Review: Nickeloden All-Star Brawl 2

Overview

Developer Fair Play Labs
Publisher GameMill Entertainment
Genre Crossover, Platform Fighting
Platforms Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5 (Reviewed), Windows, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S
Release Date November 7th, 2023

After what many would consider a subpar first attempt to join the myriad number of crossover fighter games on the market, Nickelodeon is back to give it another go with Nickelodeon All-Stars Brawl 2. As a lifelong fan of the network who grew up with many of the featured characters, I felt that I had to give this title a try and see if Fair Play Labs could crack the code in finally making a successful crossover fighter. Was this entry able to achieve that, or is this a case of taking one step forward, two steps backward?

Content Guide

Violence: This is a fighter game, so violence cannot be avoided. However, there is no blood or gore present. If anything, it’s a cartoony view of violence, which fits the nature of these characters and the series they derive from. Aside from landing punches, grunts, yells, and screams when eliminated from the stage, there’s really nothing disturbing present, which makes this a title appropriate for just about any age or family setting.

Sexual Content: Again, there’s nothing too worrying present as the franchises the characters represent are marketed towards children and families. Sexual content and anything of that nature is virtually nonexistent here.

Language/Crude Humor: Although nothing obvious jumped out at me while playing, I am aware that many of the characters present come from series where crude humor runs rampant. Ren and Stimpy and SpongeBob come to mind, with some characters calling others ‘idiots’ or other unkind remarks. Again, there’s nothing explicitly controversial in this game specifically rather than short offhand remarks and references to the shows proper.

Spiritual Content: Being a fighter game, story and themes don’t take much prevalence here. There is the obvious theme of good vs. evil, with evil playable characters noted from an NPC that they must possess some good if they are working on defeating the overarching villain of the game’s story mode, though they deny it as fitting their own agenda. Ghosts, specifically featured from the Danny Phantom series, are portrayed as both allies and enemies, and one super-attack shows a swarm of ghosts surrounding a character if they are struck with it.

Platformer Potential – What Works and What Doesn’t

Platformer fighting games have been made famous (or infamous, depending on your point of view) for the amount of content and pomp developers have been able to conceive throughout the years for their titles. Whether it’s the traditional fighting game that pulls together characters from a specific franchise (eg. the Injustice series from the DC universe, or the Dissidia games with Final Fantasy), or crossover fighting games that bring together characters representative of different titles for the ultimate showdown. The most famous example that comes to mind is the Super Smash Bros. franchise, which is still going strong almost 25 years later. Other series that come to mind include PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale, the Marvel vs. Capcom series, and the upcoming MultiVersus game featuring characters from different Warner Bros. Entertainment series. 

As you can probably tell, not all of these aforementioned games hold the same staying power as the Super Smash Bros. series. Some of these titles have been hit or miss; I can remember when PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale came out, but can hardly recall anyone recently bringing it up in conversation. Developers of platformer fighting games have a difficult responsibility when it comes to creating these games for a fanbase that can be notoriously fickle; if there is not enough juicy content that they can sink their teeth into, a crossover game will fail before it really has a chance to grow some roots. 

Potential fans want options to spice up their ideal fights in multiplayer arenas or with friends playing in the same room together. These can include things like creative stage designs that can help or hurt the fighter depending on their skill level, or predeterminate rulesets with handicaps or tools that make fights more interesting. Story modes and arcade modes are becoming increasingly popular for those who are wanting a more solo experience. The bottom line is, the more the developer offers players from the get-go, the more likely players will invest their time and money on a particular fighting game.

Review

Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2 has different modes that players can choose from. These include single-player modes such as Arcade (where players are pitched in a number of linear fights with a boss to face at the end of each section), Minigames (smaller challenges that players can complete), Boss Rush (where you are pitted against the game’s series of main bosses), and the Dojo (here players can hone their skills for specific characters if they’re looking at mastering someone in future brawls). 

