Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2 Review (PS5) – Returning to the ring for another round, Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2 is the sequel to the 2021 platform fighter of the same name. While that game was serviceable in its attempt to channel the very best of the platform fighting niche, this sequel outdoes its predecessor in just about every way imaginable.
The result is a fully-featured and fantastically fun fighter that feels both familiar and fresh, deep and yet incredibly approachable that any Nickelodeon fan will immediately fall in love with.
Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2 Review (PS5) – Back and Slimier Than Ever
Jumping Back into the Ring
The original Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl was a title that had clear ambition – a platform fighter that paid homage to the very best of the fighting game sub-genre. Unfortunately, it fell short in a number of ways to result in a game that felt quite flimsy over a long period of time. It’s a relief then that the sequel immediately showcases itself as a labour of love in every single way from the title screen.
Much and more has been done to fill out the experience to make it into a landmark title for both Nickelodeon fans as well as those itching to get into a new fighter. As well as the retooled physics and movement systems present in All-Star Brawl 2, the developers have included some fundamental changes that really help this title to stand out of the crowd and entice people to really get to grips with the title.
The sequel sees an expanded and more diverse roster take the stage in fast and frantic fights alongside a far more robust single-player offering for those who are interested in practising their skills by themselves – I found myself frequently saying “Just one more game!” before accidentally losing another half an hour late into the night – which by all means is a good thing!
A Fully-Featured Fighting Roster
Between this game and the last, the roster has seen a pretty significant shake-up in terms of who you’ll be playing as. In the transition, some characters have been left in the dust or put into the background of certain stages. And while some will be disappointed to see Hugh Neutron be sidelined, it only makes sense that the main character of the show be able to finally show off his abilities.
In general, this cast of characters offers far more variety than the original game in terms of fighting game archetypes and I look forward to seeing which fighters find their mark on competitive ladders. Despite not ever watching their show, I have enjoyed playing as the Angry Beavers, who can swap between one another on the fly for interesting mix-up opportunities.
Grandma Gertie is another interesting pick that (in spite of her old age) is a close-range brawler who can charge absolutely devastating punches and land devastating knee jabs. I look forward to seeing what she can do, her moveset never fails to make me laugh. Each character has a moveset that draws on their source material in both functional and creative ways that will once again appeal to long time fans.
This extends to the various stages that you’ll find yourself fighting on, which cover the entirety of Nickelodeon’s source material and largely look vibrant and fun to look at – another significant improvement from the previous title. Included in the stage list are pre-organised lists for your competitive needs, including standardised layouts if you so need them. Everybody is catered to with this entry!
While there is an abundance of representation from Spongebob Squarepants and the Avatar series, there’s a large portion of more obscure shows being represented here.
Compared to the previous entry’s comparatively shallow arcade mode, Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2 features a well-developed single-player campaign that takes the main mechanics of the game and places them in a rogue-like series of challenges for players to complete.
The challenges on offer range from simple CPU battles, to defeating waves of enemies, breaking targets through a platforming level or even larger scale boss fights from various different shows! I wasn’t expecting to fight against the Flying Dutchman but the challenge was well appreciated!
This mode also introduces power-ups to the fold. These are additions that add small properties onto the character that you choose to play. These take the form of buffs or automated abilities like homing projectiles every few seconds. Unlike other rogue-likes that I’ve enjoyed, it never felt like I had the potential to stumble on a truly broken cocktail of abilities – the pressure was always on me to perform.
I quite enjoyed this – I never felt like I was being carried by the abilities that I stumbled across and I was encouraged to learn how to play the game and its various characters. That’s where the strength of this story mode lies – I felt like I was being taught the ins and outs of the mechanics and each character’s abilities without the pressure of losing against real players.
An unfortunate side-effect of this expanded single-player is that Arcade mode now feels slightly less compelling to actually complete, as it structurally is very similar to the main campaign. If you want to go through a series of CPU battles without the addition of power-ups and modifiers, this is the mode for you.
Catering to the Fans
This is an area of the game where it can be easily seen that the developers have gone the extra mile for fans of these franchises. Unlike the first gamer where voice acting was added in a post-launch patch, this game features full voice-acting for each of its characters with brand new dialogue.
This means that there are some small and obscure interactions that will make fans of these shows really smile, how would Korra react to Gary the meowing snail? I don’t know anybody who was asking, but you can certainly find out with this game!
NPCs throughout the campaign will similarly offer fun bite-size interactions that will be a joy for fans. Mrs. Puff being a store vendor was a great treat, and while seeing Hugh Neutron and Powdered Toast Man being relegated to NPCs is a shame, it’s nice to see them at all in this entry and that they aren’t totally lost.
The main feature setting this title apart from its contemporaries is the appropriately thematic “Slime Meter”. This meter allows fighters to power up moves of their choice throughout combat and gradually increases as you deal and take damage. While I’ve yet to dig into the nitty-gritty of what can be achieved with this free-flowing system, it creates a fantastic sense of player choice.
Every move is affected differently by using the Slime Meter and I can see this leading to some really unique scenarios in higher-level play. If a player builds up their meter all the way, they can use a cinematic finishing move to deal some major damage, at the cost of using the whole meter and not being able to power up their regular moves.
While these generally reference iconic moments from a character’s respective show (handsome Squidward anybody?), I found that the animation quality on some of these finishers led to them feeling a bit flat and lacking the impact that a finishing move should probably have. These are small blemishes on what is otherwise a fantastically conceived and executed system that will absolutely find its niche.
A well-rounded training mode also creates an environment for these new mechanics to be experimented with to try and work out what works for you and which character might be your main after trying a few!
Refining and building on what came before, Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2 is a wholesale improvement from the original game. From casual multiplayer mayhem to a surprisingly robust single-player offering, effort has been poured into every facet of this title to deliver a memorable time that will absolutely be appreciated by fans and non-fans alike.
The innovative “slime” mechanic promises to add layers upon layers of depth for those willing to put the time in, as well as being an approachable and understandable system to be enjoyed by casual players. While the visuals and animations in some cases are still a cut below what I would like to see, these issues are nearly eclipsed by a game that has been carefully designed to be enjoyed by a broad audience.
Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2 is now available for PS5, PS4, PC, Nintendo Switch, Xbox Series X/S, and Xbox One.
Review code kindly provided by publisher.