After making the platform fighters community boil over with impatience for a few weeks, Nickelodeon All Stars Brawl is finally available on October 5th. Here is our verdict after a week of intensive brawl between SpongeBob SquarePants and others.
Nickelodeon All Stars Brawl was finally released on October 5 on Steam, after an unbearable wait; here is our verdict after a short week of distributing chestnuts with SpongeBob and consorts. So, success or premature runaway?
In the small world of platform fighting games, there reigns an unbeatable colossus who reigns supreme in this video game niche: Super Smash Bros. Of course, there are some very pleasant alternatives like Brawlhalla or Slap City. But so far none of them have been able to even challenge the throne of this all-powerful monarch.
So it was with overwhelming enthusiasm that the community greeted the Nickelodeon All Stars Brawl announcement last July. For the first time, a title seems to have all the arguments to compete with the champion in all categories; a three-star cast who nostalgia smells good, a tasty cartoon and good-natured atmosphere, a frantic gameplay which honors the fundamentals of the genre and exemplary investment developers… here is a mouth-watering recipe!
A colorful cast
We therefore find ourselves controller in hand in front of a colorful home screen, full of expectations after a promotional campaign with small onions. Neither one nor two, here we are in “training” mode to familiarize ourselves with this colorful cast. Currently, the game has a total of 20 playable characters, straight out of the US studio.
Spongebob, essential star of the studio, is obviously at the rendezvous with his longtime sidekick, Patrick the starfish, as well as Sandy the squirrel. Avatar fans will be able to choose to play as Aang, Toph ou Korra. Lovers of Ninja TurtlesThey will certainly prefer to do more pirouettes with Leonardo or Michelangelo, unless they fall back on reporter April O’Neil.
We also find the awful Ren & Stimpy, protagonists of the eponymous show, the inimitable Nigel Delajungle (The Delajungle Family), Helga Pataki (Hey Arnold), l’excellent Michat-Michien, or Razmokets challenge.
The list is completed by Danny Phantom, Lincoln et Lucy Loud (Welcome to the Louds), Curve (Funny monsters), Toastman, and the terrible Zim (Zim the Invader). A roster which perfectly captures the crazy atmosphere of the studio … and which obviously leaves room for many other famous faces, distilled over the course of future DLCs.
The sensations are there
But once the game has started, this relative frustration gives way to gameplay Ultra fast, more nervous than recent Smash installments. The movements are lively, the controls precise and responsive; overall, the first contact is quite enjoyable and the sensations are immediately present. An impression further reinforced by the absence of technical barriers, which allows even a child to master the controls in no time.
Regulars of Smash and others will find very quickly their marks, there is no doubt. But to fully enjoy the game, however, tame some additional mechanics that set NASB apart. The most notable is certainly the dash, which offers considerable freedom of movement in addition to the traditional double jump.
The socket system (“grabs”) also changes considerably compared to the Nintendo series. In NASB, all characters can carry the opponent on their back to throw him into the void, like Donkey Kong in the Smash series.
Another big difference:a classification of attacks. In Smash, characters have sideways variations of their normal attacks, special attacks, and smashes. Here, the hits are classified as low, high, or medium. One way to introduce a dynamique shifumi style. High attacks beat medium attacks; the latter take the upper hand over the low attacks, which in turn beat the high attacks. An interesting dynamic, very common in combat games but quite insignificant in Smash. In practice, this makes it possible to introduce an additional layer of complexity that is quite interesting to explore.
This depth is further accentuated by the number of strokes, more important than at Nintendo (around twenty at Ludosity against a dozen on average for Mario’s parent company). Ludosity did a great job of expressing each character’s personality through his moveset. All of them obviously have a panoply of moves inspired by cartoons, from SpongeBob’s bubbles to Reptar flames through the contortions of Michat-Michien. Overall, you just have to have watched the corresponding cartoon to know what to expect from each. At this level, the game is a real success.
a sound design far from being Nickel
The other point that immediately strikes once the excitement subsides is the sound design. But this time, it is not a good surprise, far from it. The soundtracks of the different cards are quite heterogeneous; sometimes very successful, sometimes mediocre, they frankly do not leave an indelible memory. But where the shoe really hurts is at the level of dubbing characters who are … simply non-existent !?
O rage, O despair! Have I therefore waited so long only for this infamy? Granted, Ludosity has promised that the voices will arrive in a future update. But as it stands, this absence gives a fairly empty, impersonal side to the game and clearly leaves a unfinished taste. A particularly frustrating silence in a game yet riddled with endearing characters with legendary lines. Where did the famous “Iiiii’m ready !“By SpongeBob, or the famous”Ssssmashing !” by Nigel Delajungle? A huge disappointment.
At this level, NASB is satisfied with the bare minimum, namely the sound effects that identify ear attacks. An absolutely essential component of any self-respecting game, and which is not enough to fill this crying void.
Prohibition of blinking
Once the characters and mechanics are explored, it’s time to go and rub shoulders with a few real players to check out all those first impressions. First observation: all the good sensations felt solo are still there. The precision of movements, timing, anticipation and reflexes play a major role; no doubt, the basics of the genre are there. We expected no less from Ludosity at this level.
The other good news is that the rollback that helps streamline online games works admirably. Excellent news which guarantees a form of fairness in this very specific kind of game. Unlike many current fighting games, have very rarely felt the effects of latency.
But the more the fights are linked, the more divisive the gameplay becomes, his fault devilish look. Once you are comfortable with the controller in hand, there is no longer any question of blinking your eyes too often! The majority of weak blows indeed lead to big combos, which can start again at the slightest mistake of inattention. Result: the rounds are linked at full speed. You might as well say it right away: we’ll have to stock up on caffeinated beverages!
This dynamic finds its source in several mechanics. It comes above all from very short recovery time between shots, which allows spammer some attacks like a madman. It is also due to number of defensive options, quite limited compared to the Smash series. In NASB, there is only one solution to survive: êbe methodical in his movements and cautious in his approach.
We must also mention the combo system, permissive in the extreme. It is therefore all the more important not to get hit at all, because the slightest opening is often synonymous with a deadly combo. A situation interesting for skilled players by the permanent tension it generates. On the other hand, it can quickly become frustrating for the less comfortable players.
Of the fight still raw of stripping
NASB is far from the first game to have this problem of “zero to death“. But traditionally, these worries tend to emerge long after the game is released, once the more successful players have developed advanced techniques. NASB, on the other hand, has been out for just over a week, so there is reason to be concerned about the state of the metagame in some months.
As it stands, we must therefore admit that Nickelodeon All Stars Brawl is still very rough form stripping. A criticism tinged with a touch of assumed bad faith; indeed, developers are particularly invested. Just a few days after the release, they already have patched several of the most problematic mechanics, like Sandy’s infinite combo. Once all these mechanics are better balanced and refined, we could well be dealing with a real competitor of the Smash series, because the base is solid, fun, and full of promise, which makes us want to spend … the Sponge on some defaults.