The crème de la crème, of course, is the all-new campaign mode, an original story where players meet Clockwork, a supporting character from the series Danny Phantom. He reveals that Vlad Plasmius, the main antagonist of Danny Phantom, is looking to ultimately control the minds of every being in the universe (in this case, all of the playable characters on All-Star Brawl 2’s roster). It’s up to the player to defeat enemies in a roguelike campaign, save various Nickelodeon characters from Vlad’s control, and ultimately defeat Vlad Plasmius, rinse and repeat. It gradually becomes clear, however, that things are a little more complicated than simply Vlad seeking to take control of the world again, but that’s something you as the player will gradually unveil as you play through the campaign. 

When it comes to multiplayer, this includes the basic battle mode, where you can pitch yourself against friends or CPU-controlled characters for total victory. There are also online matches you can play against others from around the world. None of these differ too much from single player-set battles, aside from the fact that you’re playing with others instead of yourself.

NASB 2’s character roster incorporates 25 characters from 17 different Nickelodeon properties. Of course, there’s the ever-famous Spongebob Squarepants and his companions Patrick and Squidward along for the ride, but you’ve also got some new additions that I was pleasantly surprised to see since a few of them hadn’t been seen in a prominent form since the ‘90s or mid 2000’s. These include characters like the Angry Beavers and Jenny Wakeman from My Life as a Teenage Robot. As of this writing, there were also four announced DLC characters that would be added to the roster in 2024, so players and fans have something to look forward to.

In addition to the roster, players can select any of 26 stages to wage battle in, just like in similar fighter games such as Super Smash Bros. Players will need to be observant with the stage’s environment and changes as some of the stages will be on the move continuously. One wrong move could spell doom in your performance with your fighter, and ultimately result in losing the match.

I quite enjoyed the music tracks that this game had to offer as well. I know with fighting games the music has to be very fast paced and dynamic to match the energy of the matches players will find themselves in. The music fits this theme well, and I enjoyed listening to the distinct musical themes that came with each stage. Good music helps add another dimension to the fighting game and can make or break the overall flow of the experience. I’m glad to find that it helped make mine a fun one.

I talked a lot about what works so far in NASB 2, but we need to also highlight some problems I observed that players, and especially developers, will need to be mindful of. I know that updates are being made often and DLC will be added in the future. This says to me that this game will continue to be worked on for the foreseeable future. 

For what it is, NASB 2 has a lot to offer…but there could be more. I’ll be honest and say that I thought some of the initial content was rather lackluster, especially when you compare it to more veteran franchises like, again, Super Smash Bros. Perhaps that isn’t fair as this is only the second entry, and is definitely superior from its bland first attempt in a series. Still, I feel as though there could be more in the future.

I think the campaign is a brilliant step in the right direction, and potential future installments should definitely continue to incorporate it. However, even the campaign had some hiccups; for the time it took to complete it, a lot of the stages, minigames, and battles ended up being repetitive. It was also difficult to know just where I was in making progress during the campaign, as the levels eventually restart.

So, is Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2 worth your time and investment? I think that depends on you and what kind of player you are. If you’re a longtime Nickelodeon fan or a fighting game fan looking for something new to try, this is a great game to venture into. However, I’m worried about the longevity of the game for veteran players who may find themselves bored and burned out pretty quickly. My hope is that with the continued updates and DLC, the developers at Fair Play Labs will continue to come up with new ways to entice players and have an even stronger product on their hands.

Perhaps the fact that this title fixes the mistakes of its predecessor and then adds on more is definitely something players should feel excited about. This may even lead to a third title in the future, with even more options that we can sink our teeth into. Until then, though, I enjoyed what I did play and can certainly see myself playing it from time to time. I just wish there was even more substance that was offered to myself from the get-go to have a more compelling experience.

The Bottom Line

 

NASB 2 is a much-improved sequel that offers a fun time for long-time Nickelodeon fans. It is an entertaining game with a lot of potential but may not hold long interest for veterans of the platform-fighter genre.

 

7.5

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Andrea Racoti

When she isn't travelling to far-off fantasy lands in a book or a video game, Andrea Racoti can be found in Central Texas writing out her latest projects and ideas, and teaching as a dyslexia interventionist. She loves games with rich storytelling, compelling characters, and makes people think. A breathtaking soundtrack and beautiful landscapes are icing on the cake for her.

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