Starting up the first match with four Nigel Thornberry's battling it out was a momentous occasion. Growing up with classic Nickelodeon cartoons, this was a nostalgic moment for us, as we watched four Nigel's belly flop across the colourful stage. It was a great time, but one that fizzled out faster than it ignited. Within moments its novelty faded out, as none of the characters are voiced and the non-licensed music failed to make an impression. It was an early roadblock and one that was just the beginning of many problems with Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl.
For anyone unaware, the game is a licensed attempt at replicating the Super Smash Bros. formula, right the way down to its marketing, which treated every character reveal as a big deal. It's perhaps this comparison that is Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl's blessing and also its curse, as pitting the two against one another is pretty much unavoidable. There are some solid foundations here for a bright future, but unfortunately, the game is not quite there yet.
As a result, the fighter ends up coming out as a bit of a mixed bag. For all intents and purposes, the fighting itself feels pretty great. Punches feel weighty and the special moves perfectly embody the characters, such as SpongeBob SquarePants pulling off some hilarious animations inspired by iconic memes. It's also very, very fast-paced - much faster than Super Smash Bros., which makes each match pass by at a ferocious pace.
While it manages to nail this, other departments fall short. The stages, for one, feel very uninspired, rarely evolving into anything more than a couple of platforms against a backdrop. Don't expect any elaborate transformations as the timer runs down, and be aware that there are no items to grab to spruce up the combat. Instead, you'll need to rely on your sheer skill, which would be great, if the game wasn't constantly fighting against you.
Playing Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl on an Xbox Series X should have been the best possible experience, but ultimately was plagued with technical issues. Matches would quickly descent into constant screen tearing and frame rate dips, dramatically affecting the fights. It's not just isolated to us either, as many users expressed the same issues online. Multiple patches have been released since its launch, but still, the problems persist.
There's also just not enough content to sink your teeth into. Outside of arcade, multiplayer and a sports mode, where players must score a goal in the opponent's goal, there's just not much to do. Unlocks aren't particularly exciting either, offering little more than concept art and other goodies. It's all a bit of a shame, as there's honestly some solid mechanics buried beneath the issues. If developers Ludosity and Fair Play Labs can stick with the game post-launch and build it up, it could end up being a completely different story in a year or so, but as it stands, Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl feels like the shell of what it could be.