Review – Splatoon 2
Splatoon 2 is Nintendo’s latest must-have for the Switch. Announced during the Switch’s reveal event, Splatoon 2 was one of the most anticipated titles for the console/handheld hybrid. It’s an example of the ‘new Nintendo’. One that understands and embraces modern gaming, but does so in its own unique way.
Splatoon 2 shows a Nintendo at the top of its game, which means it’s one of the best games you’ll play this year. Hands down.
I’ve been playing it solidly in the month since its release and it only goes from strength to strength. A few frustrating niggles have revealed themselves in this time, but they’re minor enough annoyances to be ignored rather than be too detrimental.
If you’re unfamiliar with Splatoon, here’s the low-down. Primarily a multiplayer shooter, Splatoon 2 puts you in the sneakers of an Inkling. Inklings are pure Nintendo. Part squid, part kid and all attitude, the Inklings live for the Splatfest and for inking everything in sight. I do have to mention that I use the term ‘shooter’ pretty liberally when it comes to Splatoon.
Taste the Rainbow
Sure, you have a gun and you do shoot, but there are no bullets. Instead, you’re firing ink which sticks to nearly any surface and covers the arena in your team’s colour. The aim of Splatoon’s main multiplayer mode – dubbed Turf War – is to cover the largest area with your team’s colour within the time limit. All the while the opposite team is trying to do the same.
Every match becomes a colourful tug-of-war as both teams are vying for the most coverage possible. Teamwork is essential and that’s where the first of Splatoon’s annoyances come in. The Switch’s voice chat solution via a smartphone is needlessly complicated and inelegant. Both are the antithesis of Nintendo’s ethos and design philosophy that has served it well for decades.
Trying to get into chat with your teammates, in my experience, is usually met with dead air. It seems like nobody can be bothered with trying to make the chat work and I don’t blame them.
Another frustration that works against the team-based design is the inability to change your Inkling’s loadout during matchmaking or during a match. You’re not even able to see what each of the other player’s has equipped until you’re in the game. This is a huge oversight. Successful Splatoon squads need to have a good balance of weapons, supers and sub-weapons. Without being able to see what anyone else has or change your own equipment it’s a real crap-shoot.
Thankfully, most of the weapons and equipment are pretty balanced, but on the occasions you come across a team with great synergy and you’re on a team with three Splat Rollers, you’re going to have a bad time. Newly introduced in Splatoon 2 are dual-wield (or akimbo if you prefer) pistols which allow your Inkling to dodge roll instead of jump.
Do You Feel Takoyaki Punk?
Getting used to the new weapons took a while, but for me, I can’t use anything other than Splat Dualies. Don’t get me wrong, the Splat Roller, sniper, bucket, paint brush and all the others have a place and I’ve seen some amazing plays with them, but they’re not for me. That’s part of the beauty of Splatoon 2. Unlike something like Overwatch, there are no specific heroes or classes, but your weapon, sub-weapon and gear truly define your role within the team. Splatoon 2 is a class-based multiplayer shooter, Nintendo-style.
In that vein, Splatoon 2 starts out simply and gradually introduces more elements to you, both through the single-player and multiplayer modes. The learning curve begins gently, but the skill ceiling is pretty high at this point. It’s easy to become a decent Splatoon 2 player, but it takes patience and a lot of skill to transcend the ranks.
Mastering movement is the biggest factor in how proficient a player you’ll become. In kid form, the Inklings are fairly mobile, can jump (unless dual-wielding) and are slowed when they fire their weapons. By pressing ZL, the Inkling enters its squid form and moves much, much faster. Provided your colour of ink is covering the area. Without ink, the squid will plop helplessly onto the ground and be as useless as, well a squid on the floor.
If there’s ink though, the squid dives into it and can move around speedily, stealthily and across vertical surfaces. Diving into the ink as the squid is how you replenish your ink supplies too. Getting the rhythm of shooting, alt-firing, jumping, traversing as the squid and unleashing your super becomes all too important at high-level play. It’s all too easy to run out of ink and find yourself surrounded by the opposite team. Get hit by one too many globs of their ink or run out of your own colour to stand on and you’re splatted.
The single-play mode will equip you with the necessary skills to jump into a multiplayer match, but sadly that’s all the campaign is good for. Each mission boils down to a rinse and repeat structure based around a new mechanic. You’ll be doing well if you can play more than a handful of levels in a row. Boss battles are a highlight, but they’re laughably easy and fall victim to the good old video game rule of three.
There is some merit in playing the single player in order to unlock weapons and the like, but really, you’ll be spending most of your time in multiplayer. Finding a match is quick and easy and the population seems fairly robust at this stage.
Both the visual and audio designs of Splatoon 2 are a real treat. It looks gorgeous and runs silky smooth. The bright colours burst from the screen in either handheld or TV mode and whichever way you choose to play, it’s viable. Whereas ARMS is impossible to play in handheld mode, Splatoon 2 actually shines. Whether you’re playing with motion controls on or not, Splatoon 2 is best-played however you like.
Sleeping With the Fishes
I’ve even taken to connecting my Switch to my 4G wireless dongle and playing multiplayer on my commute to work. It’s an excellent way to pass the time in the morning and to blow off steam after a hard day’s work. Splatoon 2 is perfect to pick up and play for short periods of time, but by the same token, I’ve lost hours to it.
Like Overwatch, there’s a relatively limited amount of content in Splatoon, but because what is available is so good you’ll barely notice. Timed events like the Splatfests and Salmon Run help to keep things interesting too. Ranked and League play is also available for those who want to take their game to the next level. Be warned though, the players in these modes are very, very good. Don’t be surprised if you get wrecked.
Nintendo is certainly on a roll at the moment and Splatoon 2 is only the most recent example in an amazing renaissance for the Japanese powerhouse. The Switch has reenergised Nintendo and if we continue to see titles like Splatoon 2 coming out, the Switch can only be a smashing success.
Aside from Mario Kart 8, Splatoon 2 is the best multiplayer available on Switch right now. There’s absolutely no reason not to own it if you own a Switch. And if you don’t, you’re seriously missing out.
Splatoon 2 was reviewed on Nintendo Switch with a digital code provided to PowerUp! by Nintendo.
Game title: Splatoon 2
Game description: Traditional 4-on-4 turf battles return in Splatoon 2 for Nintendo Switch, along with new stages, new fashions and new weapons!
Squidkimbo Assassins! - 8.8/10
All the colours of the bow man - 9.7/10
Salt 'n Pepper Squid - 10/10