Back in 2015 Nintendo brought a brand new game titled Splatoon to the world. It was a weird game where you blended shooter mechanics with squid transformations to fight for territory or a key item. For how weird it was Splatoon was welcomed by Wii U owners everywhere as a unique take on the shooter genre. This was Nintendo’s interpretation of a shooter: bright and colorful but interestingly deep. Now in 2017, Nintendo brings a sequel to the Switch that attempts to gain even more mass appeal.
If asked to explain Splatoon, you could say at its core it’s a competitive shooter. You play as an Inkling, a species capable of transforming between squid and kid. In kid form they use a range of weapons to shoot ink across the ground and walls of a battlefield. Squid form allows them to travel through their colored ink, whether on the ground or up walls. Splatoon 2 has you use the abilities of your Inkling to compete in a range of game modes.
Splatoon 2 offers many game modes. The biggest mode is Turf War. In this, players fight with their teams to control the most ground by round’s end. The team that covers the most ground in their color after three minutes wins. This mode has no rankings, emphasizing pure fun over competition.
As for other key modes there are a handful for those seeking competitive play in Ranked Battles. Splat Zone is a somewhat condensed and technical version of Turf Wars. Here some sections of the battlefield become available and teams must fight to gain control by maintaining their color’s dominance.
Tower Control has you fighting for control of a moving platform that you escort into enemy territory. The opposing team fights to splat those riding the tower to stop its movement and get on board. A mode called Rainmaker is Splatoon’s version of capture the flag. Teams fight to gain control of the Rainmaker, a weapon that needs to be taken to the enemy’s base to win. Teams need to work together to be able to achieve victory in this mode as the Rainmaker slows the carrier. Although it is a powerful weapon the Rainmaker is unwieldy and hard to use.
There is a decent variety of modes available that are just as chaotic as they are fun. The above modes are from the original Splatoon and offer the same value. No changes have been made for the sake of veteran players.
Splatoon 2 does include a new addition: Salmon Run, a horde mode. In this you are tasked with collecting Power Eggs while fighting off enemy waves. You take this on with three other players and must work together to best bosses and win the round. The mode brings some chaotic fun that is unique for the Splatoon experience, although it runs on a roster and, disappointingly, is only available when Nintendo decides it to be. Hopefully Nintendo makes Salmon Run permanently available with a future update.
Most of Splatoon 2 is online, thus the question: What is there for players who can’t play online? The answer is: not much. Splatoon 2 does allow Switch owners to play with one another where they can access a small selection of modes. If you don’t know anyone with the game the feature is pointless, but if you have friends then you can easily get into Salmon Run and play together.
It’s disappointing that Splatoon 2 has no option for split-screen multiplayer. The original game had local options which, though not good, were present. Splatoon 2 has potential to allow for some great split-screen action but fails to realize it. There are things that can be said for screen cheating, but having a split-screen option and the ability to play core modes with friends on the couch would have been welcome. Its omission hurts for those who play with their family and don’t always have the option for online multiplayer.
As for other offline options there is a single-player story mode. Those who played the original Splatoon will be familiar with its premise from the start. Once again we are going to war with the Octarians (an enemy race of the Inklings) in almost the same plot as in Splatoon. The Octarians have again stolen the Inklings’ Great Zapfish, for whatever reason. The story itself is bare bones with little explanation. We are given our mission by original Splatoon character Marie where she enlists you to get the Zapfish and also find her missing cousin Callie.
The single player fails in creating a story or building upon Splatoon lore. Luckily for the four to five hours the campaign lasts it is entertaining.
In this war with the Octarians you break into their bases and enter the varying levels scattered throughout each section. With each level Splatoon 2 shines. Each one adds a mismatch of different mechanics that help you to progress or at times add tension. In one level you need to shoot sponges to have them grow allowing you to reach higher platforms while enemy ink can shrink them. In another you use ink grind rails to get through the stage. You need to dodge hazards and even use items such as a turret to paint walls, allowing your character in squid form to cross to another rail.
Each level brings with it a unique mechanic, and later levels even blend the mechanics to build some fun challenges. It was also great seeing a decent weapon variety sown into the campaign as different missions give you different weapons to use. In some cases this can leave you with a disadvantage as you attempt to learn them, but it’s a nice way to introduce different weapons and allow us to learn which one we prefer.
It’s surprising but Splatoon 2 does well with its single player. Whether it is meant as a teaching tool or is a rehash of the original game, it was pretty satisfying. But even with the quality of Splatoon 2’s single player, does it warrant a purchase by itself for those without the ability to play online? No, but there is a definite purpose to it for those who can access the online parts of the game.
To be a little more positive, it is nice to report that Nintendo has not failed Splatoon 2’s launch. There is no shortage of content: plenty of different modes and stages are available from the start. With more content incoming, Splatoon 2 has the potential for a long lifetime.
Outside of local multiplayer omissions, Splatoon 2 creates a fine sequel. One could ask if Splatoon 2 really needed to exist as much of the content is exactly the same as the original. But if you have never played Splatoon this sequel is a great game. Splatoon 2 is for two very different consumers: veterans who will play the same game with prettier graphics and newcomers who are in for a treat with all the excitement Splatoon can bring.
Splatoon 2 should have taken more risks and introduced more new content rather just be a near carbon copy of the Wii U original. Nintendo should have worked until 2018 at the earliest to provide a proper sequel to provide both veterans and newcomers a fun and fulfilling experience. At the least this new title is a welcome distraction.