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Starting the first game with four Nigel Thornberries facing each other was a momentous occasion. Growing up with the classic Nickelodeon cartoons, it was a nostalgic moment for us, as we watched four Nigels’ bellies crumble on the colorful stage. It was a good time, but it died out faster than it ignited. Within moments, its novelty wore off, as none of the characters are voiced and the unlicensed music failed to make an impression. This was a first roadblock and was just the start of many problems with Nickelodeon Star Brawl.

For anyone who doesn’t know, the game is a licensed attempt to replicate the Super Smash Bros. formula, until commercialized, that treated every character reveal like big deal. Perhaps it is this comparison that is Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl’s blessing and also its curse, as opposing the two is pretty much inevitable. There is a solid foundation here for a bright future, but unfortunately the game is not quite there yet.

As a result, the fighter ends up coming out a bit like a mixed bag. For all intents and purposes, the fight itself is pretty enjoyable. The punches feel heavy 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 – much faster than Super Smash Bros., which makes every game go by at a fierce pace.

While he manages to nail this, other departments fail. The scenes, for one, feel very uninspired, rarely evolving into anything more than a few platforms set against the backdrop. Don’t expect elaborate transformations while the timer ticks down and know that there are no items to grab to spruce up the fight. Instead, you’ll have to rely on your 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 experience possible, but ultimately plagued with technical issues. Matches would go down quickly with constant screen tears and frame rate drops, greatly affecting fights. It’s not just isolated for us either, as many users have expressed the same issues online. Several fixes have been released since its launch, but the issues persist.

There just isn’t enough content to sink your teeth into. Outside of arcade, multiplayer, and a sports mode, where players have to score a goal into the opponent’s goal, there just isn’t much to do. Unlocks aren’t particularly exciting either, offering little more than concept artwork and other goodies. It’s a bit of a shame, because there are honestly some solid mechanisms buried under the problems. If developers Ludosity and Fair Play Labs can stick with the game after launch and build it, it might end up being a whole different story in a year or so, but as it stands, Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl feels like the shell of what it could be.

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