Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2

Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2

Hey now, you’re an All-Star.

Hey now, you’re an All-Star.

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Review game Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2, Hey now, you’re an All-Star.

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The fact that Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2 was able to come out only two years after the first is nothing short of a miracle. The second attempt at a Nickelodeon-based platform fighter by developer Fair Play Labs is a huge step up from the first, featuring a more polished feel, more colorful characters, and the show-stopping Slime meter. Its somewhat buffered movement and wildly expressive Slime mechanics took me a minute to get used to, but after a few late nights spent with friends, both online and offline, I couldn’t put it down. It’s not an exaggeration to say that the only other platform-fighting sequel to improve, rework, and refine what came before it to this impressive degree was the legendary Super Smash Bros. Melee itself, even though comparisons to the Super Smash Bros. series can cast an annoying shadow over this genre.

I literally spent thousands of hours playing fighting games like Super Smash Bros. and Rivals of Aether, and some of my all-time favorite shows are classic Nickelodeon cartoons like Spongebob SquarePants and Avatar: The Last Airbender, so I was really disappointed with how little I enjoyed the first All-Star Brawl in 2021. The standard platform fighting mechanic of dealing damage to your opponent before taking them out of the screen to finish the game was present, but the animations and sound effects lacked polish, and the majority of the characters had a similar feel to them. Beyond that, I discovered it to be mechanically unsatisfactory, with badly calibrated movement that gave hollow speed precedence over accuracy. I felt more motivated to keep stringing together the same broken attack until I could spike my unfortunate opponent into the blast zone, rather than putting together a combo based on my opponent’s damage, the attacks I had available, and my position on the stage.

So it’s amazing that All-Star Brawl 2 flips almost every irritation and grievance I had with the first game. Movement strikes a far better balance between speed and precision, hits feel more substantial and satisfying thanks to improved animations and sound design, and combos are deeper and more fleshed out thanks to multiple redesigned mechanics. The best part—and maybe the most exciting—of all is how well-acted the voice lines by many of the original voice actors and the updated, cartoonish models of its stellar cast of characters are.

Each animation deftly alludes to a cartoon character.

It’s usually important to use fanservice and nostalgia as a seasoning rather than the main ingredient. Fanservice and nostalgia are often used with all the tact of an unsuccessful attempt to create a secret Krabby Patty formula. But not in a fighting game crossover. Just as video games like Super Smash Bros. and Marvel vs. Capcom rightfully revel in nostalgia, All-Star Brawl 2 also goes all in. Each character’s animation and attack cleverly allude to something from the original animated series. Ren and Stimpy discard the famous Log from their show’s parody commercials, SpongeBob strikes his signature neutral weak aerial during the outrageous Goofy Goober Rock scene from The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie, and Aang flies around on his trademark ball of air.

However, the majority of characters have unique gameplans, specialized meters, and other unique mechanics that add a fun and necessary level of diversity, so these referential movesets are more than just empty rhetoric. The all-around fighter in All-Star Brawl 2, SpongeBob, is a little more floaty in his movement and isn’t particularly strong at any one thing compared to other fighters. The difference is evident when you contrast that with Reptar’s devastating damage and powerful combos. Reptar’s momentum-based movement feels like controlling a massive dinosaur, but its raw power makes it impossible for you to escape the stage. Although Garfield has a respectable combo game, he doesn’t have many trustworthy ways to finish enemies until his lasagna meter—yes, you read that right—fills up and he gains strength and speed.

With a cast like this, a fighting game could reach new heights.

Because each character offers something different and fascinating, it’s difficult for me to discuss the various ways they function without getting into an ecstatic tirade about them all. I liked so many of the cast members in All-Star Brawl 2 that it took me a long time to find a main character. In the previous game, I could never seem to find a character that really stood out to me. Once I completed the single-player arcade mode and gave each fighter a thorough rundown, I became eager to delve deeper into the stories of half of the game’s 26 characters. When was the last time I was both excited and conflicted about spending time in a platform fighter with so many different characters?

A fighting game can reach new heights with a cast as diverse as this one. The Angry Beavers function more like a team from a tag-based 2D fighter with moves that might remind you of some well-known assists from games like Dragon Ball FighterZ; Plankton is a strange hybrid between a grappler and a zoner with ranged grabs and wonky projectiles; and Zim is now a puppet character and can control Gir with greater accuracy.

Even the recurring cast adds something novel and fresh to the fight, even though new characters may receive more attention than the others. Every single character in this sequel has been completely redesigned by Fair Play Labs; none of them appeared in the original game. This massive overhaul might seem excessive, but it’s a necessary step toward integrating every fighter with the most innovative feature of All-Star Brawl 2, the new Slime mechanic.

The Slime mechanic is balanced, adaptable, and simple to use.

I can’t stress enough how much elegance and sophistication Slime brings to the game. You can increase the power of any of your special moves, improve your air dodge, cancel out of freefall after using your recovery, boost that recovery further, cancel out of any move’s ending animations, and even break free from enemy combos with just one button press and a fully charged Slime meter. With its versatility, ease of use, and balance, Slime is a useful tool for players of all skill levels or types of gameplay.

Characters can also perform a powerful ultimate attack with slime, which comes with silly mini-cutscenes reminiscent of a Final Smash. Despite their coolness, these cutscenes occasionally lift the curtain on All-Star Brawl 2’s otherwise excellent artwork. When compared to regular gameplay, some of these slime attacks seem to have lower-quality models and animations. Perhaps this is just a PC issue. While it’s not present everywhere, Aang’s Super, for instance, brings his model close enough to fill a significant portion of the screen. When compared to when he’s airbending across the stage, it looks particularly rough at that scale, with pixels and grain. The models that appear in these cutscenes appear to be the same ones that were used for fighting, though some of them don’t seem to have been intended for such close-up views.

While not as good as Hades, the campaign is still a passable roguelite mode.

Boss fights aren’t particularly unique in comparison to other challenges in the campaign mode, but they’re still entertaining. This is also true of most of the other challenges. Additionally, the randomly generated nature and upgrade systems help to keep things more interesting than they otherwise would be. Regretfully, neither Hades nor Slay the Spire are this. A fully functional roguelite is created by putting your mastery of various gameplay elements and mechanics to the test as you progress through a series of varied challenges, but beyond what makes All-Star Brawl 2 already enjoyable, there isn’t much to recommend it. I have never experienced the feeling of gambling that arises from weighing the potential benefits and risks of a well-crafted roguelike, wherein attempting a bold move to advance could potentially endanger one’s progress. I also never experienced the persistent urge to “one more time,” which would have caused me to pick at the scab that was left behind after a run gone wrong.

Additional options for single-player gameplay include an arcade mode that combines the same types of challenge levels from the campaign with uniquely themed battles, such as battling Plankton alongside SpongeBob. It’s a huge step up from the much shorter, less polished arcade mode of the original All-Star Brawl, but I wish it had more features to set it apart from the very similar campaign mode.


At last, Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2 can truly claim to be an all-star platform fighting game. It’s not only an amazing follow-up that goes well beyond the changes made to the original game, but it also takes the criticisms of that game seriously and puts them to the test. Superb rollback netplay, a training mode made evidently by people who know exactly how to construct a platform-fighting laboratory on a level rarely seen, and decent (if samey) single-player options with a good amount of challenge all support an incredibly entertaining fighting system. Then, the fantastic new Slime mechanic takes it to the next level by giving each character in its stellar roster an enormous amount of creativity without making it too complex for the target audience of party games. One of the best platform fighting games ever is Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2, and as soon as I finish writing this, I’m going back to play more.

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