If you haven’t heard of Splatoon then really where have you been hiding? Nintendos newest IP was massively well received when it launched 2 years ago for the Wii U with critics praising its unique gameplay style, stating it was a refreshing take on the shooter genre. I for one was a huge fan of the original game, I gave it a 8.6 when I was with GamersFTW calling it a creative and addictive shooter that was fun for gamers of all skill. Two years later how have Nintendo managed to build on the hype the first game generated?
Regular battle is the first port of call when booting up the game not just because it’s the best mode but because you’re heavily restricted on activities until you reach level 4 fresh status. This mode is home to the chaotic Turf War in which two teams of four compete for control over the map by slathering it with their teams designated ink colour. Splats (kills) count for little other then slowing the enemies advance, your team position is determined completely by your painting skills. It’s a unique style of gameplay that means that players of all skill can feel they’ve made a contribution to their team.
As before only two maps per game mode are available at a one time, rotating every two hours (a positive step up from four hours) and like before it’s split players’ opinions. Personally I’m for this setup. On the downside yes you don’t have full access to the full range of maps so you can’t just play where you want. However as a plus with players having to change map and therefore strategies so often you don’t’ get situations where you’re repeatedly being dumped on by veterans camping out on a single map. It’s also very good for newcomers as repeating the same two levels for two hours helps them to get to grips with a maps layout and taking them from noob to competent quickly. Thankfully you can also now quickly return to action as you don’t have to listen to the Squid Sisters long winded news flashes every time the map changes but are simply taken back to the lobby.
Ranked Battle and League Battle; added later as DLC to the original game are now readily playable from the start. Well after achieving specified ranks in other modes. This is where the competition really ramps up, victory means climbing the ranks losing means descending it. As well as the map changing every two hours so to do the game modes. In Rainmaker teams compete over the aptly named Rainmaker weapon, Tower Control is just how it sounds, as you play for control over a moving tower and Splat Zones is essentially ‘king of the hill’ as you fight for a designated map location. These modes are much harder and require a lot more thought as each of these have a greater focus on defense so you need to plan out strategies accordingly.
Now for something new. Tucked away in a shady corner of Inkopolis Square is Grizzco Industries who just so happen offering some ‘special’ part-time work for a little extra cash. Yup sounds pretty sketchy. Accept the work and you’ll be whisked away to a secluded outpost to gather golden eggs with three other recruits. The catch is these maps and eggs are guarded by angry frying pan wielding fish monsters called Salmonoids.
Say hello to Salmon Run Splatoons own take on Horde battles, and personally my favourite game type. Enemies come at you in waves of three and to start everything feels rather relaxed, fend off the small fry, beat the boss, steal his eggs and repeat. Keep climbing the ranks though and the challenge intensifies immensely as enemies come in greater numbers and before you know it you’re facing down 5-6 bosses at once. Even the very environments are against you as water levels rise changing the lay of the land, fog descends obscuring your view and night falls sending enemies into a wild frenzy. It’s a great change of pace from the other competitive modes forcing you to play even more as a team. It’s a very welcome addition to the game, fast, exciting and keeps you on your toes.
As was the case in the previous game looking fresh in Inkopolis is everything to the Inklings. As such there are a number of stores in the squares Galleria selling cool new threads to show off online. Of course the clothing isn’t just for show. Attached to each piece of gear is an ability and a number of empty slots that unlock as you gather experience. These abilities include greater ink consumption for your weapons, stealthier ink swimming, quicker squid jumps and so much more. These skills are very well balanced, not enough to make a player feel overpowered but enough to give them a certain edge in the right situation. Spending time away from the battlefield to tinker with your gear is also fun in itself. Inklings you’ve played against appear in the square so you can check out and order their gear, plus speaking to Murch opens up a whole range of clothing augmentations from scrubbing gear to rolling for different abilities or adding extra slots. It’s so, so easy to lose huge amounts of time on customisation alone.
Now while we’re on the subject of the shops I need to mention a nifty new feature I really approve of. Sheldon the turtle is back selling all manner of ink-based weaponry from your splat rollers to your splat dualies and this time he comes with a handy ‘speed up’ button to skip though his long winded weapon descriptions. It’s just a small addition but makes such a difference, anyone who took extended breaks from the first game only to return to massive amounts of new gun updates will testify to this point.
