The best way to summarize Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2, developed by Fair Play Labs and Ludiosity and published by GameMill, is that everything it does is cool but most of it is too much. It’s cool how many characters there are, but they have too many moves. It’s cool that this game has a full campaign mode, but it’s too hard. It approaches full satisfaction at every turn, but rarely reaches it completely.
A dozen or so TV shows from across Nickelodeon’s decorated history are represented in its sizable roster. From SpongeBob to Avatar, Ninja Turtles to Garfield fans of all kinds of shows from all eras of the network will find a home among the brawlers. And no two characters share quite the same moveset. Nigel Thornberry has crocodiles and fish at his disposal whereas Eugene has skateboards and basketballs to wallop opponents with.
But something is quite uncanny about the game’s presentation. Whether the characters are too small, the models’ movements are too narrow, or the perspective of the stage is zoomed out too far or lacks enough depth, the effects of the attacks are generally indistinguishable from one another. A move list can quickly describe what each character’s moves are and how to execute them, but playing through trial and error, as most people will, leaves a lot of room for forgetting how to pull off which moves.
This is not at all helped but just how many each player has. Unlike the most popular entries in the brawler genre, you have three attack buttons instead of just two. One does basic attacks, one does charged attacks, and one does special attacks, generally. Some of the moves mapped to different combinations of buttons, directions, and air versus ground feel fairly similar to one another at times, or easy to mix up with one another when you’re used to a two-button configuration. Since not every combination of direction and station has its own move, it’s a bit of a wonder why all three buttons are necessary. Despite its initial learning curve, the moves are overall diverse and nostalgic with the many ways they remind you of the characters and their adventures.
Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2 is the perfect kind of game to include a single-player campaign to traverse when not playing the standard brawling mode. It’s equipped with a mostly fully-voice acted story beginning with SpongeBob and Patrick and incorporating elements from the lore of other characters’ shows. You play through alternating rounds of 1v1 matches to free characters from evil kind control, 1 versus many matches to defeat a horde of weaker, generic enemies, and zones where you can pick up bonuses to increase stats or buffs. At the end of a run are creative, bigger bosses from across the shows. You can also take them in in a boss rush mode.
Which you might have to if you ever want to face them all, because the game is quite hard. Even if the lowest difficulty, the biggest crux of the campaign mode is that you only get one life and carry your damage over every round unless you happen upon one of a few slim chances to remove some of it. Even so, the controls feel heavy. You’ll miss a lot of your swings and get hit while recovering because they feel imprecise. This is especially true of the fault dodge roll and your ultimate move, which requires you to firmly hold the left trigger before you can press the second activation button. Pressing them at the same time regularly misfires. KOs also occur rather quickly when you are launched out of the play area. There’s little wiggle room for recovery, which lends itself to more frequent and rapid deaths.
Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2 isn’t shabby, but it isn’t shining either. A great variety of characters, albeit missing many fan favorites from the previous installment, make for an eclectic roster and varied movesets. But much of the charm is diminished by the presentation and difficulty of the game. Expect to be stuck in the loop of the campaign mode for a long time, even on the lowest difficulty, until you’ve really mastered one character.
Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2 is available now on Xbox, Playstation, Nintendo Switch, and PC.
Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2
Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2 isn’t shabby, but it isn’t shining either.