Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2 PS5 Review: Inconsistent Fun
Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2, much like the Nickelodeon Kart Racers series, aims to carve a place in the casual multiplayer market that Nintendo’s Mario Kart and Smash Bros series have dominated for so long. It utilizes Nickelodeon’s exhaustive roster of iconic characters, from The Legend of Avatar to Spongebob Square Pants, as its core selling point, and in many ways, developers Ludosity and Fair Play Labs have done an admirable job. However, unsurprisingly, for a game published by the same folks who pushed out the horrendously bad Skull Island: Rise of King Kong, there are a lot of caveats that come with a game about bashing Patrick Star’s pointy head in as a Ninja Turtle.
“The campaign is a genuinely fun aspect of the game, fully voiced with plenty of references to the game’s source materials and a great way to introduce yourself to the core mechanics.”
Typically, games like Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2 don’t have meaningful narrative-focused modes, but fortunately, that isn’t the case here. In fact, it has a surprisingly good campaign mode, one in which the narrative itself isn’t particularly good, it is largely comprised of Nickelodeon characters being wrenched from time by a big bad, but the way it is contextualized in-game is quite fun.
The campaign mode is actually a rather competent rogue-lite, which sees you take on match after match with varying objectives before fighting a final boss at the end. If you die, you’ll be sent back to the hub world, where you can purchase upgrades such as unlocking additional stock or jumps, talk to NPCs, or even buy cosmetics for the hub world.
It’s a fun concept, one kept fresh by the constant character unlocks gained by defeating them on your path to the final boss, as well as the mini-game levels that see you platform through stages, burst balloons, and more. It’s not particularly long, and the story woven throughout is threadbare. However, it’s a genuinely fun aspect of the game, fully voiced with plenty of references to the game’s source materials, and a great way to introduce yourself to the core mechanics.
“Unfortunately, despite clearly putting in a lot of effort to make each fighter feel distinct, Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2 is not a smooth experience.”
Outside of the campaign are your typical modes. You’ve got online and offline multiplayer, playable against friends or AI. There’s a mini-game selection that is taken from the campaign, a challenging Arcade mode, and a gallery for your unlocks. Of course, you’ll be spending most of your time in the multiplayer mode, which features an impressive roster of over 20 fighters. There are a number of themed stages from across the Nickelodeon-a-verse and customizable rulesets that aren’t as in-depth as the latest Super Smash Bros. but offer plenty of options for players to choose from.
It is perhaps in the multiplayer mode that the game’s biggest flaws begin to shine. Unfortunately, despite clearly putting in a lot of effort to make each fighter feel distinct, Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2 is not a smooth experience. Movement feels far too floaty, with characters frequently flying off the edge of stages; the reach on certain attacks feels too small, leading you and your opponent to wildly hit the air instead of each other; even the abilities, which admittedly are rather unique, aren’t built fairly, with a lot of characters feeling unbalanced.
There’s an inconsistency to the quality of Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2’s gameplay that is hugely detrimental to the overall experience. It’s a shame as your favorite character isn’t guaranteed to play well or even be playable, and the lack of balance means fights often don’t take your level of competency with the game into account. Of course, with time, I’m sure all characters will be masterable, and there will be kids out there who aren’t phased by the janky controls. However, if you’re looking for a serious replacement for one of the more refined brawler titles, even including indies such as Rivals of Aether, this isn’t it.
“The janky gameplay and inconsistent AI make what should be a precise and refined experience an oftentimes unnecessarily challenging one filled with cheap deaths.”
It also doesn’t help that the AI is absolutely atrocious. You can play with up to 3 other AI in the Multiplayer mode and select between different levels of difficulty depending on how much challenge you want. However, even on some of the tougher difficulty levels, the AI will frequently get stuck on terrain, unable to jump up to the higher levels of a stage and instead waiting for you to come down to them. They’ll often not attack you, and even when they do, they’re easy enough to dodge. The only time they show any form of intelligence is when they wait out of range if you begin charging an attack, which practically makes the entire mechanic pointless.
This really cements Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2 as a game that can only be enjoyed with others, which is not necessarily something I’d say of most brawlers. If you want to play this solo outside of the campaign mode, I can’t imagine you’ll have much fun. The janky gameplay and inconsistent AI make what should be a precise and refined experience an oftentimes unnecessarily challenging one filled with cheap deaths.
It’s a shame, too, as it’s evident that a lot of effort has gone into capturing the essence of each show. Stages are a lot more lively than they were in the previous game, and the music has had a significant upgrade, too. Visually, the game looks pretty great, especially on PS5, where its distinctive art direction, vivid colors, and attention to detail pop, meticulously translating each character into the game’s overall aesthetic. It’s certainly the most appealing aspect, especially for fans of the source materials that the game pulls from.
“At its price point of $50, it’s hard to recommend Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2.”
I hesitate to say that Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2 is a bad Smash clone. Its campaign is genuinely a lot of fun, and the roster and stage selection are great, too. A lot of love and effort has gone into this sequel, evident in aspects such as the surprising amount of voiced dialogue both in and out of the campaign, which was entirely absent initially from the first game.
Unfortunately, while some characters are fun to control, many of them are inconsistent at best, and the overall movement feels slightly skewed, never quite feeling refined. At its price point of $50, it’s hard to recommend. While it isn’t awful and does have some really great aspects, unless you’re a massive Nickelodeon fan, you’re probably better off picking up Super Smash Bros. Ultimate or even the previous Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl game at a discount.
Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2
It is clear that Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2 has been made with a lot of love. Unfortunately, while the visuals have had a significant facelift from the first game, and a surprisingly enjoyable campaign helps keep the game from being truly awful, it's let down by inconsistent controls, janky gameplay and unbalanced characters. Kids with no real understanding of how video games work and those willing to overlook some flaws to play as their favorite characters will likely enjoy the multiplayer modes. However, if you wanted to play it exclusively for the multiplayer, you might want to wait for a deep sale.