Fans of the original game will instantly see a new change as soon as they start up. Squid TV’s change of hostesses. Meet ‘Off the Hook’ an idol band consisting of two members a childish looking Inkling named Pearl and a stylish Octoling called Marina who have very opposing personalities. Pearl has a spoilt princess like vibe, lively and excitable but blunt and short tempered while Marina has a more timid and reserved nature. Personally I was a fan of Marina from the beginning, I really liked her design and I was a big fan of the Octoling designs in the previous game so really happy to see them develop it further. The duos clashing personalities is a good dynamic making their broadcasts enjoyable to watch. Although they do have a rubbish catchphrase.
The new pair does ask the question what happened to the Squid Girls. Well standing around in the square is an Inkling who looks very out of place among this modern trendy setting. Pursue this Inkling and you’ll discover this kimono wearing individual is in fact Marie. She explains that since the last game her and her cousin Callie had drifted apart and in their absence the Octoling forces have resurfaced and retaken the great Zapfish. Now recruited by Marie as Agent No. 4 of the Squidbeak Splatoons you are tasked with quelling the Octoling menace and locating Callie.
The single player mode plays out pretty much as it did before focusing on platforming rather then gunplay. There are 30 levels that need a Zapfish liberated all of which are found by exploring a Mario-esque hub world guarded imaginative large-scale bosses including a building sized toaster and a chandelier that rains ink. The main take away from the first game was that this mode was incredibly fun but over all too soon. Well Nintendo have made amends. Levels are now longer, more varied and offer a greater challenge particularly with the Octarian AI now posing more of a threat.
Again the single player can be finished in 8 to 10 hours but that can realistically be extended nearly 10 times if you want. Sheldon now makes an appearance in single player lending you all new weaponry and upgrading it with Power Eggs and Sardinium collected in game. This means that levels can now be tackled in a variety of different ways; playing with a roller on what was originally a sniper level is a completely different experience. Rewards for multiplayer can even be obtained by replaying levels with different weaponry. All in all the story has been significantly bolstered keeping this whole mode feeling fresh and replayable
Nintendo are again supporting the game with a year of free updates. At present it has just been new weapons but if it’s like last time we’ll hopefully see some new clothing, new and (hopefully) returning maps and some game modes. Amiibos again have a say in game providing exclusive types of clothing, disappointingly though Splatoon 2 looks to have dropped the challenge modes they once held. Finally Splatfests are also making a comeback encouraging players to continually return to the game by offering up some handy treats (Super Sea Snails) and keeping the games replay value up. The first event has already come and gone as it asked the age old question which condiment is better Ketchup or Mayonnaise. So sorry Marina!
A real nuisance, and a drawback of the Switch in general, is that there is no voice chat feature per say which is ideal for this sort of game to organise your team. If you want to chat with fellow Inklings you need to download the Nintendo App and invite them on that. The downside being you disconnect if the phone goes to sleep, someone calls or you simply click to another tab. Great for tracking game stats but not worth the hassle for chatting.
I said before that Splatoon was ‘a delight to look’ and that stills holds true with the second instalment.In fact they’ve even managed to build on it. The colours are brighter, the lighting more pronounced and textures look so much sharper. Each character is loaded with charm, carrying their own unique looks and individual personalities. Ink has a fantastic glossy quality and even with so much of it littering the battlefield it manages to not hinder the games performance. I also still can’t get enough of the little ‘splosh’ sound effects as you jump into it. The soundtrack can get repetitive after sometime but it’s fun, quirky and helps build up the tension of each frantic battle. When docked the game is displayed in glorious 1080p resolution at 60 fps and so far I’ve not experienced a single drop in frame-rate online or offline. The smooth performance even remains when playing in portable mode but of course the visuals drop to 720p.
So Nintendo have not disappointed at all as Splatoon 2 builds on the original in almost every way. The frantic gameplay is slicker as are the visuals. Single player is much more fleshed out with reasons to keep coming back and Salmon Run makes a fantastic new addition, tense, challenging and highly addictive. I’ve already lost count of how many hours I’ve poured in to it. There are one or two problems such as restricted map choices and a gimmicky voice chat app but the positives far out way the negatives. Splatoon 2 is still great fun for gamers of all skill level plus with the promise of new content, updates and special events it’s sure to keep players coming back a long time down the line. A must buy for any switch owner.