Totally hooked on Splatoon 2
Splatoon 2 is one of those games I intend to play for 30 minutes, and end up marathoning for hours. While I’ll do my best to explain why it’s so amazing, two words really sum up the experience: pure enjoyment. Indeed, Splatoon 2′s a rare breed of game as fun on your 50th hour as it was the first five.
Nintendo Switch has been the hottest gaming product since its March launch, and this game is one more reason why.
Hangout in Inkopolis Square
At first glance, Splatoon 2 will feel very much like original game on Wii U. You begin in a hub area called Inkopolis Square, not unlike Splatoon‘s Inkopolis Plaza, and here you’ll find numerous attractions. These include Deca Tower, the place for online multiplayer, and Galleria Mall, where you can outfit your Inkling. As well, familiar faces return, like Crusty Sean who’s given up his shoe shop and now runs a food truck. And, of course, the entire area is populated by Inkling avatars of your friends, and other players you’ve met online.
Given the familiarity of this space, it seems like from the get-go Nintendo has played it pretty safe. That feeling permeates for a while, that is until you begin to recognize all the subtle refinements Nintendo has made. And make no mistake, Splatoon 2 offers a wealth of refinements, all of which make for an even better experience. Nintendo has clearly been listening to fan feedback from the first game, and the sequel is better as a result.
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch
What’s new in Splatoon 2?
It seems like every time I pick up Splatoon 2 I’m discovering more gameplay improvements. Take for example the Splat Roller, which gains a new speed burst after rolling for a couple of seconds. Now you can cover more turf with ink in less time, and it’s easier to retreat from unfavourable enemy confrontations.
Similarly, the long-range Splat Charger has become more useful this time around. You can now swim for a few seconds while it’s fully charged, letting you emerge and fire a one-hit splat. The roller and charger were my least-used Splatoon weapons, but with these improvements I’ve added them to my arsenal.
On top of the dozens of gameplay refinements like these, Splatoon 2 also offers a ton of fresh, new content. There are new characters introduced, like Pearl and Marina who now host the daily news in Inkopolis. New weapons are included, most prominently the dual-pistol Splat Dualies that also let you dodge roll―an all-new maneuver. A host of new special weapons add new strategies in battle, such as the explosive new hamster Baller. Then there’s Salmon Run, a brand co-operative multiplayer mode that’s just so much fun―but more on that later.
Like the original, Splatoon 2 includes a robust single-player campaign called Hero Mode. In it, Marie from the Squid Sisters (Inkopolis’ pop idol group) explains that her partner Callie has disappeared. Moreover, the Great Zapfish have disappeared and the evil Octarians are thought to once again be behind it all.
This in-depth single-player campaign spans five different sectors, each containing a bunch of levels with an impressive end boss. Levels this time around are vastly improved, being bigger, better designed, and more varied. As well, A.I. enemies are more intelligent, and there are new enemy types for you to contend with. In all regards, Splatoon 2‘s Hero Mode delivers a better experience all-around, and takes upwards of 8 hours to complete.
Everyone’s favourite 4 vs. 4 online multiplayer mode Turf War returns, and like elsewhere in the game, it’s received improvements. New maps have flatter, more interesting layouts that better level the playing field across weapons, and lead to intenser confrontations. Much to the delight of fans, popular maps, including Moray Towers and Port Mackerel, also make their return.
I touched upon this earlier, but want to emphasize how significant the new weapons are as well. The Splat Dualies make Turf War matches more unpredictable, as do special weapons like the all-new high-flying jetpack Inkjet. The addition of new sub-weapons, like the curling bomb and toxic mist, further spice up the gameplay.
Another significant change is now maps rotate every two hours instead of four. Since maps change-up more frequently, I felt less fatigued and found myself playing longer gaming sessions as a result. There is one down side though, Nintendo still hasn’t figured out a way for us to change weapons between matches. Yup, to change weapons you still have to back out of the lobby entirely, which is both irritating and time-consuming.
Ranked Battle & League Mode
Once you’ve leveled up to 10 in Turf War, the competitive Ranked Battle mode becomes available. All three match types from Splatoon return, which are Rainmaker, Splat Zones, and Tower Control. Mostly these match types have been brought over unchanged, but there are a few notable tweaks. For example, in Tower Control there are now checkpoints where the tower comes to a halt for about 5 seconds.
