Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl launched in 2021, offering a competent, albeit underwhelming, alternative to popular platform fighters like Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. The premise of taking heavy inspiration from the Smash Bros.’s gameplay but replacing the gaming icons with some of the most popular Nickelodeon characters from across generations is enticing, but the launch product didn’t quite live up to the lofty expectations established by Nintendo’s genre leader. Though post-launch updates and DLC brought the product closer to what fans were hoping, the gap was still massively apparent. Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2 incorporates all the lessons developers Ludosity and Fair Play Labs learned from the first title in hopes of creating the Nickelodeon crossover fighter fans were craving.
That rebuilding effort began with the characters. Each character in Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2 has been reworked, remodeled, or completely rebuilt from the first title. In addition to 14 returning characters, Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2 adds 11 new characters, including The Angry Beavers, Donatello, Raphael, Plankton, Squidward, and Jimmy Neutron. All characters on the roster feature far more variance than how they played in the first title, helping All-Star Brawl 2 veer closer to the game that clearly inspired it.
On top of more special moves to utilize, characters feature more distinctions, like Raphael’s speediness or Jimmy Neutron’s ability to call his robot dog Goddard and swap between controlling the two. Speaking of characters you call in, Zim can call Gir, who mirrors Zim’s attacks. Perhaps the most impressive addition on this front comes with The Angry Beavers, who are packaged as one fighter, but they play more intricately than that. Their tag-based mechanics call back to games like Marvel vs. Capcom, where you can call the other in for an assist. However, it doesn’t stop there, as you can also freely swap between which of the Angry Beavers you’re controlling to experience their unique movesets. In my hands-on session, I got a good sense for the strategies you can employ, but I know I was only scratching the surface.
Gameplay in Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2 aims to be competitive yet approachable. Simplified wave-dashing, auto L-canceling, a change to analog movement, and an in-depth training mode complete with hit/hurtboxes and trajectory data tools will appeal to the hardcore players, but there’s plenty for the more surface-level player as well. Ludosity and Fair Play Labs aimed to give players the ability to express what they wanted to do without it being overly difficult or technical.
One way it does this is through a new meter system that borrows heavily from Guilty Gear. You build up your Slime Meter one segment at a time, with a maximum of three. For one bar’s expenditure, you can modify a special move with extra gusto or Slime Cancel out of any attack; both of these strategies are easy to pull off and will be extremely useful in competitive play. For two bars, you can perform a Slime Burst, the equivalent of a Combo Breaker. Finally, if you want to use a full Slime Meter, three bars will allow you to pull off a character-specific Super, complete with a quick cinematic. While they are powerful, they are balanced for competitive play and are not meant to be one-hit K.O.s (though they will K.O. the target(s) if their damage is high enough).
All of this carries into every facet of the signature multiplayer experience, which can be enjoyed with up to four players, but another big addition this time around comes in the way of expanded single-player content. Campaign lets you go through node-based challenges starring various marquee and minion characters under different conditions in a roguelite mode. As you make your way through, you unlock power-ups and other bonuses, some of which carry over into subsequent runs. I really enjoyed the creativity at play in this mode, giving me hope that Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2 will be more enjoyable from the get-go. Outside of Campaign, players can take on a standard Arcade mode, various minigames, or work through the challenging Boss Rush, which has you fight through all the over-the-top boss encounters from the single-player campaign.
These changes are on top of other improvements made to Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl following launch, including the much-requested voice-acting update that was added to the first game; now, all characters are fully voiced in All-Star Brawl 2. I really enjoyed my time with Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2. The characters feel much more distinct than before, and Campaign introduces some neat elements that I could see myself coming back to time and time again.
While it’s unlikely that any platform fighter will come anywhere close to Super Smash Bros. in the foreseeable future, Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2 feels much better positioned than its predecessor to carve out its own space within the genre. Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl is set to arrive November 7 on PS5, Xbox Series X/S, PS4, Xbox One, Switch, and PC.
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