In 2021, Nickelodeon attempted to capitalize on the popularity of Super Smash Bros. and platform fighting games with Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl. While it featured a solid roster of Nicktoon characters, the original game was criticized for feeling too simple and barebones. Now just two years later, developer Fair Play Labs is back with a sequel that aims to address those shortcomings and provide a more polished, content-rich party fighting experience.
Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2 makes massive strides over its predecessor by expanding the roster, introducing new mechanics like the Slime meter, and most notably, adding an entire roguelite campaign mode. With smoother gameplay, more modes, and Quality-of-Life improvements, it seems poised to fill that party fighter niche amongst families and friends much better.
In this review, we’ll take a close look at All-Star Brawl 2 to see if it lives up to the promise of being a worthy alternative to Smash Bros. We’ll examine the variety of gameplay modes, the depth and feel of its fighting mechanics, the strength of the presentation and roster, and how it performs online. Our goal is to determine if this sequel is substantially improved over the original, and ultimately whether or not it’s worth playing for Nickelodeon fans looking for their next couch multiplayer mainstay. There’s a lot to unpack, so let’s jump right in!
Satisfying Combat with Added Depth
The most important element in any fighting game is how it actually feels to play, and Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2 delivers smooth, responsive combat that both casual and more serious players can enjoy. The basics involve running around stages, jumping, blocking, and stringing together combos using standard and charged attacks. It sticks to the straightforward input style popularized by Smash Bros., so anyone familiar with that series will pick it up quickly. But there are also new mechanics like the Slime meter that add welcome depth without sacrificing approachability.
The new Slime meter is likely All-Star Brawl 2’s most innovative addition. As you deal and receive damage during a match, your Slime meter will fill up. By pressing the Slime button plus a direction, you can spend a portion of the meter to enhance certain attacks or recoveries. Save up your whole meter to unleash a powerful cinematic super move unique to each character. This adds an extra layer of strategy, as you must choose whether to use Slime for small bonuses or save it up to try for a huge knockout blow. It walks the line perfectly between catering to casual players who will love the supers and providing experienced fighters more options for high-level play.
Speaking of high-level play, the combo game has also been given more depth compared to the previous game. Chaining attacks together feels natural, and the animations do a great job of referencing the source material for each character. As Spongebob, you’ll pull off his Goofy Goober rock poses, while Aang flows smoothly through stances inspired by different bending arts. There’s creativity on display that will delight Nickelodeon fans.
For new players, there is a tutorial that covers the basics of movement, blocking, dodging and attacking. Unfortunately, it does not go into depth on more advanced techniques like combo strings or Slime meter strategies. Some character-specific guidance for mechanics unique to certain fighters would also be welcome. The basic tutorial gives you what you need to jump into the fray, but mastering a main may require heading to YouTube for education.
Overall though, Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2 succeeds as a fighting game due to highly polished core mechanics. The platform fighter genre lives and dies based on its fundamentals, and this sequel has clearly learned from its predecessor. Responsive controls, unique character movesets, and the excellent new Slime meter come together to create satisfying kinetic combat that has something for players of all skill levels.
A Smorgasbord of Play Options
Beyond its strength as a fighting game, Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2 shines thanks to a variety of single player, multiplayer, and online modes that provide tons of content. The star attraction is the new roguelite-inspired campaign mode, which offers a fun and replayable experience separate from the core fighting mechanics. There’s also a traditional arcade mode, expansive training options, and good online functionality.
The campaign is the clear headliner. As Spongebob, you’ll traverse through multi-layered levels picking fights with enemies, entering unique challenge arenas, and facing off against iconic bosses from several Nickelodeon shows. There’s a charming humor and spirit of surprise in not knowing which wacky fight you’ll encounter next. Unlocking playable fighters as you progress and spending coins on persistent upgrades gives a great sense of progression. While the overarching narrative falls apart quickly, the varied battles and ability to build your character over multiple runs make up for it.
Beyond the campaign, the Arcade mode offers something more traditional for fighting game fans. Pick your fighter, choose a difficulty level, and battle through a series of fights culminating in a character-specific showdown. There are fun themes like teaming up with another character against groups of enemies, and bite-sized challenges between matches help break up the action. It would have been nice to see more creativity here, but it’s a good option for experiencing the core fighting mechanics.
For those looking to really up their game, the Training mode is shockingly robust, including frame data, hitboxes, and input displays. This really allows you to lab out combos and dig into the nitty gritty that competitive players expect. Again, some character-specific lessons would make it friendlier for newcomers looking to pick a main, but as it stands this is one of the most advanced training modes in the platform fighter genre.
Finally, online play is smooth and stable thanks to the inclusion of rollback netcode. Matchmaking is quick, and the gameplay experience mirrors local multiplayer. You’re even able to play the campaign mode cooperatively online. Sadly there are no rankings or competitive ladder features, but simply having a smooth online experience addresses one of the biggest weaknesses of the previous entry.
All in all, Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2 succeeds in providing engaging single player content and rock-solid online play to back up its fighting mechanics. There’s a lot to do whether playing solo or with friends on the couch or online. The variety of modes should keep players entertained for a good while.
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A Nostalgic Yet Incomplete Roster
The roster of Nicktoon characters is a nostalgia blast for fans of the classic Nickelodeon cartoons. Featuring 25 total fighters, 14 return from the original All-Star Brawl while 11 new combatants enter the fray. There’s a lot to love about the new additions that provide more playstyle variety. But some confusing omissions hold the roster back from being truly excellent.
