It’s back! Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2 is here to redeem itself rather too quickly. Not that I’m complaining, though. The more sequels and video games that come streaming in, the better. Anyway, with just two years since the predecessor hit the shelves, it’s a mixed-feeling affair to dive into the sequel so soon. So much needed taking back to the garage. We didn’t have voice acting, for starters, which made the entire cast feel flat and lifeless. Who doesn’t want to play along with SpongeBob’s iconic voice? I mean, is he even SpongeBob without his voice? Mechanics, too, were lacking, with too many similar move sets for each character.
With everything we know about Nickelodeon, each character is unique in their own right and deserves to stand out on their own two feet. Two years down the line, does developer Fair Play Labs manage to take the sequel to new heights? Do they reach the level of polish and finesse we’ve come to expect from Super Smash Bros.? All things considered, Super Smash Bros. perfected their craft over time. So, we might as well give the same chance to Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl. With all the questions you might have concerning the new game, tag along as we break down everything you can expect in our Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2 deep-dive review.
Straight away, you can tell the complete overhaul of the Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2 dishes on the table. Simply scrolling over the menu, selecting the maps and characters, and playing the actual game reveals how much work Fair Play Labs has put into the sequel. The visuals are stunning, quickly jumping off the screen with vibrance and delight. It’s lively to maneuver around all the game has to offer, setting the stage for a new beginning awaiting your thumb. All-new brawlers, stages, gameplay, campaign, voiceover, modes, and more make their way to the sequel. But let’s take it step by step, shall we?
Okay, so we have a whopping cast to contend with. Some are returning brawlers from the predecessor, while others are all-new Nickelodeon crossovers making their way to the game for the first time. We do have a few characters that get the boot off the stage. However, that’s commonplace in franchises like these—for change to happen, there must be a few losses made or something to that effect. Still, we have a bigger and better roster to switch flairs with. You have Bikini-Bottom’s yellow sea sponge and his best friend, Patrick, plus grumpy Squidward. The Last Airbender, Aang, and up-close fighter, Korra. Garfield, Danny Phantom, Pancake Man, the Angry Beavers, and even Grandma Gertie all make their way to the sequel.
Something for Everyone
While some characters like Danny weren’t particularly made for 3D platforming, Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2 manages to design authentic models and animations for them. In fact, each character has been built from the ground up with new animations and voice-overs, some of which have the original actors reprising their roles for the sequel. It’s the culmination of the best Nickelodeon has to offer, with revamped graphics and environments that put the gameplay closer in line with the source material’s charm. You may even go as far as to claim every single move and animation references something in the original shows, which, when you factor in the voice-overs, truly brings to life a nostalgic sense of peace.
Speaking of nostalgia, you’re treated to some goofy mini-cutscenes akin to the Final Smash in Super Smash Bros. Brawl. They’re seemingly direct lift-offs from the source material. While some do draw a smile on your face, others just aren’t meant for up-close viewing, like Avatar Aang’s fiery final showdown. Still, A for effort. I should also mention that each character has multiple-choice costumes that make all the difference when switching styles. And pretty cute, might I add? However, the purple aura costume for every character just makes them too dark for my taste. Now, onto the actual fun.
Fights take place on varied stages that draw inspiration from the shows. These make a splash, thanks to the authentic replication of exactly what you might expect them to look and sound like from the source material. Stages have multiple platforms, or just one that’s mobile, with an impressive level of detail and depth. They marry well with the level of liveliness and expressiveness the characters themselves exude.
Each brawler has a range of light and charge attacks unique to their character and personality. Playing as SpongeBob, for example, feels drastically different and versatile compared to playing as Reptar – as it should. The core combat does shine through, with each punch-packing an extra crunch. Meanwhile, speed and momentum find the perfect balance, portraying a smooth dance across stages.
While the same basic light, charge, and special move attacks return, you do enjoy cleaner gameplay. That's because it's simpler and, thus, places more focus on the brawls themselves. Air throws, for example, are no more. However, an all-new “Slime” system makes its way to the sequel that completely steals the show. It’s governed by a meter, which fills up whenever you land successful hits and take damage. Unlike other special meters, though, Slime lets you reach into a bag of goodies and perform deceptively versatile game-changing moves.
You can unleash stronger light or charge attacks with just a single bar and on the fly. Alternatively, you can wait until the meter fills to two-thirds and unleash the “Final Smash” effect, cueing in character-specific goofy mini-cutscenes and obliterating the opponent into space. But that only scratches the surface of all Slime can do. You can also cancel out an attack and switch it up to whatever you like. It can be combos, more mix-ups, or even boosting recovery. It’s the perfect way to charge up a character’s expressive self, with Slime adjusting itself to par with a character’s moves. Not to mention the moment-to-moment rash decision-making that comes with it. I mean, would you want to save Slime until the last moment, use it to unleash devastating combos on your opponent, or, at a moment’s notice, go in for the kill? Your choice.
You can also jump into the arcade mode and brush up your skills in the training mode. Both are great in their own right, simply because the battle system itself is refined and drastically improved from the predecessor. But it’s the all-new campaign mode that’s turning heads the most. Particularly because it brings the crossover concept to life, thanks to the freedom to interact with all sorts of characters and get a different conversation out of them every time. While stopping Danny Phantom archvillain Vlad Plasmius from taking over the Nickelodeon universe is an interesting premise, albeit not entirely unconventional, interacting with different characters across the campaign is the best part about it, with no shortage of fun nods to the Nickelodeon franchises.
You have a rogue-lite progression system, too, that takes you back to the beginning upon death. No worries there, as fights generate randomly, and, well, listening to SpongeBob all clumsy and clueless never gets boring. With some creative boss fights to contend with, jumping into either one of the modes on offer every once in a while never grows on you. Of course, the online mode takes the personal fun up a notch. You really learn from others just by seeing how much more characters can do and replicating it on your next playthrough. But especially since the training mode barely scratches the surface of all competitive fights has to offer.
I could go on and on and on about just how much better (and bigger) Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2 is. The game delivers in every way that counts, whether compelling visuals or content variety. You always have something that catches your eye each time you boot up the game. And whenever multiple playthroughs take their toll, you can always hop on over to the competitive online scene to soak in the cartoon art style some more and learn a thing or two you’ll inevitably return to experiment with.
When the core combat is seamlessly good, everything else tends to fall into place. The trip down memory lane on doubtlessly personal favorite Nickelodeon franchises represented here feels like a bonus. This truly is one of the most fun platforming fighting games out there, aptly raising the stakes for what’s to come.
Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2 Review (Switch, PS5, Xbox One, PS4, Xbox Series X/S, & PC)
To say Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2 improved upon its predecessor feels like an understatement. So much has changed, with all-new additions on nearly all fronts that matter. Characters, stages, modes, and the gameplay itself receive a complete overhaul, ushering in a new era of getting up-close-and-personal with some of your personal favorites from the Nickelodeon universe and indulging in a campaign mode to boot. With additional DLC content coming soon and doubtlessly a few touch-ups here and there, none of which derail the experience, the series looks to be shaping up to take over the platforming fighting scene with pride.