Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl (NASB) is a Super Smash Bros.-style platform fighter for Steam, Xbox, PlayStation, and Nintendo Switch. It’s developed in collaboration with Ludosity – the folks behind Slap City – and Fair Play Labs, published by GameMill Entertainment. Duke it out as one of your favorite Nickelodeon characters, ranging from shows you may have watched in the 90s to some of the modern day shows – Spongebob and Patrick from Spongebob Squarepants, Ren & Stimpy from the somewhat controversial show bearing the same name, Helga from Hey Arnold!, Reptar from Rugrats, Zim from Invader Zim, Aang from Avatar: The Last Airbender, CatDog from said show, among many others.
In case you’re not familiar with the Super Smash Bros. series, the idea is to build enough damage to your opponent to the point where you can knock them off the stage. The more damage they have, the farther they’ll fly off stage. In NASB, it carries a similar vein, albeit there are several differences:
- Strong attacks can’t be charged, but they can be used in the air
- Characters don’t have a side-tilt attack, neither do they have a forward or back air attack, or side special
- Air dodges are replaced with air dashes
- Instead of using a shield, attacks can be guarded infinitely unless the character is at the ledge, at which point the guard can be punished
- Every character is like Donkey Kong as far as grabs and throws are concerned: opponents can be grabbed, even while in the air, and the thrower can move them anywhere they want
- Projectiles can not only be deflected with strong attacks, they can also be grabbed and re-used
- There’s no dashing in this game, although there are two different types of dash attacks while walking
- There are no items
Thaddeus Crews, one of the developers of the game, does a great job explaining these mechanics in a video:
The game is very fast-paced. Wavedashing (sliding across the ground while standing still) is possible by air dashing immediately after a jump. Most attacks, including strong attacks, have barely any startup frames, making opponent’s moves difficult to predict. While this might sound like a bad thing, it also means opponents can’t predict your attacks either. I love the fact that there’s no air dodging in this game; after you’ve launched your opponent into the air, you can follow up with a meteor attack (attack that slams your opponent to the ground or the bottom of the stage) for a quick knockout, without having to worry about him dodging the attack, unless he counter-attacks.
Guarding is a little different than in Smash Bros. – there’s no “shield” here. Blocking an attack will push the blocker backward, and if they reach the edge of the stage, they’ll enter into a tumbling state for a few seconds. If they’re attacked during this state, they can get knocked off the stage. However, if the blocker times his block at the right moment of the attack, it will reduce the friction created and cause less hitstun. Blocking in the direction of the attack in congruence with the right timing will create a perfect block; hitstun is reduced drastically and no friction is created. The blocker can immediately follow up with a counter-attack.
Characters can only walk. They can’t dash. That being said, your character will perform a dash attack if they’ve been walking for a few seconds, and the dash attack is dependent on whether you pressed the regular attack button or the strong attack one. These dash attacks can quickly be interrupted and followed up with another attack.
Overall, I’d say the gameplay mechanics are very solid. Admittedly, it took a while for me to adjust to them, but once I got the hang of it, it’s a lot of fun. I could be playing the game for two hours straight and still want more – normally that doesn’t happen. While some characters are broken – such as Powdered Toast Man (from Ren and Stimpy) and April from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, due to their spammy attacks (though this is just my point of view) – it’s also kind of the way the game was meant to be played. That being said, there certainly will be patches to the game as time goes on, so don’t be surprised if Powdered Toast Man gets a nerf.
As far as graphics are concerned, it’s definitely not state-of-the-art, but I guess the good news is you’ll easily be able to play this on that 10-year-old desktop that’s lying in your garage. Some animations with the characters are a bit janky, but for the most part it’s not too distracting.
NASB currently features 20 characters and 20 stages, more of which will be added over time via DLC (I don’t think it has been determined yet whether these will be paid or will come as a free update). All characters and stages are unlocked right from the get-go. Some stages are wacky and rather large in design. For instance, Powdered Toast Man’s stage features a toaster where toast occasionally pops up, throwing any characters off who were standing on it, and a cereal bowl where players can be KO’d if they stay in the milk too long. Other stages might have your character set up on a series of rooftops, and you have to avoid a rolling cart that moves across the stage. Still others were designed for competitive players in mind, ensuring an even playing field with no hazards. So whether you want to take the game seriously or just want to have some fun, the stages have you covered.
Unfortunately at this time there is no story mode, but in the meantime there’s offline battles that can be played locally with other players or with CPUs, an Arcade mode, and, of course, online multiplayer, with rollback netcode. Up to four players can play at a time, and you can play in free-for-all fashion or play doubles. You can set the rules to be a Stock battle, where players fight until there’s a last man standing, or a timed battle where you want to earn as many points as possible by KOing other players before the time runs out.
One mode that stands out from Smash Bros. is a football-themed mode where players are split into teams. A ball is put in the middle of the stage, and the goal is to attack the ball in the direction of your opponent’s goal. You can attack the opposing players to keep them away from the ball. The first team that reaches a certain amount of points, or whoever gets the most if the timer runs out, wins the game. I feel like this mode could use a little more TLC; the goals are very small in size, and it’s difficult to get the ball at just the right angle to get in. In a six-minute match, my teammate and I could only get 3 goals in.
