It’s easy to understand why Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl made waves when it was first announced in July.
All-Star Brawl is a platform fighter, for starters, which means matches work almost exactly like Super Smash Bros., one of the biggest and most popular fighting game franchises of all time. Of course, part of the reason for Smash’s popularity is also that, for many players, it’s a chance to relive some of their earliest and fondest gaming memories. In its own way, All-Star Brawl also has the power of nostalgia on its side, a trump card the devs haven’t been shy about playing in recent showcase videos.
Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl’s cast is obviously primed to appeal to a certain demographic, namely millennials like me. SpongeBob SquarePants and his cohorts are in the mix, of course, as well as beloved characters from Rugrats, The Wild Thornberrys, and Invader Zim. The game even shows some attention to more obscure cartoons like Ren & Stimpy and Aaahh!!! Real Monsters. It’s like someone went back to 2001 and asked a bunch of kids what Nick characters they’d want to see in the next Super Smash Bros. game.
Take this breakdown of SpongeBob’s toolkit, for example. Many of his moves are inspired by the era during which folks my age would have been watching the show, including the imagination speech and the bit where SpongeBob’s mopping and sweeping gets uproarious applause from a talent show audience. The devs also turned one of the show’s most enduring memes into SpongeBob’s taunt, allowing players to mock opponents with his faux chicken face aNy tImE ThEy wAnT.
The references even extend into the Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl victory screen (pictured above), which sees SpongeBob celebrate a win with his “eager face” from the popular “Sweet Victory” episode and Patrick nailing a two-by-four to his head in defeat, as he is wont to do. Almost every piece of this game seems geared toward activating that fun little spot in your brain where you remember the good parts of your childhood before you grew up and everything went to shit.
I’m still not 100 percent sure if this game actually looks cool or if I’ve just been brainwashed by nostalgia, but we’ll find out when Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl comes to PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Switch, and PC this fall.