For all intents and purposes, Nintendo’s Wii U was a failure – so a lot of people missed out on a great selection games. Because of this, Nintendo have been more than happy to slap a “Deluxe” sticker on Mario Kart 8, bundle it with all DLC packs, and roll about in a second round of profits on the Switch. It’s no surprise then to see a Splatoon sequel that looks almost identical to 2015’s Wii U release. But is Splatoon 2 just sporting a new coat of paint, or is there more beneath the surface?
If all you do is jump in for a few hours, you’d be excused for thinking it was nothing more than Nintendo doing the bare minimum to move the game onto their newest platform. Once again you’ll notice the giant Zapfish in the main city square has gone missing, that the single player mode revolves around finding and returning it, that a pair of presenters let you know the rotation of the maps, and that your main online mode – Turf Wars – is back.
10 hours later though, and you’ve probably delved into the unique single player, progressed in Turf Wars, unlocked the Ranked Battles (and therefore 3 new game modes), and dipped your toes into Salmon Run – if you’ve been lucky enough to play when it’s available. There’s a lot to do inside Splatoon 2, you just might not be able to see it all.
At any point in time you have two maps in rotation on any one game-mode. Turf Wars is your go-to and is always available, and Ranked Battles rotate between one of three modes. Every two hours the maps change, and the game mode available in Ranked Battles gets swapped out. If you’ve got a loose gaming schedule, it may be some time before you see a new map, let alone a new game mode.
Oddly enough, Nintendo have upped the ante a bit further and made the availability of Splatoon 2’s only co-operative game mode even stranger. Salmon Run is pitched as a job for fictional company Grizzco. They need fish eggs, and it’s up to you and three others to collect them from mutated fish and their mutated bosses as they crawl up from the sea. Survive three rounds and deliver your quota of eggs, and you’ll be rewarded for a job well done.
What makes the availability weird is that the game mode is only open sporadically. During the time I’ve had available for review there have been moments where it has been closed for days at a time or open on strange hours, like between the hours of 12am and 12pm. I’ve managed to get a few games in, but restricting the mode in this way is something that needs to be remedied as it’s one of the best modes in Splatoon 2.
Despite this, the game is an insane amount of fun. As mentioned earlier, you’ll be spending hours with only Turf Wars available to you. The aim of the game is to cover the map in your team’s coloured ink. To do so, you’ll need to work together to cover anything and everything between your spawn point and the middle, and then get inventive with how to push the enemy back to start covering their side.
There’s a huge strategy involved thanks to the numerous different weapon types which are simply too varied to list. You’ve got your standard fast shooting/low damage weapons if you prefer to avoid enemies and focus on painting the world, your slow shooting/heavy damage weapons if you prefer to get up close and personal, and everything in between. Your next focus is to ensure you keep an eye on the clothing you buy, and try to match the abilities they unlock to cover any weaknesses you might have.
Every item of clothing comes with a set number of question mark badges. When you earn enough XP, a random ability takes the place of one of the badges. These range from reducing spawn time, getting more use out of your weapon before having to refill it with ink, being able to trigger your special weapon sooner, and more. Customisation is key when it comes to clothing, and if you particularly like the look of something but don’t like the abilities attached, you can always pay to clear them and try again. There’s no wrong way to play when it comes to Turf Wars as long as you’re playing as a team. It’s all about finding the right weapon and clothing for your play-style.
The same can be said for the three game modes available in Ranked Battles. Rainmaker sees you fighting for a mega weapon in the middle, with the goal of delivering its payload to the opposing team’s base. Tower Control involves painting a small tower with your colour, and standing atop it once painted causes it to move towards the opposing team’s base. If you lose control, it starts moving back towards the center of the map. Lastly, Splat Zones has a section of each map that needs to be coloured for as long as possible in your team’s colour. Each mode is incredibly manic, and should you manage to get your rank for any of these modes high enough, you’ll unlock the League Battle mode – if that’s even possible.
There’s not too much that can be said about the single player story section of Splatoon 2. It’s good – great even – but it’s not why you’re going to pick the game up. Taking inspiration from the 3D Super Mario titles, each stage has something unique going on, hidden collectibles to find, and amazingly creative bosses. The biggest issue here is that the game was designed to be a fast-paced shooter, and the single player is much more of a platformer. The controls can sometimes get in the way of what you’re trying to achieve, but it still manages to be enjoyable.
Speaking of controls, there’s going to be a huge split in what is the right way to play Splatoon 2. Some will defend the analog sticks for aiming, while others will rely on the comfort of the Pro Controller with aiming done by analog stick and motion controlled fine-tuning, but it’s a simple fact that grabbing a JoyCon in each is the pinnacle of perfection. I remember feeling frustration at using motion controls in the first game, but now that my hands are separated and I have a JoyCon acting like a laser pointer, it’s just science. If you want to be able to compete, you need to get used to this control scheme.
Despite the flaws found in the rotational maps and modes, the seemingly always closed Salmon Run, and the fact that you can’t back out of a lobby if you accidentally launch into another round, Splatoon 2 is ridiculous fun. Turf Wars last 3 minutes, and it only takes seconds before you launch into another. Action is fast-paced and exciting in all modes. The characters look incredibly charming, and the colour-splatted maps look stunning. With ongoing support from Nintendo in regards to new weapons, maps, modes, and regular community events, Splatoon 2 looks to have a bright future ahead of it.
Reagan received a digital copy of Splatoon 2 from Nintendo for review.