As a young whippersnapper, there was nothing I enjoyed on a rainy Sunday more than kicking back on the sofa and watching my favourite cartoons on Nickelodeon. Be it The Rugrats, Hey Arnold or The Wild Thornberrys, there was always something on the channel that my little brain was happy to watch. Because of this love of the Nicktoons I’ve been interested in the recent surge of Nickelodeon games that are full of the characters I grew up with. Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2 takes that classic Super Smash Bros fighting gameplay we all know and love and replaces Mario and Link with Ninja Turtles and SpongeBob.
For anyone who somehow hasn’t played a Super Smash Bros game before, the object of Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2 is simple – knock the enemy players off the stage until only you remain. Each character has a variety of moves they can use to damage their foes, and the more damage a character takes the further they fly towards the edge of the screen. Because battles take place on arenas with plenty of verticality and obstacles it also adds an element of platforming to the fighting game experience, and means that even people who don’t get on with the genre (like me) can have fun punching their friends.
For those of us who are experienced with Smash-likes (a term that I’m taking ownership of now) you’ll feel right at home with All-Star Brawl 2. Everything from basic mechanics like special moves to more advanced manoeuvres like dodging and using your shield are lifted directly from Smash Bros with reckless abandon, and to be quite honest that’s exactly what I was hoping for from the game.
The main difference between these two similar games is (unsurprisingly) the cast of characters, which is pretty damn impressive in Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2. Younger fans of Nickelodeon have all manner of Avatar and SpongeBob characters to choose from, whereas us oldies have the classics ranging from Ren & Stimpy to Nigel Thornberry. There are even some lesser known characters like Rocko from Rocko’s Modern life and The Angry Beavers. It’s unlikely you’ll recognise everyone on the roster, but you’ll surely be able to pick a few favourites you know and love.
Even more important than the cast themselves is how they differ in combat, and again this really impressed me. I went in somewhat expecting a lot of the characters to feel similar to one another, but there’s a great range of speedy strikers, heavy hitters and projectile focused fighters to choose from. The array of ranged attacks at Rocko’s disposal made him my favourite early on, but after a bit of practice I appreciated Garfield’s food based offense and Patrick’s grapple focused moveset just as much.
Now where Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2 really stands out from its obvious inspiration is in its main campaign. In this mode you’re tasked with winning random fights against smaller grunt enemies or actual proper characters, and are granted different buffs in between fights to improve your chances of survival. You read that right, All-Star Brawl 2 has a Roguelike mode, and it’s a hell of a lot of fun.
You start this mode playing as solely SpongeBob (who’s essentially the main character of this dimension hopping story) but by fighting other members of the roster along the way you’ll unlock them for future runs. You’ll also gather all sorts of colourful currencies as you go which can be used on permanent upgrades between runs that you’ll find at shops in the hub area. There’s everything from the ability to jump an extra time in midair to extra lives available to you, which is helpful because it’s not easy to make it to the end.
When you aren’t powering through the campaign there are plenty of other modes to jump into. Standard battles can be played against friends locally, online or against bots of various difficulty levels. There’s also an arcade mode that throws themed fights at you against enemies with a few different rulesets, like putting you against a massive Reptar with a few teammates or having you take on two characters wearing superhero outfits at the same time. It even includes bonus minigames between battles that are suspiciously familiar too, but are enjoyable nonetheless.
For the most part I was really impressed during my time with Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2, but it does have a few issues that hold it back from being truly fantastic. The overall feel of controlling your character just feels a little off, which compared to similar, more polished games is really noticeable. The AI is also just generally a little lacking, and often this involves them just standing still while they wait for you to attack them. It’s not ideal, and does really take away from the fun of the single player modes.
As stacked as the roster is too, there are some seriously bizarre omissions. Why am I able to play as Arnold’s best friend Gerald and his Grandma, but not as the main football headed character himself? And why is Reptar (a generic Godzilla ripoff) the only Rugrats character included, and not one of the infinitely interesting other options? There’s a season pass that will hopefully help fill some of these gaps, but it still feels a bit odd.
Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2 is a really enjoyable alternative to Nintendo’s hugely successful fighting game, with a cast of cartoon characters that is sure to please young and old alike. It doesn’t quite have the precise controls I’d like and has some slightly baffling AI, but that doesn’t stop it from being a great game to play with friends and family.
A fun alternative to Super Smash Bros
Has a really varied roster
The Roguelike campaign is really refreshing
Great with friends
Doesn't quite have that perfect control you need
The AI is dodgy at best
Some glaring character omissions