Game Review: Splatoon 2 Stays Fresh

Photo courtesy of Nintendo Nintendo has a way of taking a genre of game that could be intimidating to some players, and making it not only accessible, but fun and fresh. Splatoon 2 harnesses all that made the previous game great, while adding enough to make it new. Familiar multiplayer modes are back such as Turf Wars, and ranked modes like Rain-Maker and Tower Defense. Splatoon 2 has added a co-op horde mode called Salmon Run and a whole new single player campaign that helps newer squid-kids get their feet wet. Splatoon 2 is a great follow-up to the original that is packed to the gills with different things to do. Photo courtesy of Nintendo For those unfamiliar with Wii U’s Splatoon, Splatoon 2 once again has you playing as an Inkling kid, who is also a squid.  Inklings fight by using various “weapons” – such as water guns and paint rollers – to lay down ink and “splat” their opponents. As a kid you run around, shoot and jump. As a squid you can swim quickly through your own color ink – and this allows you to refill your ink tank which serves as ammunition.  Inkling kids favorite thing to do is engage in ink-painting battles called Turf Wars. Photo courtesy of Nintendo Turf Wars are the main attraction in Splatoon 2, being the main multiplayer mode – and the only one available to those just starting out. Turf Wars are 4 versus 4 matches that have Inklings battling each other to paint more of the ground than the enemy faction. These colorful battles are quick – lasting only 3 minutes, making them perfect for bite-sized play sessions. For those usually weary to play competitive multiplayer games, Turf Wars serve as a good way to get into competitive play – it’s not so much about “splatting” enemies, as it is about laying down ink. There is catharsis in inking enemy territory – and the visual representation at the end of each match of how successful your team was (or wasn’t) is an addictive component.  Even the results are packed with the usual Nintendo whimsy – the judges for each match are two cats, Judd and Li’l Judd. This might sound strange, but it fits in with the rich and detailed lore than Nintendo has made for Splatoon 2. Photo courtesy of Nintendo Splatoon 2 is in a fully realized world. The Inklings have their own culture, style, lingo and language. Even the starting area – Inkopolis – is filled to the brim with lore, players milling about showcasing their art or previous opponents and allies standing around so you can inspect their gear. Inkopolis also serves as a way to connect the multiplayer, singleplayer, and all of the stores and other modes together in one place. Photo courtesy of Nintendo After you get your inkling to level 2, you can start buying new weapons. Unfortunately, you don’t have much variety to start, and have to level up a bit before the widest arrays of weapons are available. There is a huge variety of weapons, and the addition of sub-weapons such as grenades or roving mines, and super weapons make for incredibly varied gameplay. You must purchase these weapons – as well as other gear – with currency you make while playing multiplayer matches. If you aren’t sure about a certain weapon, you are able to test it out before you commit to buying it. Photo courtesy of Nintendo It will take you until Level 4 to be deemed “fresh” enough to start outfitting your character. Clothing serves as more than a way to make your inkling boy or girl look cool, also having abilities that buff your character - like increased swim speed in squid form or damage resistance against enemy ink. The more you use a specific piece of gear in battle, the more abilities can unlock. These are usually random – but they can be changed by talking to a vendor in Inkopolis Square. This process can be a little convoluted, but for players who want to maximize their character’s potential, they have that option. Amiibo and the Splatoon app add additional gear options, and still other clothing can only be earned via certain game modes, like Salmon Run. Photo courtesy of Nintendo Salmon Run is the new co-op mode that was added for Splatoon 2. In it, 2-4 team up to battle waves of enemies called Salmonids for daily and monthly rewards. Each wave consists of smaller salmon-like enemies, and larger boss enemies that require a fair amount of teamwork to conquer. You get points depending on your performance – the better you do, the higher your rank, the better your rewards. Salmon Run is accessible through Grizzco, but it is only available at certain dates and times. You can’t play Salmon Run anytime you want – unless you play locally with other Switch players. Photo courtesy of Nintendo There are extensive local multiplayer options, with the ability to even set up LAN play to have local tournaments with friends. You can also connect wirelessly with friends locally to play all of the multiplayer modes, including the ranked modes and Salmon Run. This is all just for fun, though, as none of the XP, points or other progress you would usually get carry over to the main game. Also lacking is the ability to play with more than one player on the same Switch – there is no couch co-op or versus gameplay in Splatoon 2. Photo courtesy of Nintendo The single player component of Splatoon 2 is not the selling point for many, but it is surprisingly robust.  There are 27 levels over 5 sectors and each sector has its own boss. Much like in the first Splatoon, Inkopolis’ source of electricity – the Great Zapfish – was stolen by the evil Octarians, and you must help get it back. Also missing is Callie, from Splatoon’s Squid Sisters. Her cousin Marie serves as your mentor and tasks you with finding her partner.  Each level has you battle Octarians while solving various puzzles, or platforming using your squid abilities mixed with your kid abilities. The boss battles are well done, using a mixture of puzzle solving and combat. In addition, the single player serves as a great introduction to Splatoon lore and to the various weapon types Splatoon 2 has to offer. Photo courtesy of Nintendo Splatoon 2 takes everything Splatoon has and adds enough to keep it fresh, with a humor and style that is uniquely Nintendo.  With future free content planned, Splatoon 2 will be receiving continuous updates to keep its content from getting stale. Splatoon 2 is available now on Nintendo Switch.
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Antal Bokor

Antal is video game advocate, retro game collector, and video game historian. He is also a small streamer, occasional podcast guest, and writer.