Platform: Nintendo Switch
Developer & Publisher: Nintendo
Late in the Wii U’s life cycle, Nintendo released a game that shocked players with its ingenuity and levity. Splatoon made a stand as a new franchise that could sit next to the likes of Mario and Zelda as a genuinely great Nintendo property. Unfortunately, due to the dismal nature of the Wii U and everything involved with that, it felt like the odds were stacked against it. Nintendo, however, understood the popularity of the game among fans and decided rather than simply port Splatoon to the Nintendo Switch it would go all in with a full fledged sequel. And boy did they go all in.
Splatoon 2 doesn’t simply add a few new maps and gear and call it a day. It’s clear that the developers took the time to look at what worked with the original game and what new features could be added in order to make the title a must own on the Nintendo Switch.
It's good to be back
If you don’t know, Splatoon 2 features Inklings: humanoid squids that can switch from a more anthropological form where they wield paint guns to a squid form that allows them to swim through said paint. Swimming through your own colored paint refills your weapon, whilst getting stuck in your enemies’ paint will slow you to a crawl. In Turf War, the multiplayer mode that is at the heart of Splatoon 2, the overall objective is to cover the map in as much of your team’s paint as possible. It’s a completely unique approach to online shooters and one that is more accessible to a broader range of ages.
Whilst this does lend heavily to a “spray and pray” method of gameplay, crafty players will find an incredible amount of diversity and nuance in controlling your Inkling. For example, I have found myself heavily rewarded for approaching matches stealthily; to hide in my own team’s paint and take a moment to survey the battlefield. Similarly, whilst your gut reaction is to charge straight into the middle of a map and get caught in the chaos that perpetually exists there, it pays to flank your enemy and try and take as much of their original spawn area as possible. It takes the nature of a “Capture points A, B, C” game mode you’d see in other titles but injects some dynamism. The matches tend to always be close calls.
Splatoon 2 handles maps a little differently as well. Rather than having a rotating roster of 10+ maps, the games shift between 2 options that change daily. Whilst at first this may sound frustrating, it forces players to get to know the maps intimately, which is imperative for player success in the game. Maps might film limited with the two-a-day option, the gear options available to you are surprisingly robust. The new additions of the Splat Dualies, as well as some impressive super moves, takes an already diverse line up of gear and improves upon it.
One set back is that players do not have the ability to swap out weapons and items in the lobby. Unfortunately, you have to back out of matchmaking in order to do so, which is slightly infuriating.
More than just its multiplayer
The main focus of Splatoon 2 may be its multiplayer suite, but its single player campaign should not be overlooked. If you missed out on the original game, you may not be aware of the references being made throughout the “story” so you might want to brush up on Splatoon’s Wikipedia. Lack of familiarity with Splatoon 2's predecessor won’t stop you from having fun though.
The level of polish Nintendo brings to its other platformers is present in Splatoon 2. There are five hub worlds, each with several levels and a boss battle within them. You can tackle the levels in a hub world in any order, although there is definitely a desired sequence to tackle them in. There’s a lot to love about these levels: they are very diverse, they don’t overstay their welcome, they are designed well.
Unfortunately, there are a couple of frustrations that are bundled in. The Inklings are not designed with platforming in mind. Too often I struggled to get somewhere because my character could not jump in the way I wanted him too. Mixed with some poor camera angles, and some moments in the campaign will have you seething – in an "E for Everyone" kind of way.
A new mode for Splatoon veterans
Splatoon 2’s most surprising addition is Salmon Run; a co-op horde mode that bumps up the difficulty considerably. The mode has you collecting golden eggs whilst waves of enemies attack; it definitely feels like Nintendo is servicing its die hard fans with this one. The mode is genuinely challenging and requires strong teamwork between players in order to overcome the odds. This is most likely why it is currently local co-op only (at the time of writing this review), as Nintendo’s online system isn’t even close to ready for a mode like this that requires constant communication.
Splatoon 2 succeeds by being a fully fledged sequel to the original rather than just a new coat of paint. New players may be a little clueless lore-wise, but the game will quickly get them up to speed on what sets Splatoon 2 apart from other shooters and why that’s a good thing. Time will tell how well its online will mesh with the app for your phone, but for now, Splatoon 2 is a must buy for Switch owners.