For the campaign, Fair Play decided to head down the roguelike route, whipping up a scenario where Danny Phantom villain Vlad Plasmius drags Patrick Star through a portal, forcing Spongebob Squarepants to go on a universe-hopping journey to save his pal. Unfortunately, Patrick is acting a little odd and poor Spongebob has to beat him into submission which lets Patrick regain control. Another character from Danny Phantom called Clockwork reveals that Vlad has also gained the power of mind-control and needs to be stopped.
That plays out as a simple roguelike where you pick a character and battle through various stages and bosses, picking up new perks and currencies along the way that will hopefully give you the boost needed to reach Vlad and kick him squarely in the dangly bits. While it certainly isnâ€™t deep or complex the roguelike campaign is a lot of fun and thereâ€™s a decent amount of variety in the action, from waves of minions to one-on-one fights with Nickelodeon characters. Thereâ€™s even a little strategic layer when it comes to choosing new perks, with picking the right ones often making the difference when you go up against the likes of Shredder and The Flying Dutchman.
Platforms: Switch, PC, Xbox Series S/X, PlayStation 4/5
Reviewed On: Switch
Developed by: Fair Play Games
Published by: GameMill Entertainment
Review code provided by the publisher.
Whereas the first game was launched sans voiceover, which got patched in later, Fair Play Labs smartly included voiceover from day-one for All-Star Brawl 2, including quite a few characters being voiced by their cartoon counterparts. Tom Kenny reprises his role as Spongebob, for example, as does Raphaelâ€™s Rob Paulsen. Tara Strong is even in their, playing the role of Ember. Itâ€™s a really good cast, and the campaign includes a surprisingly large amount of unique lines of dialogue for when characters face-off against each other or battle a boss. I really appreciate that level of detail because it makes the campaign feel like a complete package rather than an after-thought.
When the first All-Star Brawl came out it didnâ€™t even try to hide how heavily inspired it was by Super Smash Bros., the hugely successfully Nintendo brawler that allows people to see who would win in a fight between Mario and Sonic, or Donkey Kong and a Yoga Instructor from Wii Fit. Part of its success is the sheer joy of smashing together various iconic characters, and over the years Super Smash Bros. roster has grown to accommodate a wealth of different fighters from various franchises. Underneath all that, though, is a bloody good fighting game that is heaps of fun for casual players and competitive people alike.
All-Star Brawl 2 follows the same classic template: its you and up to three other players/CPUs duking it out on various stages. As you take damage a meter builds up, making you more susceptible to being blasted off of the stage. For their second attempt at a Smash Bros. clone, the developers have reworked every fighters moveset so that they donâ€™t all feel the same. Theyâ€™ve also managed to walk the fine line between a characterâ€™s moves being referential and actually being useful, like Patrick slamming a telephone into someoneâ€™s face while yelling, â€œNO! THIS IS PATRICK!â€ Good shit.
The controls feel reasonably tight and responsive as you hammer out light, heavy and special moves. Thereâ€™s a touch more weight to both your movement and your attacks than was in the first game, although I still find the jump to be a bit floatier than Iâ€™d like. And I also noticed that sometimes it felt like my character was locked in one direction and I couldnâ€™t quickly get turned around. This mostly seems to be due to getting locked into an attack animation but in a game where things happen so quickly it can feel like the controls arenâ€™t responding.
The roster stands at 25 fighters from across 17 different Nickelodeon shows old and new, though a couple are certainly more prevalent. Spongebob, Patrick, Plankton and Squidward are all in the game for example, which makes sense since Spongebob Squarepants is Nickelodeonâ€™s most recognizable property. Those three are joined by new and returning characters like Reptar, Aang, Lucy Loud, Grandma Gertie and more. In total, 14 characters have returned from the first game and are joined by 11 new ones, with 4 more unknown characters coming as post-launch paid content.
There are some odd omissions in the cast, though. For example, Grandma Gertie and Gerald are repping for Hey Arnold! (one of my favourite shows growing up) but not Arnold himself, and Helga hasnâ€™t been carried over from the first game. Lincoln Loud, the main character of The Loud House is missing, too, but Lucy Loud somehow made the cut. And the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have lost half their heroes in a half-shell, leaving Raphael and Donatello as the only ones standing alongside their friend April â€˜O Neil. Iâ€™m also genuinely baffled that none of the Rugrats or anybody from The Fairly Odd Parents are playable fighters, although some future DLC could easily remedy that.
On further reflection, though, I think some of the roster choices do make sense. While a massive part of the appeal of a game like All-Star Brawl is being able to pit famous Nick toons against each other, from a gameplay perspective you want every fighter to have their own style. Reptar, for instance, has big, heavy attacks that can quickly rack up damage but trying to get him back on the stage after being blasted away is like trying to wrestle a bull into a taxi. Meanwhile, Zim the Invader is more like a puppet master who controls invader zim , making him feel totally different from everyone else. Thereâ€™s also fun unique mechanics for characters like Garfieldâ€™s lasagna meter that helps make them stand out even more.
