Slamming figures together was a staple of toys back in the 90s and 2000s. Jump forward a couple decades and we’ve reached the point where companies realize they can weaponize this in the form of games like Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2. A sequel to the seemingly successful crossover game is here, making a few cuts to the roster but promising improvements in features, visuals, and more. But now we ask the age old question – Does the game deserve The Crag or does it fall flat on its Face?
The basics of a platform fighter are simple: rack up damage using light and special attacks before sending your opponents flying with a big, meaty attack. You change inputs based on your directional input and whether you are on the ground or airborne. This leads to a simplicity you don’t typically see in fighting games. You won’t be doing any quarter-circle forwards here. Let’s break it down using SpongeBob as an example: his Neutral Light attack is a rapid series of hand claps reminiscent of the slapping he does in the movie, while that same button and stick combo in the air will make him do a short range 360 degree attack where he dons the iconic Goofy Goober glasses. Specials usually involve a unique mechanic such as offstage recovery set to your Up Special while Down Special is usually for character specific buffs like Garfield eating food to buff attack power.
Lastly, we have Charge attacks, which don’t deal as much damage as Lights or Specials, but have superior launching power. Charges only allow neutral, up, and down but holding the button “charges” them up dealing more damage and knockback. SpongeBob’s neutral charge swings a jellyfish net, down charge has SpongeBob spin his hips in a wide circle aka Brings It Around Town, and up charge has SpongeBob use the power of imagination in a short range around him. Just like other attacks, these change in the air too, but knowing the basic controls will let you get to grips with just about any character.
NASB2’s controls do have one new addition, and no it’s not mayonnaise nor is it horseradish. You can improve the attack power or affect of any attack by holding the Slime button provided you have enough Slime meter, similar to the EX system in Street Fighter, is generated simply by fighting. SpongeBob will blow more and bigger bubbles with his neutral special, for example. If you have three full bars of slime, you can spend all of them on an ultimate move in front of you by holding Slime and pressing Neutral Light. Slime has other uses too; you can even halt your momentum entirely if you’re in danger of a KO by pressing slime and shield. It’s an incredibly simple but deep mechanic. Are you going to be casually breaking combos or meter burning with pristine timing? While the depth is there, there’s nothing wrong with playing casually in a group of four, items or not.
While the game is definitely fun in the moment to moment fighting, it can lack a bit of “oomph” depending on the character when in more tense situations. Jenny Wakeman’s Neutral Charge looks like it should hit a lot harder than it actually does, Ren and Stimpy’s Light attacks are so good you really don’t even need any of their Charge moves, and Grandma Gertie’s grapple hook recovery just doesn’t seem to work on some ledges. The overall game balance can be incredibly lopsided at times – you can win with anyone in the roster against anyone else, but the road to that victory can feel cheap or unexpected depending on the situations you find yourself in. This does contribute to the game overall feeling hilarious. When two of us played several matches together, we were often delightfully surprised by those unbalances in addition to the game’s intentional jokes. The roster has some obvious picks like SpongeBob, Patrick, Invader Zim, and Jenny Wakeman, but also oddballs like Grandma Gertie and more obscure characters like Manuel Pablo Gutierrez O’Brian Equihua Rivera AKA El Tigre. We have some opinions on who we’d also like to see join, such as the Mighty Bee or Kappa Mikey, but it’s a good, varied roster. Likewise, the items are references to many of the shows seen on Nick. You’ve got the pie bombs from SpongeBob, Sokka’s boomerang, Arnold’s boom box, and the bronze boots of truth to name a few. You won’t really know what they do until you pick them up, but that’s part of the fun and hilarity. The fly swatter item’s weirdly realistic slap sound effect had us laughing for several minutes. At one point, the victory screen broke causing a softlock only fixed by force quitting the game, a baby’s gotta do what a baby’s gotta do. But rather than being frustrating, this was incredibly funny mostly due to the image of Gerald from Hey Arnold! being perpetually stuck in what we dubbed “the stanky leg”. Thankfully, online play is seamless. Just invite friends from your friendlist and you’re off, because I could imagine getting frustrated if setting up matches had too many steps or the netcode sucked. It’s rollback netcode all the way here, and it feels great. Also it was pretty funny when we got someone to rage quit. “Uh… dude, that would be salt.”
While the online mode is probably going to be the primary mode for a lot of people, the developers at Ludosity made sure to not skimp on single player content. There’s an entire story mode with full voice acting with many returning actors. There’s even basic NPC enemies taken from different shows to help increase the “Oh it’s that!” moments. The flower that eats pictures of Cindy from Jimmy Neutron? It’s here. The burly tough guy who hates bubble blowing babies from the first SpongeBob movie? He’s here. The cabbage shop owner from Avatar? He’s one of the vendors in the story mode! That’s right, there are vendors. The single player is structured like a loop action game similar to Hades or Binding of Isaac. The story is that Vlad Plasmius is mind controlling people from all across the Nicktoons world, and it’s up to you to stop him. You begin your first run as SpongeBob, but can unlock more characters by entering their stage in your run and defeating them. As you play, you also earn currencies like “Slimies” and Blimps (yes, it is the Blimp from the Kid’s Choice Awards) which can then be spent on decorations in the hub or more useful buffs for subsequent runs, such as healing between stages or starting a run with an additional stock. It’s a super fun mode that, while repetitive because of repeating stage types, keeps the game interesting for a single player, a feat most platform fighters tend to avoid now-a-days.
It’s clear that a lot of love and care went into the first NASB game but in the second game the team was given a lot more time and budget to really go wild in the best ways possible. It’s tighter, more ambitious, and looks and sounds great to boot. Certainly a few of the roster cuts like CatDog, Toph, and Helga hurt but fresh and fun additions like Plankton and the upcoming Rocksteady help soften the blow, just a bit. NASB2 is an absolute delight and even my more hardcore platform fighter friends joined me for some local shenanigans and it was excellent. We had our share of glitches like The Stanky Leg™ but the devs made sure this game was set to W for Wumbo. From the extremely well done character models, the rulesets that can be quick swapped, and the jammin’ music, you’re in for a treat. This game will regularly join my friends and I’s multiplayer shenanigans alongside Smash Bros, Jackbox, and more.
David is the kind of person to wear his heart on his sleeve. He can find positives in anything, like this is a person who loved Star Fox Zero to death. You’ll see him playing all kinds of games: AAAs, Indies, game jam games, games of all genres, and writing about them! Here. On this website. When not writing or playing games, you can find David making music, games, or enjoying a good book.
David’s favorite games include NieR: Automata, Mother 3, and Gravity Rush.
Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2
Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl 2 is a huge step up from the original. While far from perfect, it’s an incredibly fun and silly time especially online with friends. When playing solo, there’s still a wealth of things to do too - it’s just an all around good time, despite the jank or perhaps because of it.