In many ways I’m the target audience for this particular game. I’m someone who grew up watching most if not all of the cartoon featured on this title (a few are a bit too new and I was never into Spongebob [I’m aware of the blasphemy of that statement, but he wasn’t my thing and came out just when I was in middle school]). I’ve also pumped quite a bit of time into Smash Bros, often playing through story modes and with my friends, particularly my best friend.
In this case, I talked said best friend into getting this game while it was on sale. My thought process was that we’d have something new and different to play that we could enjoy. And to be fair to the game, we did enjoy ourselves.
For about an hour.
The game boasts a moderate sized roster that includes several characters that make sense. Naturally there’s representations from the biggest Nick franchises: Spongebob, Ninja Turtles, the Avatars, as well as a few deep cuts that are likely there for the memes like Nigel Thornberry and Invader Zim, and one or two additions from newer shows, like the Loud Family (which I as of writing this, haven’t seen). It does feel like there are notable exclusions though: how could Nick not have Timmy Turner or Jimmy Neutron, from two of their most famous/infamous shows? For that matter, it seems like the roster comes in a little light; as my friend put it “I’ve seen old arcade games with more characters.”
Yes, we’re likely a little spoiled by the absolutely massive roster featured in Smash Bros. But even if we compare this to the second Smash game, Melee, the roster comes up short. Even with the DLC character added (more on that in a bit), there are 21 fighters in Nick-Brawl… Melee, which came out twenty years and four systems ago, had 26.
This is the first hint that the game doesn’t feel finished. The roster’s empty, and on top of that, feels incredibly unbalanced. Every time poor Patrick goes against anybody, he loses. Whereas every time April O’Neil shows up, she’s almost guaranteed to win. I’m sure better players could balance this out, but this feels like there wasn’t enough playtesting or balancing.
There’s also no voices or noticeably catchy music from these shows. How cool would it be if they fired off some quips at one another? or if you fought while listening to “Sweet Victory” or the Ninja Turtles Theme or literally any of the music that Nick should have licensed? The sound feels hollow, much like the roster.
The stages are often lackluster. Time and time again we were disappointed to see empty stages where there was a tiny platform for us to fight in. It’s as if they decided every stage should be Smash’s Final Destination, which, no surprise, is a tiny platform floating in space.
Oh, right, the actual gameplay. It’s Smash Bros. There’s nothing new here: you hit each other with a variety of attacks, with more and more damage causing the characters to fly more and more. If you hit the bottom of the screen or the edge, you’re out. They’ve tried to mix it up some by essentially assigning every button a move, but, again, it’s pretty much Smash Bros.
Except that even the first rendition of Smash Bros got what makes these games fun. It should feel like slamming your toys together in a toy box. And, again, this game does for all of an hour. We delighted in pitting Nigel Thornberry against Invader Zim or seeing Korra face off against Spongebob Squarepants. There’s some childish delight there.
That’s the issue though: this feels like it could’ve been an amazing game. Add voices, vary the stages, get some cool music, add a few more faces to the roster, and we’d be set! They could even go the Smash route and start leaking characters via DLC. I’d certainly have been willing to drop some extra cash to play the other Ninja Turtles or XJ9 from My Life as a Teenage Robot or one of the Angry Beavers (or, deep cut, Snap from ChalkZone).
They do try to have some fun modes, like a sports one. This involves moving a ball through a hoop. It’s busted.
Sometimes it’s almost impossible to get the ball through the hoop (my friend and I spent an entire match working together to get a goal and never managed it). The second tossing and throwing comes in, it becomes a pretty basic game. Maybe with a few more players it would be fun? It’s not with two.
Arcade mode? Empty and incomplete.
This essentially involves fighting random characters on random stages where they say random things before battle. Again, a little cleaning up and this could work. Put a character in their show’s stage. Have them say something at least a little original instead of just copying a line from the show totally free of context.
This is a game free from effort, free from a joy for what it’s doing, and free of any reason to purchase it. It’s a soulless cash grab that’s banking on memes, stupid buyers, and those that don’t know better (which was me). It may be worth, at most, $20, full price, and should be more on sale. It’s definitely not worth the $60 the thieves who made it are asking for.
2 it’s possible to glean at least a bit of enjoyment from this steaming pile, though not much.