Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2 brings in the star-studded cast of your favorite childhood Nick cartoons for an intense 4v4 platformer fighting experience. Though not free of flaws, All-Star Brawl 2 is an overall good game with a not-too-steep, not-too-shallow learning curve to master. With a huge cast and a clear abundance of love for the source material, Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2 might be the ultimate Nickelodeon fan’s game.
All-Star Brawl 2 is the sequel to the 2021 title Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl, and if you’re familiar with that game at all you might know it has a bit of controversy behind it. Specifically, many fans of the first game feel like it was “abandoned” by the developers too early. While I can’t speak to that, I can say that the sequel definitely feels like a fresh start, with many of the kinks and hiccups of the first game well polished out for a smoother, more refined experience.
Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2 is an arcade platformer-brawler, the latest in a genre that specializes in characters with unique, hard-to-master movesets and highly competitive battles. All-Star Brawl 2’s cast of 25 characters certainly lives up to this genre staple, each one being totally unique and requiring individual mastery. SpongeBob seems to be the easiest to simply pick up while more technical fighters like XJ9 will require some practice before they really shine.
The nostalgia factor for Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2 is insane with each character’s move sets and animations based on iconic cartoon moments; a particular favorite of mine is Azula’s animation after losing a fight. Having a cast of iconic cartoon favorites for you to pick and choose from is a huge selling point, if not the selling point for the game. Although it can be disappointing and fight the nostalgia a bit when you realize not every voice actor returned to reprise their roles. This is especially jarring when you meet Gir in campaign mode. Regardless, I’m happy to finally have a modern game where I can play as El Tigre and Danny Phantom.
If competitive online battles aren’t your thing, the game features a unique campaign mode which, in my opinion, is one of its stronger features. This rogue-like game mode sees you battling across stages with persistent health, gathering buffs along the way to eventually defeat Vlad Plasmius. In addition to unique game-changing effects not featured in online battles, the campaign mode also gives you the chance to engage unique enemies and interact with friendly side characters outside of the game’s cast of playable characters.
Particularly interesting are the boss battles, which go far beyond the scope of usual fights and feature iconic characters and moments from some of your favorite episodes of Nick cartoons.
Unfortunately, you can’t jump into the campaign with just any characters. You’ll have to start with poster-boy SpongeBob and unlock new characters as you go, specifically by defeating them in stages along the way. While this is certainly a cool way to unlock characters, I was disappointed that I couldn’t just jump in with my favorites Zim or El Tigre, and had to learn the kits of characters I otherwise had no intention of playing.
The keyboard controls are fine, if a bit awkward, with your attack keys on Z, S, and X. I found that shifting to a controller gave me more control over my attack inputs, but it may have just been due to the familiarity of the button layouts.
One particularly rough flaw with the game’s controls is the movement inputs, which can go from your character walking to full-on sprinting at a moment’s notice, often by accident, and with a frame delay in canceling the movement. I met a lot of early ends in my campaigns by full-on sprinting off the side of the map by accident. I also found it particularly hard to recover from falling off the stage because something about my jumps just didn’t do the trick and I knew falling off the side meant death.
Across the campaign, several platforming segments take the place of combat for extra rewards. I learned to avoid these whenever possible, as the awkward movement controls would almost always mean the death of my run trying to take on these segments.
If campaign mode isn’t your thing, the game features both on and offline versions of its main competitive fighting mode, which ranges from 1v1 to a 4-person free-for-all and everything in between. In these modes, all of the game’s characters and stages are unlocked by default, so there’s no grinding for coins or achievements to get your favorite characters.
Since I was playing on an early reviewer copy of the game, I wasn’t able to try out the online multiplayer for Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2. However, I did notice a bit of awkwardness with the offline bots; They tended to freeze a lot, as if they weren’t sure what to do, and just stood in place waiting for an action to react to. This was especially true at the start of a match, where all the bots would stand still until I got close enough to get smacked. This awkward freezing would happen intermittently as if the CPU wasn’t able to calculate what to do next unless they were hit or were otherwise responding to other character actions.
For a game about cartoons, I felt like the overall experience wasn’t very animated. This is especially noticeable in special attacks, which for some characters (namely, El Tigre) are fun little cutscenes and for others are surprisingly underwhelming. These animations all seem to have a low framerate, and moments with awkward lipsync and other strange shortcuts can take you out of the cinematic experience.
It might seem nitpicky, but I would have thought a game about some of the best animated shows of all time would spend a little more time on its animation.
The Final Word
While some awkward controls and stiff animations keep this game from perfection, Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2 is most definitely a title worth checking out. Fighting game fans and nostalgic Nickelodeon heads both have plenty to get out of this title, which makes great improvements over its successor. Plus any game with El Tigre in it is a good game in my book.
Try Hard Guides was provided with a PC review copy of this game. Find more detailed looks at popular and upcoming titles in the Game Reviews section of our website! Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2 is available on Steam, PlayStation, Nintendo Switch, and Xbox.
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