Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2 Review: Half-Baked Nostalgia (PS5)

A dull trip down memory lane.

Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2 Review: Half-Baked Nostalgia (PS5)
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Right from the start, the biggest asset missing from Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2 is that it could not just rely on the surprisingly fresh factor of the first game any longer and had to develop all of the aspects even further. The fact that iconic and beloved Nickelodeon characters were finally getting their own Super Smash Bros.-style platform fighter for the very first time was what made the previous instalment so enjoyable, which is a luxury that All-Star Brawl 2 does not have.

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Fortunately, developer Fair Play Labs does try to introduce new elements in Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2 while also building on everything that came before, but unfortunately, a lot of these additions feel like they were unable to reach their full potential due to uninspired effort.

As a standalone fighting game that can be enjoyed playing with a group of friends, Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2 definitely succeeds; however, it feels like a bland and dull trip down memory lane on the majority of its other fronts, never fully utilizing its rich source material and failing to do it proper justice.

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Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2 does visually and mechanically polish its predecessor’s gameplay and level design, yet the character roster is still too limited, there are not nearly enough new stages, and all of the different modes seem to be there just for the sake of having more content since none of it is ever completely realized. And the campaign, although a nice addition, is executed in the most lazy and repetitive manner.

Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2 is now available on all major platforms.

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Gameplay and Battle Visuals Have Undoubtedly Improved in Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2

The battles in Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2 are visually stunning, with impressively fluid gameplay.
The battles in Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2 are visually stunning, with impressively fluid gameplay.

The graphical jump from the first game to Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2, especially during the battles, is quite apparent because the fights are visually spectacular and the gameplay is amazingly fluid, which is clear evidence of the team having a much higher budget than the first time around. This is because the level design and character models are presented with great detail, accompanied by original themes that truly fit their respective stages.

The nostalgic charm that was evidently missing from the previous instalment makes its way into Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2 because, finally, there is actual voice acting put into the mix, so each brawler is able to convey their personality as they fight, introducing the much-required soul and love into every battle.

Where the fight and gameplay animations shine in Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2, its different modes feel the most lackluster, as they may have increased in quantity, but they mostly feel like throwaway content with little to no reason to revisit them after trying them all out just once. These include the boring and repetitive Minigames, a pointless Boss Rush mode which would have made sense if there were more than six bosses, and an Arcade mode that does not offer anything new.

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However, although there is not exactly a huge new variety, the stages in Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2 look outstanding and full of life, which flow beautifully with the fast-paced and smooth gameplay mechanics.

The modes in Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2 may have increased in quantity, but there is not much quality to appreciate.
The modes in Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2 may have increased in quantity, but there is not much quality to appreciate.

Another front at which Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2 does not necessarily improve a lot is its brawler roster, as many of the characters make their return from the first game with very few new additions to the catalogue.

Considering how the Nickelodeon lore has an endless array of animated icons to choose from, there is absolutely no excuse for not including fresh fighters because almost half the roster is the same as before, and brawlers like Donatello and Raphael are basically reskinned versions of their Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle brothers from the previous title.

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Fan-favorite characters like Hugh Neutron and Shredder are demoted to NPC and boss level, respectively, with the first being replaced by his son and, for some reason, April O’Neil getting to come back in Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2 instead of the iconic TMNT villain.

The Supers are a great addition in Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2.
The Supers are a great addition to Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2.

But one of the standout features of Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2 is the introduction of the astounding Supers, with each brawler having their own ultimate attacks that may look over the top but are extremely entertaining to watch. For example, witnessing April channeling her inner Goku and actually throwing a Spirit Bomb in the shape of a gigantic “Breaking News” globe at her opponents is nothing short of a spectacle.

Although the Supers in Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2 may not inflict the most damage on enemies at their initial levels, they are still some of the most memorable sequences from the game, with Squidward’s finisher being a particular highlight as it pays hilarious homage to the popular “Handsome Squidward” persona.

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Sadly, Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2 is at its worst during the newly introduced single-player campaign, and that leaves way too much to be desired because of the sheer potential scope and scale of the multiverses story that it is trying to tell. There are no properly animated cutscenes, the maximum number of characters interacting with one another at once is two, and even then, they just sprout out a one-liner, and the roguelike progression is quite an annoying drag.

There is a certain charm to the old-school vibe of Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2‘s single-player campaign, but it wears off quickly as you come across the same two minigames, repetitive arena brawls, short and uninspired platforming stages, and of course, it does not help that the game keeps sending you back to the very beginning to do everything all over again.

Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2 Does Not Utilize Its Multiversal Concept to Its Full Potential

To be fair, the one-liners are sometimes really funny and clever, but is that really enough in the multiverse?
To be fair, the one-liners are sometimes really funny and clever, but is that really enough in the multiverse?

The plot of Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2‘s single-player campaign revolves around Vlad Plasmius trying to take control over everyone’s minds, leading him to open portals between worlds that could destroy the multiverse. That is a sufficient story for a game like this, but the multiverse concept is never utilized to its full potential because the characters are always interacting one-on-one, which is sad because this could have been truly epic.

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Instead, the single-player campaign in Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2 comes off as lazy and uninspired, a fact that is truly felt due to the lack of proper cinematics, and in 2023, that is inexcusable.

Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2‘s single-player campaign also tries its hand at an actual plot twist, but it is one of those times when it is so frustrating just because it means that one has to go through the entire run all over again. Dying once sends you back to a Bloodborne-style hub, which is the closest thing there is in the game to great crossover potential because Gary, Splinter, Clockwork, and more are all actually present at the same place and time.

The best part about Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2‘s campaign is the self-aware metahumor inserted in the aforementioned one-liners, because they are honestly hilarious and clever, which makes the whole situation sadder due to the potentially missed opportunity that can clearly be seen.

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Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2: Final Thoughts

Is this a fourth-wall breaking metaphor for the developers not being able to show the players their best game?
Is this a fourth-wall-breaking metaphor for the developers not being able to show the players their best game?

Solely as a platform fighter, Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2 is extremely fun to play because of the impressively polished upgrades that it makes to its visuals and gameplay mechanics during the battles. There is actual voice acting this time around, which further adds more life to each fight, and it all flows quite fluidly.

However, the game is unable to find the right balance between quantity and quality in most of its other aspects, seemingly confused about whether it should add new brawlers to the roster or introduce pointless game modes instead.

As a nostalgic multiversal adventure, Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2 does not completely work due to a lack of proper cinematic cutscenes, simultaneous multiple character interactions, and a repetitive and lazy single-player campaign. The game obviously has all the right ingredients, which include iconic characters, clever metahumor, and excellent brawls, but it is never able to fully realize its own potential.

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But the inclusion of Supers, easy-to-understand move sets, fast-paced fights, and dynamic stages ends up making Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2 an enjoyable time with a group of friends, with everything else just feeling half-baked.

6/10

Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2 was played on PlayStation 5 and reviewed on a code supplied by Renaissance PR. Featured on OpenCritic.

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Written by Osama Farooq

Articles Published: 331

Extensively talking about everything pop culture is something Osama truly enjoys doing, so when it started to get a little annoying in person, he joined FandomWire and found a whole community to share his thoughts with. He consumes media in almost all forms, including linear story-based video games (The Last of Us), hip-hop/R&B music (The Weeknd), top-tier television (Better Call Saul), classic movies (Superbad), as well as reading books and watching anime.