Overall, I think the roster is pretty damn good. After giving every character a shot I found I was interested in exploring most of them further, always a good sign. So far, Iâ€™ve found myself favouring Leonardo. While his moves arenâ€™t flash, every he brings to the table is useful and his ability to teleport to a smoke bomb is great for getting back onto the stage. But Iâ€™ve also spent a lot of hours stomping around as Reptar, currently my second favourite character out of the lot.
The combat has some extra depth courtesy of the new Slime mechanic. The Slime meter builds up throughout matches and it can be spent to boost the damage of your moves, break out of combos, wake up in mid-air and more. It manages to make the chaotic fighting feel a tad more nuanced than you expect out of this genre, and itâ€™ll be interesting to see how the dedicated online community ends up feeling about Slime. The same meter also controls the use of each characters fancy ultimate move, a short animated scene that dishes out heaps of damage to anyone dumb enough to get caught up. Spongebobâ€™s is a good example: he leaps into a car and takes his helpless driving instructor on a pinball drive around Bikini Bottom before slamming sideways into his opponents. These ultimate moves are heaps of and always brought out a mixture of laughs and comedic groans from me and my mates, although the close-up views of the character models do show just how limited the gameâ€™s graphics are.
Alright, now we hit the mid-review turning point where I spin all this positivity around with a massive, humungous BUT!
But thereâ€™s a big problem with Nickelodeon All Star Brawl 2 and that problem is the Nintendo Switch version. Put simply, it suffers from performance issues that turn the game from an easy recommendation to a recommendation with a heavy caveat: itâ€™s worth playing provided you arenâ€™t picking it up for Nintendoâ€™s machine. If you are, your enjoyment is going to depend heavily on your tolerance for performance woes
Although the framerate is supposed to be aiming for 30fps, it struggles hard to maintain that, failing to provide the smooth, consistent experience that is so important in a fast-paced platform brawler/ A recent update (1.2) has helped even out the framerate but it is still far from locked to 30fps. Since I mostly play games like this with my nieces or a few friends casually, the choppy framerate was annoying but not game-breakingly awful. However, for those that take it more seriously the framerate will likely be a much bigger problem.
Itâ€™s not like All-Star Brawl looks amazing, either. While thereâ€™s certainly some nice arena designs and the character models are decent, the resolution is notably low. Even in docked mode the character models look a bit pixelly, and canâ€™t compete with Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. Some of the animations appear almost unfinished, too, like one of Azulaâ€™s downward attacks looking like she turned into a brick. I checked out some videos of the other console versions and they donâ€™t actually seem to be much better, aside from running at a higher resolution. Of course, Nickelodeonâ€™s All-Star Brawl 2 is made on a pretty small budget so miracles cannot be expected.
Load times can be a frustration, too. Entering into matches typically takes anywhere from 25-45 seconds which adds up to a whole lot of waiting when a fight usually only runs a couple of minutes at most. The new update has reduced the loading times by a little, though. Perhaps weâ€™re simply hitting the limits of how fast the Switch can load games, but once again there are plenty of other Switch titles out there that load in considerably quicker.
Aside from the bumpy framerate the game also has a nasty habit of locking up completely and crashing. Sometimes it happens when the action gets hot and heavy, but the worst culprit is leaving the Switch in sleep mode and then firing it back up. I found that on turning the Switch back on, the game would be frozen and Iâ€™d have to close it completely. This happened four or five times, and based on my research it seems like this is a common issue that might have something to with the campaign mode specifically.
What makes these problems hurt all the more is that Super Smash Bros. is out here running at 60fps while looking substantially better and loading quicker to boot. Sure, Nintendo does have the advantage in that it was developing a game just one platform whereas All-Star Brawl 2 is available on all three consoles and PC, making it trickier to get everything running, but it still feels like Fair Play Labs should have been able to at least hit a stable 30fps.
Nickelodeonâ€™s All-Star Brawl 2 is a significant upgrade over the first game. The fighting has been overhauled and reworked to bring it more in line with the best the genre has to offer, the campaign mode is a couple of fun hours and the online mode seems solid thus far, although I didnâ€™t delve into it too much. And, of course, itâ€™s just fun to smash a bunch of nostalgic characters into each other to prove one and for all who is more badass: Grandma Gertie or Garfield. The answer is Grandma Gertie, in case you were wondering.
However, I can only recommend the Switch version if you can get it on sale or if some serious improvements get made through updates. If youâ€™re picking this up on any other platform, feel free to add a star to the score, bringing it up to a 3.5.