Splatoon was the perfect game on the wrong console. After years of fans pleading with Nintendo they brought a new IP to the Wii U, it’s just that the audience never pitched up. Now they’ve brought all that addiction and fun to the Switch in the form of a sequel. It’s time to return to Inkopolis Square to splat things up.
Things have changed a little since last you visited Inkopolis Square. The first thing you’ll notice is that your original hosts, Marie and Callie, are missing. Marina, a trendy DJ, and Pearl, a cheeky princess wannabe inkling, have taken their place to introduce you to the world of Splatoon 2 and the various wonders that surrounds it. As before they’ll introduce you to the regular, ranked and new league battle stages, but more on that a little later. There is much to explore!
Inkopolis Square is your hub to the various modes available in Splatoon 2. It’s a living breathing world in that it’ll have new inhabitants every time you visit, each with their own custom message and details of each particular character – it’s based on profiles of people who are currently playing Splatoon 2 online. If you’re new to it it might be a little confusing at first, which involves a little bit of exploring. Once you’ve tracked down the various upgrade shops, multiplayer lobby and so forth you’ll have easy access to all areas via your map. So where to first? Where any player should start off is with the single player mode.
What’s that? You weren’t even aware that Splatoon had a single player mode in the first game? For whatever reason Nintendo never really promoted it, but in the sequel you’ll be visiting a place called Octo Canyon. It’s made up of five unique areas with several stages in each level to teach you the ins and outs of Splatoon 2. It’s a great breeding ground for up-and-coming inklings, but also hosts some fantastic levels and boss fights for veterans. It’s here where you’ll find Marie who is searching for a Great Zapfish. She needs you, Agent 4, to help her catch it. You’ll spend about five hours here to complete all that’s there, then it’s off to the meat of the game – multiplayer.
Selecting the right weapon that works for you is crucial to evolving into a good player, so it takes a bit of time to learn what your strengths are.
The presentation hasn’t changed all that much from the first game. Once you’re in the lobby area you’ll have access to Regular Battle, Ranked Battle, Friends, Private Battle, League Battle and Online Lounge, which was unavailable due to voice chat not yet being live at the time of writing. Regular Battle is where most of your fun will take place, and is at first the only area that allows you to play online anyway. Turf War, the mode you play in Regular Battle, is a lot of fun. The aim is simple – cover the biggest percentage of the area with ink in three minutes. The team with the highest percentage walks away victors. Within the simplicity lies much of its depth.
Selecting the right weapon that works for you is crucial to evolving into a good player, so it takes a bit of time to learn what your strengths are. Not that great at aiming? A roller might be your weapon of choice. More of a camper? Go for the Splat Charger. The new Splat Dualies weapon is great for players who prefer more agile movements. A press of the B button and a direction will have you strafe to either side, something none of the other weapons allow you to do. Each weapon comes with its own set of stats made up of Range, Damage and Mobility. Attached to each main weapon are sub weapons and a new special weapon.
Sub weapons are tricky to use and take time to master. A splat bomb is in essence a paint grenade, while the sprinkler will spit out blobs of paint in a circular fashion to help you cover a bigger area of the surface. There are many other sub weapons to make use of, but using a sub weapon costs a huge amount of paint. On the back of your inkling you’ll see a tank that indicates the level of paint available to use. To refill it you simply press in ZL button to morph into a squid, and dive beneath your own colour paint. This refills the tank with ink and, while in the squid form, you’ll also move much faster. End up in the paint of your foes and it’ll kill you. Knowing when to transform and how best to use it comes with time, but before you know it you’ll be zipping through the paint like a pro. Special weapons work a little differently.
Don’t get cooked, stay off the hook!
As you paint the surface a special gauge will fill up in the top right corner of your hud. Once filled you press the right analogue stick to activate your special weapon. These special weapons can have you inkjetting through the air to nail foes from above or have you send Tenta Missles to lay waste to the opposition. There are several other special weapons at play, but what makes these particular weapons so priceless is that they do not use a drop of paint in your tank. For a few moments you can keep your finger firmly pressed on the trigger without having to once consider the levels of the ink in your tank, which is something you’re constantly doing. There are other small and important tricks to learn to become a better player.
