New and improved, and SpongeBob too
The original Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl was a nice little fighter when it launched in 2021, technically solid and filled with a lot of characters that we loved growing up. But it also felt like it was missing a lot of compelling content and didn’t stand out, especially in a year without a major fighter on the calendar, and it faded from public perception fairly quickly. In 2023 we’ve already had some massive fighting sequels, so launching a follow-up to the game this year would probably be a mindshare nightmare.
But Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2 did launch this year, and it’s not only surprisingly good but may set itself apart from those other fighters with novel ideas. In fact, Nick Brawl 2 may have legs as long as Squidward.
The updates to the game are immediately noticeable, and keep me engaged for longer play sessions and (perhaps more important) returning play sessions. And it’s thanks to three things.
For one, the characters are now far more accurate to their non-game design. The original Nick Brawl‘s fighters felt like character classes with Nickelodeon skins attached to them. In Nick Brawl 2, everything from the animations to the top-notch voice acting to the attacks themselves are character accurate. SpongeBob’s key air block has him looking to the sky and spreading his arms wide in an arc, creating a rainbow that can damage an enemy and prevent a dropping attack. Ren & Stimpy come as a duo that work off of each other, with Ren often pointing to have Stimpy head a certain direction, or Stimpy grabbing Ren and hitting him against enemies. Reptar pounces and spins like you REMEMBER him doing so on the TV series. The speed of the animations and their effects are far more representative of their origins now. And while the game might be missing some of the stars of the series included (there are no actual Rugrats, and Arnold isn’t even the representative of his own show) it feels like it’s done so that there’s enough class and playable variety in the selection rather than just appeasing fans.
What makes the battles so compelling is the Slime mechanism, which fills a power meter of the goo for various effects. Casual players may just wait until the meter reaches its apex and unleash a ferocious special attack (complete with great animated sequence), while experienced tacticians will probably feel more at home using the goo throughout the battle. Falling? Tick off some slime to help get back onto a ledge. Want to break an opponent’s combo or enhance one of our own? Hold that trigger and expend. It’s a great addition, and something that brings the malleability of the game up to modern levels and even leads the genre forward. It’s a way to even the playing field by both making the game more accessible and without rubber-banding the battles.
While multiplayer is solid and fun, it’s been easy to find myself spending plenty of time in the new campaign mode. Featuring a silly (albeit strangely coherent) multiversal plot, it focuses on a rogue-lite design that allows us to play through runs over and over, both enhancing our fighters and unlocking more. Each run includes a variety of battles, from traditional one-on-one fights to those against hordes of enemies, or platforming sections, or heavily modified group fights. For the times that I can’t get online (or don’t want to) it’s a completely enjoyable way to play the game by myself and still feel like there’s something new every time I power it up.
Considerable improvements to gameplay and some fun new modes make Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2 not only a great sequel but also a top notch fighting game in its own right. It has a solid amount of content and the capability to keep us coming back for more sessions for a fresh experience every time. GameMill and Fair Play Labs have produced a winner that will appease those of us who grew up watching Nickelodeon and the fighting fans we’ve become.
This review is based on a PlayStation code sent to SideQuesting by the publisher. The team was also sent codes for Steam and for Nintendo Switch. This video first appeared on The SideQuest LIVE for November 8th, 2023.