somebody in the face anyway.)
Each character has their own unique punches, kicks and special attacks that can tally up to about 18 moves apiece, along with some grab, block and jumping mechanics. But it’s all designed well enough that even younger Nick fans can just start mashing SpongeBob’s controller buttons and immediately leap into the mayhem. (Those who want to make a gaming art of it all may not find as flexible a palate as a Smash Bros. game, but they’ll find plenty to work with, too.)
The contests can be between up to four players and placed in a number of Nick show-focused stages. Those include such locations as: the Loud House; a Teenage Mutant Sewer Slam; CatDog’s house; a Space Madness scene from the Ren & Stimpy Show; Avatar’s Western Air Temple, and more.
Gamers can also select between standard and timed battles. All-Star Brawl includes a few sports game modes as well, which feature performing specific objectives as a team, such as attacking a ball to send it flying into your opponent’s goal.
The game is fun and fast paced. As mentioned above, Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl doesn’t feel like it was designed for some hard-nosed competitive contests online (though online competitions can be a part of play). It has a nice casual gaming feel about it that can make it fun for the family at large or for small groups of friends who want to jump in for some casual cartoony play.
This is, of course, a game about cartoon characters fighting. But the attacks are generally broad and silly, such as SpongeBob hitting opponents with bubbles or Stimpy smacking an opponent with an eyeball flex.
One small disappointment is the fact that these Nick characters don’t have any voiceover interactions. But on the plus side, that means any small interactions are spelled out and there’s no verbal content that might hit below the belt for tiny gamers.
Well … fighting. Again, there’s nothing bloody or really painful-looking about the character attacks. (There are some comical gassy assaults.) But they are attacks. And if you fear that one of your tykes might imitate a SpongeBob leap from the couch or execute a Ninja Turtle pizza throw, this might not be the button-cruncher for you.
You definitely can’t say that Nickelodeon All-Star Brawlis in a league of its own. But there’s a lot here for platform fighter fans to dive into. And that’s true no matter which end of the pool you’re used to.
After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.