There are very few fighting games that have sequels pumped out as fast as Nickelodeon All-Stars Brawl did. Just over two years after the first game released, Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2 has burst onto the scene with new fighters, a new single-player story, and reworked mechanics and movesets. All-Stars Brawl 2 feels less like a sequel and more like a do-over. Half of the roster from the first game is missing and the characters who are remaining have had their movesets almost entirely reworked. There’s a brand new single-player campaign mode that takes several cues from the rouge-like genre, and this time the game launched with full voice-acting.
It’s easy to see that Fairplay Labs saw where the first game stumbled and worked to correct it with All-Stars Brawl 2, unfortunately, these changes don’t do much to help make the game feel much better than the first game, at least on the Nintendo Switch.
I understand making changes to the game, mechanically, to make it feel more unique from its predecessor. What I don’t understand are the roster cuts, at least not all of them. Gone are old-school favorites like Oblina (from Ahh! Real Monsters) and CatDog (from CatDog), and in their place we have more SpongeBob characters and Grandma Gertie, for some reason.
The addition of highly-requested characters like Squidward, El Tigre, or Azula makes sense, but why cut anyone? Why cut two of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles only to add the other two? I want to make it clear that I do appreciate a lot of the characters that are included (shout out to the Angry Beavers and Ember McLain), especially the fact that almost all of them have distinct alternate costumes rather than simple palette swaps, I just don’t think the amount of cuts made to the roster was warranted.
Single Player Slime
The single player campaign, a rogue-lite affair where you’re on a quest to save the multiverse from Danny Phantom’s Vlad Plasmius, is a nice addition on the surface and has some great ideas, but when diving in it quickly becomes extremely repetitive. You’ll face wave after wave of face hordes of enemies like jellyfish and Foot Clan soldiers, with a fight against a real fighter or a boss sprinkled in here and there. The bosses aren’t much better than fighting a wave of no-names, however, as they often have just enough HP to make the fight feel like it’s going on too long, and tend to float around just out of any consistent sort of reach, making combos difficult and reducing you to slowly whittling down their HP while avoiding their attacks.
The campaign isn’t the only single-player option, however, as there is a classic arcade mode that will let you duke it out with characters from across the roster, as well as a few bosses. If you’d like to fight a bunch of the aforementioned floaty, HP-heavy bosses, you can do so in the Boss Rush mode, though if you care about the story of the campaign at all, playing through boss rush will spoil the final boss of the campaign. There’s also a very extensive training mode where you can practice with any fighter, and make adjustments to the HUD, view collision data, and even advance your fights frame by frame to really break down the mechanics of Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2. Aside from fighting, there is also a single player option to play two mini-games, Pop the Slime Balloons and Whack-A-Bot. Pop the Slime Balloons operates just like Break the Targets in the Super Smash Bros. franchise, and Whack-A-Bot has you chasing down robots that pop up all over the stage to see how many you can hit in 30 seconds.
The gameplay in Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2 just isn’t my cup of tea. Maybe this is due to how poorly the game runs on Switch (more on that in a minute) but every single movement feels very abrupt. There are no small movements to adjust your position on the stage, as every tilt of the joystick sends your character flying in the appropriate direction. On top of this, several of the character’s movesets feel disjointed, some with long startup times and others with long endlag, and getting hit by opponent’s attacks will stunlock you into combos fairly easily, unless you can nail the perfect timing to dodge out of them.
The fact of the matter is that nothing about fighting in this fighting game feels fluid. Being fair, I think some of these complaints could come down to character and playstyle preference, though even with the characters I felt most comfortable with I never felt 100% at home.
The performance of Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2 on Switch is just shy of abysmal. Loading times are long, and the loading screen’s music is generic and doesn’t loop quite right, leading to a disjointedly annoying soundtrack while you’re waiting 45 seconds or more for a fight to start. An especially bad example that happened to me was when the main menu music and the loading screen music started playing at the same time while I was waiting for a match, leading to them looping over each other in a terrifying cacophony of mediocrity for almost a full minute.
Animations are incredibly choppy, nearly all of the visuals are fuzzy in both docked and handheld modes. The entire game just looks bland. The character models look flat and unfinished, partly due to the lack of shadows anywhere in the game. During fights the characters, more often than not, look like flat cutouts against the stage, and don’t really feel like they’re on the same plane, visually. I experienced three crashes during my time with All-Stars Brawl 2, once during a run through the campaign, and twice when trying to play online matches.
Speaking of online matches, I will give credit where credit is due. The netcode runs flawlessly. Every online match I played – when I actually got matched up with somebody – was smooth and lag-free, underneath all the other trouble with running this game on Switch, that is. The issue is that most of the quickplay options never matched me with anyone, and matchmaking in ranked mode often resulted in disconnects before the matches could actually begin.
I really wanted to like Nickelodeon All-Stars Brawl 2. I dabbled with the first game and had an okay time, and I figured my time with the sequel would be better, but I was sorely mistaken. If I had played on another platform maybe the story would be different, but based on my experience, the Switch is not the platform you want to be playing this platform fighter on.
System: Nintendo Switch
Release Date: November 7th, 2023
Categories: Platform Fighter
Publisher: Game Mill
Developer: Fairplay Labs