Splatoon 2 Review
When we reviewed the original Splatoon on the Wii U we felt there was plenty of potential in the, at the time, new IP from Nintendo. It wasn’t perfect, suffering from awkward motion controls and some confusing decisions around online and local multiplayer. Fast-forward two years and we now have its sequel on Nintendo’s newest console, the Switch. Keen to find out whether Nintendo have moved the series on we jumped right on into the new, and slightly shinier, Inkopolis.
Acting as Splatoon 2’s hub, Inkopolis is where you can access each of the game modes on offer, buy new weapons, customise your character and food that can act as power-ups. It’s a busy place and clearly shows the improved specs of the Switch. Splatoon’s Inkopolis wasn’t exactly ugly but colours now pop and the whole place just feels a little bit more alive. There still seems to be an unhealthy focus on being cool enough to shop in each of the stores given the target audience. Whilst having content locked behind player levels is nothing new the language used towards the player could be different. In our opinion it sends the wrong message as they could easily just relate to the player's skill rather than coolness.
Social standing issues aside it’s a great way to interact with all the different aspects of Splatoon 2. Online multiplayer is still where the main meat lies but there’s also a single-player story to complete and so we decided to start our journey here. If you’ve never played the original Splatoon it’s a great place to get to grips with the mechanics. For the uninitiated, in place of bullets your guns fire paint. These cover the walls and floors with the paint of your colour and since you can change into a squid at will, you can then swim through the paint to scale obstacles and traverse other hazards such as grates and super-jump over bigger gaps. It takes a little getting used to but once you do many of the cleverly designed levels can be traversed in no time.
The level design is on the right side of tricky. It’s complicated enough to provide a challenge but not too far as to be deliberately obtuse. Even the zone hubs challenge you to reach each of the access points for the levels as you have to discover them first before you can take them on. As you progress through each of the campaign’s five zones these levels become trickier and the enemies more powerful. The boss battles are very entertaining and require you to figure out each of the weaknesses that will allow you to defeat them. It’s a little disappointing that some have been repurposed from the original but they’re still fun. You also get to try many of the different weapons on offer. Inkopolis’ weapons seller, Sheldon, will for most levels want you to use a specific weapon for more data. As such you have to adapt your approach to best suit the weapon on offer. This makes the campaign mode a great place to practice ahead of taking on fellow humans in multiplayer.
Sometimes though, in our first run through, we wish we could tell Sheldon the weapon merchant where to go as not all weapons are created equal. The Splat Dualies, one of the new weapons, for example are great fun. Their rapid fire makes taking down Octarians pretty easy and they also allow you to dodge roll so all-in-all a great weapon to go into battle with. On the flipside one of the other new additions, the Splat Brella, is an umbrella-based contraption that, when powered up takes off by itself spraying ink. However, trying to aim and take out close range enemies is frustrating and inaccurate and thankfully Sheldon only forced it upon us twice.
That being said, if you’re at all competent at 3D platformers there’s probably no more than a few hours of entertainment here. The only thing that would perhaps lengthen your time here would be the controls. The motion controls aren’t too bad but trying to aim with motion-aiming and rotating your view with the right thumbstick gets tricky, especially in the boss battles that punctuate each zone. You can turn this off and thus move all aiming movement to the thumbstick but then, if like our Switch unit, you suffer from the left Joy-Con disconnecting things get even more frustrating. This is mainly because the left thumbstick controls your movement. As such we frequently had our poor Inkling wandering off the edge of platforms or in front of enemy fire all this despite sitting within a metre of our Switch. Whilst this isn’t the fault of Splatoon 2 it does make for a frustrating experience.
Of course multiplayer is where it’s at for Splatoon 2, and those who’ve played Splatoon will be feel very much at home. Turf War is the main mode and pits two teams of four against each other with the goal being to cover the arena with the most paint. It’s fun, frantic and focuses more on teamwork rather than taking out enemy combatants. However, our efforts to get a game were often thwarted by matchmaking requiring that eight players join before starting. Even if you get seven players in your lobby, if the timer runs out you’re all booted out and you have to try again. It’s frustrating and we were often left wondering why we couldn’t have a three-on-three Turf War or an ability to stay in the lobby and keep waiting rather than being kicked back to the multiplayer menu. You’re also still limited to the maps that Nintendo put in rotation so there’s no ability to vote on, or change maps, unless you’re in a private match.
Splatfests make a return, where you choose a side and whichever one wins the most individual Turf Wars wins the Splatfest. There’s also a new game mode, the Salmon Run. Here, teams of two to four Inklings fend off waves of Salmonids complete with boss Salmonids. It’s a very Nintendo take on the ever popular horde-style game mode. As with all team based games communication is key and unlike Splatoon, voice chat will be available. Upon release, Splatoon 2, will be the first game to use Nintendo’s app for the Switch which will enable voice communications. It wasn’t available to us ahead of release so how well everything works together is, as yet, unknown.
Local multiplayer is possible but not on the same console unfortunately. We’re big fans of split-screen multiplayer and it’s omission is disappointing. However, if you wish you can connect up to eight Switch consoles for local play and have a Turf War all of your own. Speaking of mobile play, playing Splatoon 2 on-the-go in the Switch’s tablet mode is a fantastic ability and we noticed no difference in playing docked or undocked. It was rather fun to be able to conquer some single-player missions whilst on the daily commute and speaks volumes for the versatility of Nintendo’s console.
Overall Splatoon 2 is much of the same and for those who took on its predecessor some of this may be a little disappointing. If you’re a newcomer to the series, however, you’ll find Splatoon 2 to be a competent third-person shooter with some unique mechanics that help it stand out from the crowd. The need for eight players to start a multiplayer game is a huge frustration but hopefully, once launched, the player count will increase and finding a game won’t be too difficult. It’s a safe addition to the series from Nintendo but feels more like an iteration rather than a full sequel.