The first Splatoon, released two years ago for the Wii U, is one of the most underrated games released in the last few years. The series’ second entry plays very similarly to the first game in the franchise, though a few features have been added to the franchise’s ink-spraying formula.
As expected, multiplayer is once again the primary focus of Splatoon 2 — though the game still doesn’t feature local co-op, a misstep on Nintendo’s part — with Turf War being the title’s main game mode.
Unlike most shooters, taking down the other team is typically a secondary goal in Splatoon 2 depending on what gametype you’re playing; instead, the player is tasked with painting more surface area than their opponent. The team that’s painted a greater percentage of ink on more objects with various weapons, including squirt guns and paint rollers, is victorious. Players are also able to travel through areas of stages painted in their own team’s colours as a squid, giving them greater mobility and speed.
Overall, Splatoon 2 feels like an improvement over the first Splatoon in almost every way, though most of the changes are minor. The game closely follows in the ink covered footsteps of the original, but given the first entry in the series was released on the Wii U, it’s likely many players didn’t end up experiencing the game, making it hard to fault Splatoon 2 for sticking to the same formula.
I will note that the first Splatoon’s cutesy aesthetic and often annoying soundtrack (though some players may love it) is also back in Splatoon 2 — so those hoping for a more serious tone in this sequel will be disappointed.
Squids, who then become kids, only to become squids again, now have a wealth of customization options, ensuring that each player is able to create a character that actually looks unique, complete with strange funky new hair styles. While the original Splatoon features character customization options as well, each player largely looked the same online — that’s not the case in Splatoon 2.
Players also have new ‘Super Abilities’ at their disposal, including a ‘Missile Barrage’ that can take out an entire team, and an ‘Inkstrike’ that activates on the player’s location, rather than remotely like in the original Splatoon. Other new weapons include the ability to dual-wield pistols (this is lethal), jetpacks and dodge rolls, adding additional layers to Splatoon 2’s surprisingly tactical gameplay.
Nintendo has also smartly added a Gears of War-like Horde mode dubbed Salmon Run in Splatoon 2. In this wave-based survival mode, players are tasked with outliving waves of salmon created in order to steal special Golden Eggs and clear each wave.
Admittedly, I haven’t spent much time with Salmon Run because getting into an online match requires a lengthy wait (very few people are currently online because the game hasn’t been released yet), but what I have experienced has been great and adds a welcome dose of variety to Splatoon 2.
It’s strange that Nintendo once again hasn’t put more effort into the game’s single-player campaign. While it’s improved over the original Splatoon’s glorified multiplayer training, singleplayer still feels like tacked-on afterthought designed to help players get the hang of Splatoon 2’s multiplayer.
Despite how much fun I’ve had with Splatoon 2, there are still questions that remain about the game. Nintendo seems to have ambitions to turn the title into an eSports competitive title, with the Inkling Invitational at E3 2017 being a test run for the concept. While Splatoon 2 evolving into a legitimate competitive title would be great for the game’s longevity and community, it remains unclear if it has the staying power to hit this mark.
The groundwork is there, with League Battles allowing players to form teams with friends and a separate, more competitive Ranked Battles playlist. Matchmaking in Splatoon 2 is also surprisingly balanced and matches players up against foes of a similar skill level in almost every match I’ve played so far.
Unfortunately, it’s still unclear how the Nintendo Switch’s online app, which facilitates battles with friends and voice chat, will work. Regardless, opening a separate app on a smartphone in order to use in-game chat, as well as additional competitive features through the game’s SplatNet feature within the Switch’s upcoming app, is a cumbersome method of approaching online play. Nintendo says that the app is set to be available when Splatoon 2 is released on July 21st. We’ll have more on Splatoon 2’s SplatNet feature in the coming weeks.
Oh, and don’t even try to the play Splatoon 2 with motion controls enabled: just turn them off as soon as you boot up the game because they’re awful — unsurprisingly, the Switch’s Pro controller is the best way to play the game.
With all this said, I’ve had more fun playing Splatoon 2’s multiplayer mode than I have with a multiplayer video game in years. It’s accessible, yet has a level of depth to it hardcore players will likely find surprising.
Splatoon 2 is available on the Nintendo Switch on July 21st.