Arcade mode is what you’d expect: select a character, a difficulty level, then fight your way through a series of opponents. These are 1v1 focused, and at some points after clearing a stage, you can choose who you want to fight next. Clearing the Arcade mode will unlock a few extra avatars that you can use online, and you’ll also earn some character art that you can view in the Extras menu. What’s a little disappointing here is that there’s not really anything that sets this mode apart from others; there’s no “boss” fight or any bonus stages in-between battles.
Online, you can play competitively, 1v1, where you play to increase your ranking. You start off at 400, and this rank will increase if you win a match, or decrease if you lost. The game will try to find an opponent that has a similar ranking to yours. Stages are limited to “legal” stages – stages without hazards and have an even playing field. Of the 20 stages, only 4 are allowed in Competitive mode.
If you can’t find an opponent or you want to take it casually, you can use the Quick Match mode. It’s similar to Competitive, only the game doesn’t take into account your ranking, and any stage can be used. Or you can create or join a lobby, where you can create your own ruleset. Of all three options, I tend to lean on the last one, as it’s the only one where I can play doubles.
If we look at Steam Charts, the all-time peak so far has been 9,120. 1,297 have been playing as of the last hour. So, at least for the time being, you shouldn’t have any trouble finding someone to play with, whether it be 1-on-1 or a 4-player free-for-all.
Crossplay is not available; it seems like it would mostly be up to Nickelodeon to do that. Here’s the answer for that on NASB’s Discord FAQ channel:
There is currently not crossplay or crossgen (except for Xbox One players being able to play with Xbox Series players), if this is a feature you’d like to see in the future I would suggest letting Nickelodeon know on social media outside of this discord server. The game devs in this server are completely aware of the demand for crossplay & crossgen.
That certainly would be a great feature to have, especially since the game is available on every current-gen console.
What’s sorely lacking is voiceovers for the characters. The only voice you’ll hear in the game is the announcer, who will occasionally say in-game, “Outstanding!” or “Ooh, that’s gotta hurt!” There seems to be a lot of legal hassle involved in adding that, and would mostly be up to Nick to figure out. That being said, the developers seemed to have hinted about adding that in later on in an interview with Game Informer, saying, “We will be reviewing all options, which may include adding VO down the road.”
Even so, the developers aren’t opposed to modders modding the game. In fact, they have a
#modding channel on their Discord. If a modder wants to add the character’s voices himself, he can do that! There’s already a work-in-progress mod over at GameBanana for this very thing. Some have already added Aang’s voice.
Speaking of mods, this will also come in handy for extra character skins. Right now, all the characters only have their default costume, so even if you play a four-player match with all the same characters, you’re going to have a hard time distinguishing what character you’re controlling. The characters don’t even have a darker or lighter tint than the other. This again is something that people will have to reach out to Nick on social media to add alternate costumes. (I also am not sure whether these will come as free updates or not, but I imagine it would be free.)
The character selection screen could use some improvement. You could have four players set up, the character selected, their CPU difficulty and all that, but if you change the rules, you have to pick your characters all over again. I also find it frustrating that, if I want to add more CPUs, I have to select their character first before I can add another. If I press the A button anywhere other than the CPU difficulty level, the character gets removed.
I was disappointed that I waited until midnight for the game to release, only to download and run it to find out the game immediately crashes. There’s no anti-cheat software behind NASB, but I had a strong feeling it was due to the “native” GameCube controller support the game has; it was the same obstacle that Slap City had and for some reason, Proton doesn’t know how to handle it. After using the
-disable-native-gc launch parameter, no luck.
It didn’t take long, however, before someone came up with a patch that mostly gets rid of the GC support. According to the GitHub post, all you need to do is create a bash script, and copy these lines to it:
cd "/home/$USER/.local/share/Steam/steamapps/common/Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl/Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl_Data/Managed"
mv Assembly-CSharp.dll Assembly-CSharp.dll.bak
bspatch Assembly-CSharp.dll.bak Assembly-CSharp.dll NASB_Assembly-CSharp.patch
Mark the script as executable, then run it (make sure you have
bsdiff installed through your package manager). All this does is it creates a backup of the
Assembly-CSharp.dll file found in the game’s installation directory, download a patch, then apply said patch to said DLL file. Run the game with any version of Proton and you should be good to go! (Note: if you have NASB installed somewhere other than the default directory, make sure you direct the script to the right folder.)
The way I look at NASB is that, while it certainly does take its roots from the Super Smash Bros. series, it also has a lot of its own, original mechanics. For the most part, these mechanics are very satisfying and make the game stand out on its own. NASB is also developed by real, down-to-earth people who actually care about their audience and who listen attentively to requests, and it’s a game where you don’t need to have a Switch in order to play it. While we’re missing a story mode, character voiceovers, and additional character skins, a lot of these can already be tackled by the community themselves, and I’m sure it won’t be long before we get some of these in an official capacity.
The fact that Super Smash Bros. Ultimate has essentially ended development with the reveal of the final DLC character a few days ago (same day as NASB came out, actually) could mean a new era for Smash with NASB. Criticisms of the game aside, the gameplay itself is pretty fun, and I’m sure it won’t be long before it gets some needed polish.
While there are many Super Smash Bros. clones out there, NASB so far has been one of the best, most-polished platform fighters I’ve played, with a good variety of both characters and stages (and yes, Slap City is still good in my book; it just has half the size of the character roster). Get it while it’s on sale on Steam for 20% off.