The biggest addition comes in the form of a new League Mode that unlocks after you achieve a B- ranking. League events are 2-hours long and your goal is to compete in teams to earn the most points possible. Considering the strict requirements to access League mode, these events are virtually guaranteed to be the most competitive.
Splatoon 2 adds another new mode, Salmon Run, and it’s incredibly fun to play. It’s a 4-player co-operative mode playable online where your goal is to survive three waves of Salmonid creatures. In order to beat a wave, you’ll need to defeat special boss Salmonids that release golden eggs. These eggs are then brought to a container in your base, and you need a certain amount to pass.
What makes this mode so thrilling is just how unpredictable it can be. It’s basically a mix of Gears of War‘s Horde mode with dynamic elements seen in Valve’s Left 4 Dead series. One wave might be sunny with a low tide, while the next a thick fog emerges and the tide rises significantly. As well, Salmonid waves have no set patterns, meaning one moment can be breezy easy, while the next you’re overrun with bosses. In Salmon Run you really do have no idea what’s coming next, and that’s half the fun.
Better with the Nintendo Switch Pro Controller
Splatoon 2 is perfectly playable using the default Joy-Con controller, but serious games should consider the Nintendo Switch Pro Controller. That’s the controller I used for the majority of my review as it substantially improved my performance. The Pro Controller is a classic grip-style wireless controller that feels great in your hands and has a rock-solid build. As well, the analog sticks, face buttons, and shoulder buttons are larger than the Joy-Con’s making them easier to push.
In a fast-action shooter game like Splatoon 2, precision matters big time. Using the Pro Controller I was able to aim better, and was more accurate in my shots. Getting a Pro Controller is a big investment, but it’s definitely worth it in the long run. Not only has it tangibly improved by Splatoon 2 performance, but also other Switch games like Mario Kart and Zelda. For more on the Nintendo Switch Pro Controller be sure to watch the video embedded in this review!
Splatoon amiibo compatibility
As is tradition with big new Nintendo launches, along with Splatoon 2 comes a new wave of amiibo. These, along with the earlier released Inkling Boy, Inkling Girl, and Inkling Squid are all compatible with Splatoon 2. Tapping a Splatoon-series amiibo figure will make them appear inside Inkopolis Square within your game.
From there you’re able to save your customized gear, weapons, and setting to your amiibo figure. Then, when you visit a friend’s house, you can play using the same gear you were using at home. Splatoon fans and collectors will surely not want to miss out on these new, well-design Splatoon 2 amiibo figures.
SplatNet – Nintendo Switch Online app
Along with Splatoon 2 comes the much-anticipated new Nintendo Switch Online service. It’s an app you download on your smart phone and enables you to invite friends to your games. It’s also the place to go for voice chat when playing private matches with friends.
The only game-specific service available right now is for Splatoon 2, and it’s definitely worth downloading the app for. Inside you’ll find detailed stats on gear and performance, including your score and Win/Loss record over the last 50 matches. There’s also a fun section to compares your lifetime inkage to real-world attractions like the Great Pyramid of Giza. Most importantly though, you can order special gear through the app and then purchase them from a merch dealer in your game.
There is one big downside to the app, and that’s how voice chat has been implemented. First of all, you can only use voice chat in private matches, ruling out chat in regular Turf War matches. Also, during matches themselves there’s no option for group chat―only team chat. So if you want to talk to everyone in your group at all times, you’re out of luck. Another hiccup is you can’t channel game and chat audio into the same earphones, which seems like a major oversight. Despite the voice chat flaws though, the app is worth downloading for the other features.
Splatoon is undoubtedly the best new IP to come along in years. Who would have thought that Nintendo would be the one to revolutionize the shooter genre, but they certainly have. Splatoon 2 builds upon its predecessor in every way, making it an easy recommend to all Nintendo Switch owners. One of the best things about this game is its universal appeal―Splatoon 2 is for everyone. It’s fun, it’s exciting, and it’ll keep you entertained for years to come. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to play Splatoon 2 for another 30 minutes … I mean 3 hours.
+ Exhilarating gameplay
+ Bright, colourful graphics
+ Oozing with personality
+ Salmon Run is a blast
+ Nice selection of new weapons and abilities
+ Fun, new gear customization
+ Hero Mode is a big improvement over the last
+ Can play casually or competitively
– Still can’t change weapons between matches
– Voice chat on the app is underwhelming
Lasting Appeal/Replayability: 5/5