Starting with the positives, the newcomers are ripe with potential for interesting movesets. Invader Zim’s GIR adds a unique puppet fighter dynamic, letting players control his manic robot dog to expanded effect. The angry Beavers team up as a duo character, while Azula from Avatar demonstrates flashy firebending techniques. Even side characters like Arnold’s Grandma and Jimmy Neutron’s Dad shake things up and allow the developers to get really creative.
The entire cast demonstrates deep reverence for the source material with specialized meter mechanics and combos that reference iconic moments from the shows. Fans will geek out over Patrick’s house-smashing super move or Spongebob’s electric guitar attacks. There’s plenty of variety between ranged, melee, heavy, and mobile fighters to appeal to different playstyles.
Unfortunately, the roster isn’t perfect. Despite the fun newcomers, some baffling omissions hold it back. Mainstays like Shredder, Powdered Toast Man, and CatDog didn’t make the cut. Even weirder absences like Avatar’s Toph and Spongebob’s Squidward are disappointing. The roster feels lopsided by classifying side characters while excluding such prominent roles.
Make no mistake – the roster is still star-studded and full of childhood icons that hit the nostalgia buttons hard. Seeing poweful benders, pizza-loving turtles, and quirky animals duke it out never gets old. But a few too many odd exclusions, especially of characters already represented in the previous title, prevent the lineup from being all it could be. Expanding the roster over time to bring back some missing faces would go a long way to making the cast truly superb.
A Nostalgic Nickelodeon Presentation
It’s clear a labor of love went into crafting the presentation and aesthetics of Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2. The colorful stages and expressive character models authentically capture the spirit and humour of the classic Nicktoons. While the visuals aren’t without some hiccups, the art direction, animation, and audio truly bring these cartoons to life in exciting ways.
Each stage is vibrant, action-packed, and brimming with references fans will appreciate. Locations like the Technodrome, Thornberry Safari, and Downtown Bikini Bottom are realized in impressive detail. Little touches like the Jellyfish Fields sign wavering from Spongebob’s attacks or Aang’s airbending blowing pixel leaves add wonderful dynamism. The levels act as interactive, loving tributes to the source material.
The 3D character models also stay true to the clever art styles that made these shows icons. dimensionality. Everyone from Powdered Toast Man to Jenny Wakeman looks like they popped right off a CRT television, capturing that Saturday morning cartoon charm. And they’re bursting with personality thanks to lively attack animations and exaggerated proportions.
Unfortunately, some visual rough patches hold the presentation back from perfection. The framerate can randomly hitch during hectic moments, and certain character’s super moves display lower resolution models up close. For the most part though, All-Star Brawl 2 impresses with both technical polish and artistic authenticity.
The outstanding orchestral soundtrack remixes classic themes from the shows, while hiring the original voice actors pays off huge dividends for both charm and comedic timing. The dialogue writing merges characters together in ways that feel natural to their personalities. Overall lack of accessibility options is the sole audiovisual downside.
Through color, animation, humor, and attention to detail, All-Star Brawl 2 is a celebration of everything that made 90s Nicktoons so impactful for a generation of kids. While it has some technical wrinkles, the presentation absolutely nails the Nickelodeon look and spirit.
A Worthy Successor That Delivers
After disappointing with the original launch in 2021, Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2 proves the franchise has potential by making massive strides as a sequel. Developer Fair Play Labs clearly took fan criticisms to heart, resulting in a content-packed fighter that retains the core fun while expanding gameplay options and polishing technical aspects.
The excellent new Slime meter adds welcome strategic depth without sacrificing accessibility. Couch co-op and online multiplayer feel smooth and responsive thanks to rollback netcode. The visuals and audio authentically capture the spirit of the classic Nicktoons through art direction and voice acting. And the additions of a roguelite campaign and advanced training options provide variety and depth to single player content.
That’s not to say the experience is perfect. The roster, while oozing nostalgic appeal, has some obvious omissions holding it back. Performance can randomly hitch or dip during graphically intense moments. The narrative aspects never quite meet the highs reached by the gameplay and presentation.
But in the ways that truly count, Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2 succeeds as an appealing party fighter. The fighting mechanics feel great while offering hidden depths for those who seek them. There’s plenty to do whether playing solo or with friends. And most importantly, it retains the lighthearted humour and charm that defines Nickelodeon for generations of fans.
If you’ve been looking for a satisfying alternative to Nintendo’s platform fighter dominance, Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2 makes a strong case. It may not dethrone Smash Bros., but does stand on its own merits as a content-rich party brawler full of childhood nostalgia. For families, friend groups, and fans of couch competitive games, this sequel is absolutely worth checking out.
Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2
Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2 is a big step up from its predecessor, offering excellent and nuanced fighting gameplay, a fun campaign mode, and a strong nostalgia factor that brings these classic Nicktoons to life. Some unfortunate roster omissions and technical issues hold it back from being perfect, but overall this is an easy recommendation for couch multiplayer fans looking for a deeper party fighter.
- Smooth, responsive combat mechanics
- Excellent new Slime meter adds depth
- Fun campaign mode with roguelite elements
- Great roster of iconic Nicktoon characters
- Stages and graphics ooze nostalgic charm
- Includes rollback netcode for solid online play
- Advanced training options for competitive players
- Creative movesets reference the source material
- Odd omissions from the character roster
- Narrative in campaign mode falls flat
- Occasional performance hitches and frame rate dips
- Lack of accessibility options
- Other single player modes less novel
- No ranked competitive features
- Sparse tutorial content