Knowing where the opposition splatted their bright coloured paint is key to deciding where you should attack next. Unlike the Wii U, where you just glanced down to your Gamepad to see the map, you now have to press the X button to have the map pop up. It’s just about impossible when you’re in the thick of it and found that I mostly got a look at it when respawning. Do I miss the map on the Wii U? Yes, yes I do. Your map has another important function, and that’s using a super jump. Before you respawn (and your map is open) you can super jump and join one of your team mates, instead of having to swim there, which saves time. Buying the right gear (head, clothes and shoes) come with their own unique stats that can make you swim faster in ink, increase your bomb defense, speed up your ink recovery and many other attributes. It’s up to your personal preference to buy the right gear. Win and you’ll gain XP to level up. Should you want to take Splatoon 2 a little more seriously, levelling up is very important.
To play a Ranked Battle you need to level yourself up to level 10, but be aware, the players in Ranked Battle are ruthless. The mode we had access to in our review was Tower Control. There’s a tower in the middle of the map that, once occupied by either team, will move towards the opposition territory. Get the tower to move to its final destination to win. It’s much easier said than done. My team and I got mauled in under a minute in my first game. Your focus is not placed on the amount of surface you cover in ink, but rather the speed at what you can get to the tower and dispose of other inkling threats. Team work is essential. If the game ends up in a draw, with the tower not reaching either end, it’s decided on the ink covered on the map. So, once you have 20 seconds left it’s best to leave the tower and cover the stage with as much ink as you possibly can. It’s very tough, but should you manage to level yourself up to a B- (you start on C-) you’ll have access to League Battle. Unfortunately I couldn’t get into enough ranked battles to make it that high, so I can’t comment on that new mode. Something I did sink my teeth into was the new Salmon Run mode.
Splatoon 2 is the perfect shooter on the perfect console.
Think of it as Splatoon 2’s own horde mode, but with the typical Nintendo wackiness attached to it. Up to four players can co-operatively take on waves of enemies. Before entering the mode you’ll be put through a strict tutorial whereby you’re taught the basics, as well as the eight unique bosses that’ll attack you. Your task is to defeat a boss Salmonid and collect golden eggs when they drop. Each wave provides you with a target number of eggs to collect. Players are constantly attacking bosses, collecting eggs and helping other inklings to achieve that same thing. You do however only take part in three waves at a time, but every time you enter another set of three waves the difficulty increases. These battles take place on maps that are surrounded by water – change the level of the water and the layout of your map changes. I fell to my death numerous times, as inklings can’t survive in water. To add to the randomness of it all you’re supplied with a random weapon, so best you get good at a variety of weapons before taking this mode on.
A new coat of paint, but some bubbles here and there
There is however one big problem I experienced in Splatoon 2, and that’s the time it takes to find a game. Turf War, which is arguably the most fun, had me waiting the least time as there were more players playing it, while Ranked Battles had me playing a mere 4 games in an hour of trying. When you consider that you get to play for 3 minutes at most it becomes a test of patience. I expect this to change up once the game launches, as was the case with the original game on the Wii U, as there are currently a very limited number of players enjoying it online.
Should you want to try something else there’s a basic, yet entertaining, music rhythm game to try out using the Splatoon 2 soundtrack. Or walk up to the random red postbox in Inkopolis Square. It allows you to doodle on your Switch screen or use a controller to paint pretty pictures and post it to social networks. Amiibo support also returns. I used the older amiibo that granted me some special in-game gear (much more powerful than the entry level stuff you buy early on) as well as the ability to save a certain gear and weapon setup to that amiibo. Lastly there’s Crusty Sean, the pun-ridden lobster that sells you food. When playing the single player mode in Octo Canyon you’ll discover hidden tickets. These tickets give you access to food that helps you level up quicker in multiplayer games. It’s a good boost too as it’ll increase your levelling up XP or cash rewards by 50% or double, depending on what you eat.
It’s the first time that the Splatoon series has appeared on a portable console, and it plays gloriously. It allows up to eight players to LAN in an offline game, but unfortunately I could not test that out. The online games I played came without a hitch, though I did prefer using the Pro Controller instead of the Joy-Cons, which I feel can be a little twitchy for precise aiming and other movements. Joining Friends online was an easy task, even without voice chat yet being made available.
Splatoon 2 is the perfect shooter on the perfect console, and it’s an incredible amount of fun. If you’ve been looking for something competitive on the Switch then look no further. This is the splash of colour you need in your life.