Historically, Splatoon has been presented as a bit of a slow burn for Nintendo. The original released as a barebones endeavor that slowly grew over time to become a more fleshed out multiplayer experience, which served to keep fans engaged with every new content drop. The hotly anticipated followup ditches this right out of the box though, and instead opts to build on the now well-established base of the original – making Splatoon 2 an immediately appealing offering for those looking for something new.
The introduction to Splatoon 2 clarifies that this is something different – albeit very familiar – with new “hosts” in the form of Pearl and Marina taking center stage in order to introduce the ongoings within Inkopolis Square (the title’s hub world). Those wondering what happened to Marie and Callie, the hosts of the previous title, will quickly find themselves searching for the latter as she has allegedly gone missing in the wake of the evil Octolings once again stealing the Great Zapfish.
It’s a simple narrative, but it’s one with a healthy dose of cleverly penned, laugh-out-loud dialogue that sets the tone for the entire game. While the story isn’t an engrossing, edge-of-your-seat tale, it does provide players with different scenarios to swim through. The adventure itself stretches across 32 missions that will occupy little more than a handful of hours, but the diversity of each level ensures that aspiring Inklings will find themselves much more engaged with every environment. It doesn’t hurt that the levels are slightly more challenging to trek through this time around either, giving fans a great way to get a hang of the title’s unique gameplay mechanics.
For those that aren’t already familiar with the series, there’s a brief learning curve associated with the controls. Nintendo has opted to make motion controls a major part of the way users play the shooter by default, adding three points of movement to the experience as a result. Physically moving the controller up and down (all while using the left and right joysticks to move and pivot left to right, respectively) to shift the aiming reticle takes a little getting used to. Even then, it proves to be a very effective means of helping to make the game feel unique, and those that are more savvy with traditional controls can operate solely on the joysticks if they prefer to.
There are a menagerie of weapons that require an adjustment period as well for avid shooter followers, with a handful of brand new ones serving as great additions that add some much needed variety. The Splat Dualies in particular are a big addition in Splatoon 2 that further the meta of the game by allowing for rolls during combat. Given that the ability to transform between a squid and a kid has been implemented to emphasize movement during combat (as well as stealth), this armament plays perfectly into that theme. It’s not the only new weapon (the Goo Tuber and Splat Brella are unique additions as well), but it serves as a big focus in the sequel in the early goings.
Additional weapons and a fresh new story are certainly highlights of Splatoon 2, but the title sticks firmly to what the IP has always done best: multiplayer. It’s done this through several different ways, but the biggest addition is undoubtedly a new mode called Salmon Run. For a game that’s known for its player-vs-player focus, Nintendo opted to provide a new spin on things by implementing a four-player co-op mode that pits a team of Inklings against a swarm of golden egg-carrying salmon.
In some ways, Salmon Run is reminiscent of Gears of War‘s beloved Horde Mode, as wave after wave of enemy comes rushing into the “spawning ground” in a bid to best players. The main objective, however, is to defeat some of the larger salmon, gather their eggs, and deposit them into the subject jar on the map. It’s a very interesting means of play, but the current map selection is modest to say the least. With that said, the mode offers a fun way to play both online and offline that makes for a very welcomed addition.
Fortunately, where Salmon Run leaves room to grow, Splatoon 2‘s online multiplayer has only built on what made the original so popular to begin with. After much demand, Private Matches are now an option for those that want to keep the experience within a group of friends, while in-game chat options are available exclusively through an app for mobile devices. The latter is a bizarre headset layout that also makes very little sense in how the company has opted to implement it, which is a shame given how much on-the-fly strategizing is necessary for a mode like Salmon Run, but it’s not an ideal means of interaction given its horrendously clunky design.
Other modes also make their return, with the ink-heavy Turf Wars being the biggest hitter this time around, again. Meanwhile, the Splat Zone (which is essentially just king-of-the-hill), Tower Control (which is a payload-inspired romp), and Rainmaker (i.e. Capture the Flag) are all well worth checking out. The traditional “coat the surface” mentality prominent in Turf Wars will be a focus for many, but the variety keeps things interesting for those looking to jump into a few quick matches in an attempt to level up and unlock fancy new clothes and weapons. As a note, the online matchmaking also appears to be rock solid in the early goings, which spells great things for the community.
Splatoon 2 builds on what its successor did so well, with a much larger base of assets that has allowed Nintendo to provide more to consumers right off the bat. Much like its predecessor (and even the recently released ARMS), there are plans to keep adding free content to the title long after release as well, and that will go a long way in keeping the title relevant for months to come. Meanwhile, the funky design of each and every environment is enough to immediately suck players into the world that Nintendo has created.
There’s a lot more in the tank with this sequel, but it really doesn’t do all that much new – and that’s okay. Splatoon 2 is instead a venture that perfects the formula first explored in the original Wii U title, making for an easy recommendation for newbies and seasoned squid aficionados alike on Nintendo Switch.
Splatoon 2 is now available exclusively for the Nintendo Switch. game Rant was provided with a copy of the game for review purposes.