Nickelodeon All Star Brawl 2 invites you to beat the sponge out of your opponents.
I wasn’t really aware of the term “platform fighter” until recently, in spite of having played a fair few games in the subgenre. Played badly, I should add. But there’s been a considerable rise in the number of these fast-paced, multiplayer brawlers in the last few years, to the point that multiple large franchises have been leaping on the bandwagon. Nickelodeon All Star Brawl was one such example, one that was technically pretty solid but lacked depth and soul. The sequel, creatively named Nickelodeon All Star Brawl 2, is a marked improvement in almost every way.
As is tradition in my reviews, I start with the story. Surprisingly, there actually is one, but not only is it hardly Shakespeare, but it’s also pretty much the same plot of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. Relegated to the campaign mode though the tale is, baddies have taken away various Nickelodeon characters and mind-controlled them with the aim being to take over the universe with only Spongebob being able to free them and save the day. It’s as generic as it comes, but it’s told in a nice enough way. In fact, I quite liked the occasional cutscene that joked about Patrick being mind-controlled making no sense due to his lack of a brain.
Mechanically, this is a standard platform fighter. Your character faces off against a number of computer or player-controlled foes and tries to smash them off the stage so that they explode; repeat until you’re the last one standing. You have your standard attacks, powerful smash attacks, and character-specific specials that can all be utilised to attain this goal. Looking at it from this standpoint, Nickelodeon All Star Brawl 2 is fairly generic, much like its predecessor, but this sequel does a few things to make itself stand out.
First is the unique (for the subgenre anyway) Slime mechanic. This works a lot like a meter in many fighting games, most notably recent Mortal Kombat releases, with you building it up by hitting and being hit. Depending on how much Slime you have, you can break out of combos, stop yourself from flying off stage, or unleash a Smash-like super attack. It may have been done in other standard fighters, but this feels like a really interesting addition to a platform fighter. Powering up a special attack using Slime at just the right moment can really give you the edge, and rescuing yourself from certain death might be just the thing you need to swing a match. This is a great addition to games of this ilk, and really does deepen the fighting mechanics for those who want to dig into the surprisingly robust training mode.
Then there are the characters, which provide the game with the soul that the last release so badly missed. Every one of them feels unique, looks great, and is well-acted. Previously, you could pick pretty much any character and they wouldn’t feel that different to any other, but here there’s a different story. Raphael’s quick and powerful burst moves are a far cry from Zim’s puppet-style combat, which is wildly different to Plankton’s hard-hitting throw-and-zone style. It took me a while to find characters that I liked due to all this variety, but that’s a good thing. I’d rather have fun experimenting than just picking Random and not really caring. I particularly liked the unique ultimate attacks that characters could use, which were always well-animated and fun to watch, whilst not going on too long. Spongebob’s driving lesson never ceases to raise a smile.
As for modes, you’ve got your standard arcade and quick match options alongside the multiplayer and aforementioned campaign. Arcade plays much like you’d expect, with you having a stock of lives to fight your way through stages to a final boss, with the occasional curveball thrown in with enemies having power-ups or you having to do a very Smash break the targets stage. It’s fun, quick, and nice enough to play through.
The campaign is interesting, playing like Smash’s World of Light mode where you rescue fighters to add to your roster for future fights. Oddly, it’s run a bit like a roguelite, with you choosing nodes to either fight, recover, or do events on your way to the boss. Fail along the way and it’s back to the start but with some resources to power up for your next run. It’s fun, but not brilliantly thought out, as most of the time you want to avoid fights as there’s little reason to risk your lives for small rewards. Even then, the route choice you make doesn’t make a huge difference as you’ll either be picking a one-on-one fight or a multi-man battle against grunts. Occasionally you get shops that give you buffs for the length of your run, some of which offer some nice synergy, but a full run isn’t always long enough to get that synergy so you end up with a set of sub-par abilities. Still, it’s a fun distraction and unlocks new cosmetics.
Multiplayer is where games like this shine though, and Nickelodeon All Star Brawl 2 fits that bill well enough. Local multiplayer is a blast thanks to the array of unique characters and interesting stages. There’s the usual array of options to customise your matches exactly how you want, so you’re bound to find something you and your friends will enjoy together. Online lobbies are also available for more remote play. Matchmaking is a bit weaker though, and I often struggled to find matches, especially in quick-play mode. Ranked offered more frequent matches, but you’re limited to one vs one rather than any of the other more anarchic modes. Hopefully, the community will pick up over time, as there’s a lot of scope for online fun here.
The game is well presented on the whole, with great visuals and a wonderful sense of style. Even though characters from different shows are given a similar art direction here, they all retain their unique look, so credit to the art team here. Stages, too, are really well done, offering different hazards to watch out for. I particularly like the Technodrome occasionally firing blasts from its eye during busy matches. The sound has had a real pick up since the last game thanks to characters having plenty of lines to spout during a fight. Additionally, the campaign is fully voice acted too, in many cases by the voice actors from the original shows which is particularly impressive.
Now, Nickelodeon All Star Brawl 2 isn’t perfect, but it’s a significant step up from the previous entry in the series. If you have a bunch of friends who share your fond recollections of some of these classic shows, you’ll probably have a blast playing this together. There are single-player offerings, yes, but they aren’t going to be the main attraction when there’s a solid multiplayer suite available. You probably won’t get too far with playing against randoms online unless you’re especially good at these sorts of games, but get your pals together and you won’t go far wrong.
Nickelodeon All Star Brawl 2 is available now on Xbox, Playstation, Nintendo Switch, and PC.