The original All-Star Brawl released just over two years ago and while it arrived with plenty of promise it never really lived up to expectations. So does the sequel succeed where its predecessor fell a little flat, or can it provide the platformer fighter everyone outside of Nintendo has been hoping for.
For anyone new to the genre a Platform Fighter throws players (usually 2-4) on a 2D map, usually with a few platforms dotted around, controls are kept simple, with a handful of commands available dependent on the direction used, and fighters are encouraged to chain together attacks, damaging enemies until the damage is high enough that attacks send them flying off the screen.
If that sounds familiar, you have probably played one of the Smash Brothers games on a Nintendo console, Smash Bro’s pretty much defined the genre and constantly provides the incredibly high benchmark that all others are judged by, however being a Nintendo exclusive that obviously limits who can play it, and that’s where games like Nickelodeon: All Star-Brawl 2 make the perfect alternative..
All-Star Brawl 2 starts off with 25 characters, most familiar, some returning from the original and others very similar, so while there’s no Michaelangelo or Leonardo, you will find Raphael and Donatello from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, as well as characters like SpongeBob Squarepants, Ren & Stimpy, Garfield and Jimmy Neutron to name a few.
It’s great to see a wide range of characters (5 more than we had at the launch of the original) and with a season pass available and promising 4 more characters throughout 2024, and with the original adding Garfield & Shredder (TMNT) post release as free content, we could see the roster expand to 30+ characters over the next 12 months.
A roster is only as strong as it is versatile and one complaint I always had about Smash Brothers, was how similar many of the characters felt, however with All-Star Brawl 2, the vast majority feel incredibly different to each other.
I enjoyed using Raphael (nothing to do with him being my favourite turtle as a youngster) but I found a good variety of moves, with decent range and enough predictability to handle tougher opponents, SpongeBob was another character I did far better with than a block of sea-sponge might suggest, whole other characters like Danny Phantom, Lucy Loud and Aang jist didn’t suit my play style and felt much more limited (though I’m sure they’re more than capable in the right hands).
Every single character feels unique, some have more ranged attacks, others have a certain special that feels more useful, while some are more balanced, sure I found a fair few I wasn’t familiar with, and some I can’t see myself giving the time to change that, but to my untrained eye, nobody stood out as a really bad character or a last clone of another.
There are a total of 26 stages, a basic training stage followed by a “home” location for each character, each bringing to life familiar scenes and locations from the relevant show.
One complaint about the original was longevity, with it all feeling a little hollow, so All-Star Brawl 2 sets to right a few wrongs with a number of game modes.
From the main menu, you have four options.
Battle: lets you jump straight into a quick match against local players or AI, you can hold “Y” to tweak the rules and match conditions to your liking, as well as easily change the difficulty for AI or switch a character’s costume, any rules you create are saved as a set, and rather than existing each time, you can create more sets, to save multiple different rule sets, which is great of you’ve got a few friends over and want to keep things interesting.
Online: Is split between ranked, quick-play and lobbies, with ranked forcing pre-defined rules in a 1v1 battle, quick play allowing either 1v1 or 2v2 fights and Lobbies allowing you to set up a public or private room with your favourite rule sets.
Campaign: is the main roguelike progression based game mode we will touch on a little later, with the last option,
Single Player: Offering a pretty straightforward “Arcade mode” as well as Boss Rish, a handful of mini games and a training Dojo.
Overall, like the roster, it’s an impressive line-up but single player, most of your time is likely to be with the Campaign. Starting off controlling SpongeBob Squarepants. The evil Vlad Plasmius is trying to mind-control the entire universe, so with your helpful guide Clockwork and one of his time medallions you’ll have to venture across the Nickelodeon universe to work your way towards Vlad and save the day.
Initially, you won’t get far, weak, with only a single stack (life) you’ll be lucky if you reach the first boss, so with 6 in total, you’ll need to put in some work to progress. Thankfully as you battle a few opponents, you start to come across allies, characters who can sell you perks and power-ups, such as extra stacks or speed, or the ability to unleash more powerful attacks or buff your defense.
Dying rewinds time to when you last saw Clockwork, so you get a hard-save after each boss, but you’ll keep collecting Splats and Slimie’s which are in game currency used to purchase those all important improvements.
When first playing the campaign, I wasn’t too enthused about redoing the same thing, but after falling at the second boss, I found the path had completely changed, new enemies, new mini games and new options on how to improve, add to this the choice of changing characters after each run (those that you’ll found and freed (via a battle) from Vlads mind control, and you start to realise it’s a pretty fun and fully fledged game mode that’s going to provide many hours of enjoyment.
Likewise Arcade mode was fun for a quick blast, similar to any other fighting game, but across the 11 stages, you get the odd mini-games thrown in and every other fight gives you a choice of two opponents which is a nice touch, it’s definitely not got the legs Campaign as, but it’s the sort of thing you can come back and okay for an hour anytime.
Maybe I’m just not very good at fighting games, but I generally avoid online play, but it’s worth noting that at launch we have had a few server issues, which I’m sure will be resolved soon, but online fans will be pleased to know cross-play is also available.
The overall presentation of All-Star Brawl 2 is very good, while I can’t vouch for every character, the ones I know all look fantastic with a good range of animations and have plenty of voice lines and campaign dialogue which helps to further reinforce their already strong personalities.
Stages are well made, with a good range of layouts and styles, with some offering dynamic platforms that change with the flow of the battle and while I did occasionally lose track of my character on certain maps when the camera was zoomed right out, it was mostly plain sailing and without any major issues.
My only real complaint is characters don’t always get a big introduction, I would have loved to see a little backstory as it’s probably been almost 30 years since I intentionally sat and watched Nickelodeon, so there’re quite a few characters I know nothing about and I would have loved a little more of an introduction to those I wasn’t familiar with.
The real joy though (as well as the impressively simple to digest Campaign) is the range of characters, sure I don’t know a Zim from an Ember, and that’s always going to be a hurdle when games like Smash Bro’s are literally packed with household names, but as an oldie, to know 10 or 11 and have heard of another 4-5, I don’t think it’s a bad showing at all, but best of all, it’s actually far more fun to play than I expected.
I could argue, All-Star Brawl isn’t quite as fluent and intuitive as Smash Bros, but we could just as easily outline how rare it is to find such a fun and accessible platform fighter outside of Nintendo consoles, but that all feels like a disservice to All-Star Brawl 2, because this is more than just a Smash Bros clone.
The range of characters and how uniquely they play, combined with a fun and intriguing Campaign make All-Star Brawl 2, the cross-console platform-fighter we hoped for two years ago, AI difficulty leaves a little room for improvement, but it’s a small niggle to an otherwise very well built game.
It might not be perfect and Smash Bros purists will find a few things to complain about, but it’s a worthy fighter that packs a far more powerful punch than I was expecting.
Nickelodeon: All-Star Brawl 2
it’s a worthy fighter that packs a far more powerful punch than I was expecting.