Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl is a bummer

Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl could have been a contender.

It began with an infallible speech. “What if there was a Smash Bros. game starring beloved Nickelodeon characters?” The concept rests neatly at the center of the venn diagram of “corporate IP flexibility” and “things the fans really want.” When Nickelodeon partnered with developers Ludosity and Fair Play Labs to handle the game, their credibility as a Smash contender skyrocketed. Ludosity’s little team were Smash Bros. fans who had turned out Slap city, a solid platform fighter tuned for high-level play, in 2018.

In one of the early trailers for the game, the developers revealed that his game would have ripples. On Smash Bros. Melee, waving it was a high-performance technique that allowed characters to glide at impossible speeds. It was a feat that became the cornerstone of competitive play. In later Smash games, Nintendo would weaken it and annoy many hardcore gamers in the process. By showing SpongeBob gliding on invisible skates, Nickelodeon and Ludosity were indicating that this Smash-like would be the royal agreement by true fans.

The developers sprayed a little more catnip when they confirmed Star fight would have rollback network code on certain platforms. For those of you who don’t spend the night yelling at fighting game developers on Twitter, the rollback refers to a set of ingenious techniques That can, under the right conditions, make online fighting game matches feel almost as responsive as in-person sessions. This was another shot through the bow from Smash Bros., in which online matches can appear to play by correspondence.

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And for the most part, Ludosity and Fair Play Labs have delivered on those promises. Star fight it’s mechanically sound, all the characters feel unique in their design and purpose, and the network game is undeniably better than Nintendo’s. I have connected to Twitch streams of competitive Smash players. putting it to the test, praising his speed and responsiveness.

Which is all to say that the developers have done a phenomenal job building the bones of a phenomenal platformer that should satisfy the hardcore gamers Nintendo left behind. So it’s even more a shame that Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl He fails to deliver any of the charm, goofiness, and smarts that make crusader fighters widely attractive.

It seems that the developers do enjoys working with the Nickelodeon pantheon. The techniques relate very well to the Brawlers’ canon skills and personalities, and there are even deep cuts and references to memes like Patrick’s ice cream cone attack or the mocking SpongeBob taunt. But it doesn’t seem like enough.

SpongeBob makes his mocking pose in the mocking SpongeBob memes.

Image: GameMill / Nickelodeon via Polygon

Aesthetically and emotionally, Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl it is inert. The most obvious flaw is the complete absence of voice acting; We don’t even hear screams or grunts. With the exception of someone like Reptar, Nickelodeon’s characters are inexorably linked to their distinctive voice acting throughout the years. His total silence is awkward at best and awkward at worst. Mobilizing the money and lawyers to get Billy Wests and Tom Kennys on board may have created some difficulties on the development side, but if you’re up against the king, you better not miss out.

Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl it also lacks iconic Nickelodeon tunes. Instead, we have stage music loosely inspired by the vibes of the shows. The Bikini Bottom stage has some heartbreaking slide guitar solos, and the AAHHH !! Real monsters the stage features a chopped and bolted Howie yelled. But while there are definitely some hits here, you won’t hear a single nostalgic tune.

One of the great joys of Super Smash Bros. is seeing characters from different worlds collide in ingenious and silly ways. Kirby’s copy ability was a gold mine of cute and funny gags. Snake codec conversations on Quarrel He invited you to the Colonel marveling at Wario’s ability to fart. Watching Kazuya Mishima ditch the Smash list from his favorite cliff of parricide was so good. Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl not once does he revel in the possibilities of his crossover premise.

It is especially evident in the arcade mode of the game. Combatants exchange words in a rudimentary text box at the beginning of each battle. It’s a simple system that has the potential for funny little moments, even without voice acting: What AvatarWhat feat does Earthbender Toph’s flamboyant Man Toast Powder? Unfortunately, the game also takes advantage of this opportunity. The witty phrases are not personalized at all. Each character just goes through a small handful of boring jokes, regardless of where they are or who they are up against.

She always says this!
GameMill / Nickelodeon via Polygon

Star fight it feels like a licensed game that is constantly being undermined by the very company that licensed it. Ludosity’s platformer fighting game skills are on full display here, but in this space, every ounce of fanfare matters. Nickelodeon authorized the use of the characters, but apparently was unable or unwilling to provide access to voice actors, music, and writers who could bring the crossover fantasy to life. It feels like a small studio making the best of what it has, when it should have received so much more.