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Nov 22, 2023

Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2 Review

Lights Off
2 Mediocre
Retails for: $49.99
We Recommend: $14.99
  • Developer: Fair Play Labs
  • Publisher: GameMill Entertainment
  • Genre: Fighting
  • Released: Nov 07, 2023
  • Platform: Windows, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Switch
  • Reviewed: Windows

In October of 2021, GameMill fired up the nostalgia truck and delivered Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl to the world. If you, like me, spent your formative mornings and afternoons with your eyes glued to the Nick channel, the idea of a Nickelodeon-universe crossover fighter sounded like a great time. The roster featured show headliners—like Aang from Avatar: The Last Airbender—and secondary characters—like Powdered Toast Man from Ren & Stimpy. The roster was diverse, including characters from my era of Nickelodeon and the eras that followed. It seemed fairly well-rounded. Unfortunately, it was not without its flaws. It was plagued by balance issues, multiplayer connection troubles, and perhaps the biggest issue of all: The game lacked voice acting. The characters everyone had come to love were soulless.

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GameMill/Fair Play remedied most of the issues that received criticism, but not enough players stuck around as Multiversus was the new game on the block in the crossover fighter scene. So, how do you reclaim that spotlight? You make a sequel. And that’s what they’ve done with Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2.

Released November 7th, the second installment in the series bursts out of the gate with an expanded roster. In Brawl 2, the initial roster is now 25, tacking on an additional 5 to start. A DLC update plans to add four new characters in early 2024. This iteration of Brawl adds the following, some of whom first appeared in DLC for the first Brawl*:

  • Azula from Avatar: The Last Airbender
  • El Tigre from El Tigre: The Adventures of Manny Rivera
  • Ember from Danny Phantom
  • Garfield
  • Grandma Gertie from Hey Arnold!
  • Rocko from Rocko’s Modern Life
  • Squidward from SpongeBob SquarePants

Characters from the first game that didn’t make the cut include:

  • CatDog
  • Helga Pataki from Hey Arnold!
  • Leonardo and Michelangelo from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were replaced with Raphael and Donatello
  • Oblina from Aaahh!!! Real Monsters
  • Powdered Toast Man from Ren & Stimpy
  • Sandy Cheeks from SpongeBob SquarePants
  • And, most disappointingly for me, Toph Beifong from Avatar: The Last Airbender

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Additionally, this release adds a rogue-like single-player Campaign mode with a plot that Game Mill/Fair Play explains this way:

In the all-new Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2 campaign, it’s up to you to defeat Danny Phantom’s arch-villain Vlad Plasmius as he wreaks havoc across the Nickelodeon universe! Master your skills, unlock unique powerups, fight fearsome foes, meet unexpected allies, and journey through an exciting roguelike campaign as your favorite brawlers!

I had a lot of fun with this game. But I had even more frustrations. I’ll preface this review by saying that I am not an avid player of fighter games. I love them, but I do not get into the technical aspects that many may be looking for. This will be a review of the game from a casual player’s perspective.

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It makes for a great couch co-op experience. I played the game with my two boys, 8 and 11. We played the basic battle modes and had quite a good time with it. We’d played Smash Brothers on the Switch before, so the gameplay wasn’t foreign. We spent a few seconds at the beginning of each match familiarizing ourself with a new character’s movesets before agreeing to begin combat. The game shines in the simple play here. Even my only-plays-Mario-Kart wife played with us and enjoyed herself. The levels are clever and have fun easter eggs for fans of the given series. Some balance issues definitely exist, and if someone at my casual level can feel that, I’m sure it’s glaring for seasoned EVO veterans.

When I went to play the game on my own, however, the experience was jarringly different. So much so that I really struggled to reconcile the two versions of the game I encountered, when making a “rating” decision for this review.

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The Campaign mode seemed clever enough. As SpongeBob, you fight a large jellyfish boss. However, within 5 stages, my progress came to a halt by a game-breaking bug. The game did not crash, I just could not move my character or interact with anything. I still had access to the menu, which I used to exit and reload the campaign. The issue persisted each time I got back to this point. I am unable to provide a proper review of the Campaign because I remain unable to play it.

Soured by that experience, I thought I might have better luck playing multiplayer. At the time of playing, showed 1,037 players online. I started with Quickplay and entered matchmaking. Matchmaking took some time, but I wanted to see just how long it would take. My controller disconnected at 16 minutes of waiting. I figured that was the sign to move on and canceled my Quickplay matchmaking.

So, I moved to Ranked matchmaking. As I mentioned earlier, I am a very casual player of fighting games. I was able to connect rather quickly to the match and proceeded to spend the entire match in the air, unable to move my character as I was absolutely pommeled by my opponent. I was far outmatched. The next lobby I connected to remained stuck on the character choice reveal screen, never making it to the actual match. I encountered three more of these moments, one crash to desktop, before finally reaching another match. This match, I unleashed a series of blows before my opponent began to do the same thing as my previous opponent. I struggle for a word to explain how badly I was beaten. It was not a fun experience.

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There is, undoubtedly, a good game buried in here somewhere. There are certainly moments where you can tell care was taken. The models for each character are quite good. The voices give the models life. The stages help you feel at home in the world. The couch co-op experience leads to lots of fun moments. But, the games has too many other flaws for it to earn my recommendation. It’s got too many rough edges in areas that a fighting game of its nature should have spent far more time polishing. I really, really, wanted it to be good.

I’m sure they’ll figure it out by Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 3.

Steam code was provided by the publisher for review purposes