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Review

Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl (Switch) Review

There’s a strong chance that if you’re reading this, you own Super Smash Bros Ultimate for the Nintendo Switch. What began as a risky proposition over twenty years ago has gone on to become one of the juggernauts of the entire industry, inspiring franchise crossovers and mashups for years to come. Whilst there have been plenty of clones of the platform-fighter genre that Smash Bros pioneered, there have been perhaps none that so directly markets itself to Smash Bros purists as Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl. It’s a barebones package, but if you’re willing to overlook that then there’s a solid fighting game at its core.

On the slim chance you’re not familiar with Smash Bros, the premise is simple. Pick a character and hit your opponents with attacks to increase their damage percentage. The higher the percentage, the farther they’ll get knocked back from attacks. Hit them far enough away and they’ll fly off the screen and get knocked out.

The roster features twenty fighters from the last three decades of Nickelodeon history, including favourites from shows such as SpongeBob SquarePants, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Avatar: The Last Airbender. It’s a solid selection with a mix of fighting styles to suit all players. There’s your rush down attackers, the heavy hitters, characters that control zoning and spacing, and some that are just plain bizarre. Regardless of your preference, you’ll undoubtedly find someone to your liking.

Unfortunately, the game’s reverence for its source material falls well short of its potential. This is a no-frills experience that doesn’t make the most of having access to such a popular stable of franchises. Character models are decent but not particularly detailed, and there’s so sadly no alternate costumes or even colours to be found. The only unlockables are some gallery pictures and jukebox tracks to peruse, with no additional bios or fanservice. There’s no voice acting, with a tiny line of written dialogue before a fight being left to inject some additional personality into each fighter. 

Thankfully each character gets their own stage to represent their franchise. They all look great and are brimming with colour and life, and the musical composition for almost every stage is straight-up excellent. Many of the stages sadly suffer from frustrating gimmicks such as moving cars and floating platforms, with no Omega or Battlefield level options like you’ll find in Smash Ultimate. It means you’ll likely gravitate to the few stages featuring large platforms and stable ground, though the crazy ones can be fun to visit on occasion to mix up the fights, as there are no items of any kind to speak of to add some random spice to fights.

In terms of modes, the options are similarly barren. The main mode is a simple arcade gauntlet where you fight a series of random combatants, but that’s about where the dedicated single-player options end. Multiplayer is limited to standard smash battles with up to 4 players locally, or 1v1 quick matches online or 12 player lobbies online where you can organise 2-4 player matches. The developers have boasted about the inclusion of rollback net code to improve online performance, but in my experience, the connection quality still varies significantly from match to match, with no noticeable consistent improvements. With that said, I do live in Australia where we have famously bad internet, so your mileage may vary. 

Rounding out the list of modes is a Sports mode where you need to score points against the opposing team. You can choose which ball to play with, which all operate differently. For example, a soccer ball can only be kicked, a football can only be grabbed and thrown, and the yarn ball can also be used as a weapon. I had a surprising amount of fun with this mode, even if it was just to add a bit of variety in between standard fights.

In the end, though, it’s how fun those standard fights are that truly matters. After 3 years and several hundred hours of Smash Ultimate, all that extra stuff fell to the wayside and it’s just standard matches with no items that keep me and my friends coming back. So, I’m very happy to say that Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl thankfully has a deep and satisfying combat system holding up the rest of the slim package. 

The controls will be immediately familiar to anyone who’s played a game of this kind before. Standard and special attacks are on offer, in addition to a button dedicated to heavy attacks. These can all be combined with three different directional inputs, even in the air, adding a point of difference to its move set compared to the competition. The heavy attacks even operate on a rock-paper-scissors system, with up attacks beating down, down attacks beating mid, and mid attacks beating up. It’s another wrinkle to think about as you try to read your opponent mid-fight.

It’s also really fast. Every character has a high run speed, jumps are quick and falling is even quicker, and special recovery moves cover a lot of distance. It means you’ll be zipping across the map in the blink of an eye, and you’re encouraged to adopt a fast-paced and aggressive style of play. This is seen in the attacks too, with a tiny amount of anticipation frames for attacks, low ending lag, and quick attacks that lend themselves to combo locks, juggling and a rush-down approach to fights. 

The developer’s love for Smash Bros Melee is evident in some of its other combat options. Wave dashing is here, which can be done simply by jumping and air-dashing whilst pushing in a direction, meaning you can bounce around the level with blistering speed and ease. The air-dash option can also be used to quickly jaunt you in a direction, though it doesn’t operate as a dodge. 

In fact, there’s no defensive dodging at all, with no ground dodges or rolls. The only defensive manoeuvre on offer is a block (which can be perfectly timed to reduce how much you are pushed back), so you’ll want to stay on the move and get out of the way of attacks. Other advanced mechanics included are Directional Influence, and the triumphant return of edge hogging to prevent recovering characters from grabbing the ledge the return to the stage. It’s an asshole move I’ve missed from recent Smash games. 

The only downfall of the intense speed and lighting quick attach animations is that it can all feel a little hollow. Attacks lack that important sense of build-up, impact and follow-through, with characters feeling very floaty. The cheap and overly comical sound effects on attacks don’t help matters here either. It may just be a matter of adjusting to a different style of game, but there is a slight element of satisfaction and punchiness missing from each scrap. 


Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl is the best Super Smash Bros game I’ve played not featuring Mario. The fighting system underpinning it is a lot of fun, introducing enough new elements to stand on its own amongst its peers and having enough depth to foster competitive play going forward. It’s a shame that the list of features and content is so threadbare and that some further love hasn’t been shown for the rich source material, but hopefully, the developers can support the game and expand on this in either updates or a sequel. For the time being, this is a solid alternative to Smash Bros if you’re after something a little different, or just want to reset the playing field for that one friend who has just become too good at Ultimate.

Rating: 3.5/5

The Good

+ Solid fighting mechanics
+ Plenty of advanced moves and mechanics for genre veterans
+ Quality selection of characters

The Bad

- Almost zero single player content
- Franchise rights not used to potential
- Too many gimmicky and frustrating stages

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Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl is the best Super Smash Bros game I’ve played not featuring Mario. The fighting system underpinning it is a lot of fun, introducing enough new elements to stand on its own amongst its peers and having enough depth to foster competitive play going forward. It’s a shame that the list of features and content is so threadbare and that some further love hasn’t been shown for the rich source material, but hopefully, the developers can support the game and expand on this in either updates or a sequel. For the time being, this is a solid alternative to Smash Bros if you’re after something a little different, or just want to reset the playing field for that one friend who has just become too good at Ultimate.

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About The Author
Andrew Searles
I like to write. I do reviews and other bits for @vooksdotnet. Still playing Pokemon Go. Will probably buy Resident Evil 4 again when they release it on my fridge.

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