Nintendo took a chance by introducing Splatoon when it originally debuted on the Wii U, and it worked out swimmingly. It made a splash with players in every demographic, and attracted fans with its colorful characters, addictive gameplay and competitive multiplayer. While it did fall short in the single-player department, it made up for its relative lack of content there with a wealth of new weapons and continued online play support.
Splatoon 2 follows its predecessor's footsteps almost exactly, serving up a full-featured multiplayer mode and a set of single-player levels to keep the fun going. While it does have some missteps, it's still exemplary of the kind of tight, addictive gameplay Nintendo is known for with its first-party IPs.
Ink Battle 2017
First, Splatoon 101. You'll control a squid character who can switch forms at will. In your humanlike form you can shoot or spray ink with an assortment of guns, rollers, and bombs. It’s in this form that you'll take most of your offensive action, and the one in which you’re most vulnerable as it takes only several hits in a row from an enemy to kill you.
In your squid form, you can swim below the surface of the ink you lay in your more humanoid form. This make you much more difficult to hit, and you may as well be in stealth mode when you’re sitting still. You can recharge your ink supply this way as well, so you'll be dipping below to charge up more often than you might think. This mixture of offensive and defensive strategy makes for some wild and exciting level design in single-player and fast-paced frenzies in the multiplayer mode.
That's where things really shine. You can play online in regular or ranked battles to rank up or opt for local multiplayer, which requires you to have multiple Switch systems, doffing split-screen, a total bummer if you came into the game thinking you might just spend some time with friends on the couch in Splatoon. Frustratingly, this is not the case. When you do get in, however, and find a full lobby (which shouldn't be an issue now that the game is out contrary to my time with review sessions) there's no issue getting started and playing one of several multiplayer modes.
Turf War finds you scoring points based on how much of the map you can cover in your ink's color, where three rank modes including Rainmaker, Splat Zones, and Tower Control have returned from the first game for additional dimensions of fun. Much like shooters like Call of Duty and Battlefield, there's a progression system in place that awards experience points and currency with which you can purchase additional accessories from Inkopolis Square. There's a wide berth of shops with shirts, outfits, shoes, headwear and other items you can purchase with your hard-earned cash, though you'll have to get to level 4 to nab these beyond the first set of basic gear.
Making a Splash
The new cooperative mode Salmon Run is a huge draw, a horde-like mode in which you collect Power Eggs and Golden Eggs from the nasty Salmonids that wash up in each level. There are several different forms of Salmonids to take out, each requiring different strategies, and it's a lot of fun to work together with your team to see how far you can get. It's a shame, then, that Salmon Run has been relegated to a timed event that only happens at certain times. You can play local multiplayer, but points and experience won't be meted out, unfortunately. This was a massive oversight on Nintendo's part.
Now, the sequel serves up awesome opportunities for you to hop online and play with friends, though there's some weirdness going on this time around all due to the Switch's communication mode and other components. For one thing, any communication with others must be done via the Nintendo Switch Online app and SplatNet 2, which is extremely awkward considering the setup required to get up and running and in a lobby with friends.
That aside, once you enter a multiplayer lobby, there's no leaving until the timer runs out and you're kicked out to the game mode option screen again. Neither of those things helped make my time in multiplayer an enjoyable one, and they're both massively baffling design decisions that I wish Nintendo had skipped out on. However, it looks like those things are here to stay for the time being, especially with the Nintendo Switch Online service launching earnest next year.
If you don't feel like playing online, luckily there's a short campaign in the form of Octo Canyon to opt for instead. Once again you face off against the Octarians as the zapfish that power Inkopolis have been stolen. Across three worlds you'll run into a variety of decently designed levels meant to challenge your squid-like powers. There are some brilliantly-devised boss encounters, including a pretty surprising final boss which I won't spoil here, but just as it feels like it's ramped up, the single-player mode ends abruptly. It doesn't seem nearly as fleshed-out as it actually could be, with characters as inventive and endearing as the new squid girl idol band Off the Hook and even the shopkeepers.
Splatoon 2 is a measured dose of the same game you likely remember from the Wii U, a colorfully-inked tour-de-force of multiplayer action with a single-player afterthought. You'll want to clock hours and hours in-game for sure, but you'll be left scratching your head at some of the strange decisions Nintendo made this time around. Luckily, there's still plenty of fun to be had here, even if you can't decide if you're a kid or a squid.
Brittany Vincent is an Editor at GameRevolution. You can follow her on Twitter @MolotovCupcake.
A Nintendo Switch copy of Splatoon 2 was provided by its publisher. Splatoon 2 is exclusive to Nintendo Switch.