No-one else can subvert an established genre like Nintendo. With the original Splatoon on the Wii U, Nintendo took the very well-established shooter genre and turned it on its head. No longer was the focus of the gameplay on how many kills you could get or how many headshots. Instead, it was about how much of the map you could cover in ink before the timer ran out.
It also replaced the comparatively muted palettes of your average shooter with vivid neon, which made the entire experience feel fresh.
However, because Splatoon was a Wii U exclusive it, didn’t quite attain the audience that it deserved. But with Splatoon 2 — a Nintendo Switch exclusive — Nintendo has a mainstay for it’s new console — one that’s quite the boon for those looking for a shooter with a difference.
Splatting good fun
Thankfully Nintendo hasn’t deviated too far from Splatoon‘s winning formula for the sequel in terms of gameplay, but what it has done is made sure that it’s looking very much its best. Running at full 1080p and 60fps docked and 720p/60fps in handheld mode, Splatoon 2 is quite the sight to behold. On TV, the neon paint palette pops from the screen, with the madness of the paint splatting in multiplayer filling your screen with joyous colour.
But the same can be said for playing the game in handheld mode too. The resolution may drop to 720p HD but when you’re playing such a good-looking game on the bus or, heaven forbid, on the toilet, Splatoon 2 has never looked better.
There’s something rather special about the personality of Splatoon 2 as well. Whether you’re messing around in the main hub of Inkopolis, diving into the brilliant single-player, or merely catching up on the latest in ink-themed news, the game is chock-full of charm, and not just from Marie (the original Squid Sister) or the new characters: Marina and Pearl.
It’s the game’s inventive weaponry that really helps build that appeal too. The sequel offers plenty of new items for player’s arsenal, ranging from the Splosher, which is basically a big bucket of paint, to the paint pistol Splat Dualies that make us feel like we’re Lara Croft in Inkling form. There are also some tweaks and enhancements to existing weapons, like being able to jump with the Splat Roller to dish out a vertical paint path, opening up a quick way to scale the map.
All the new weaponry and tweaks make this sequel feel fresh; it’s not like Nintendo has ported the original game to the Switch.
Attention to detail is key
And that attention to detail is translated to other elements of this sequel too, especially when it comes to the fact it’s existing on a hybrid console. If you want to, you can use the motion controls to guide your splatting in Splatoon 2, but the motion controls can be quite intense in handheld mode – especially when you’re on the move. But interestingly, Nintendo has built in separate settings for docked and handheld modes, meaning you can adjust the sensitivity of the motion controls and other features for each version of your Switch experience. It’s all been very well thought out and makes this feel like a Switch innovation, again, rather than a port.
What is a little annoying is needing to press a button to check the map status and warp to your buddies’ location on respawn rather than looking down at the Wii U gamepad, as you did in the original game. It’s not a dealbreaker as such, but it will affect those who are very familiar with Splatoon. It’s also not always obvious that you can peek at the map if you’re brand new to the Splatoon series.
But that’s almost the case with Splatoon 2. Unless you immerse yourself in the game’s single-player, known as Hero Mode, everything the multiple has to offer is up for you to discover.
Hero Mode is much more than a tutorial
But don’t dismiss Splatoon 2’s Hero Mode as a glorified tutorial. Yes, it exposes you to the raft of new weapons on offer, teases you with a plethora of new traversal techniques and allows you to build your Inkling skills before heading into multiplayer battles, but it’s got much more to offer than that. The same level of depth and devotion paid to the multiplayer is applied to Hero Mode, with each level incredibly well-crafted and each new element introduced skillfully.
It’s not something you’re going to lose days to, but there’s plenty there to get stuck into when you’re wanting a little solo action.
Plus it’s one of the only ways to earn tickets that you can spend at Crusty Sean’s food truck in Inkopolis Square. It’s from Crusty that you can buy food and drinks that increase the rate you earn XP and money in the multiplayer games, as well as snacks that increase other elements such as your bomb defence, ink recovery and more.
We’ve not spent long enough with the game pre-release to notice how much this will affect the game’s multiplayer, but it’s an interesting gameplay element to introduce in this title.
Into the inky depths of multiplayer
But of course, it’s the multiplayer that’s at the centre of Splatoon 2’s winning formula and this time around there’s a brand new mode to compliment the existing Turf War mode, Ranked and League Battles – and of course, the limited time Splatfests.
On paper, Salmon Run sounds like your average Horde Mode, with teams of four players faced with surviving increasingly difficult rounds of enemies. But it’s far more addictive and well-crafted than that. To progress through each level, a selection of bosses will have to be defeated in order to release their precious eggs, which need to be collected and placed in a basket. Each wave will require more eggs to be collected within the time limit, and the higher you crank the difficulty (with varying degrees between 5% and 200%) the more bosses and minions you’ll have to tackle.
Communication, teamwork and some tactics are crucial to survival, which will definitely be helped by the fact the Nintendo Switch chat app is inbound – at last. In fact, it’s launching the very same day as Splatoon 2 on July 21, so we’ve not yet been able to give it a test out.
But despite that, Splatoon 2’s Salmon Run mode is utterly addictive and downright tricky in the best of ways, making it a welcome addition to the more traditional multiplayer rota.
Of course, Turf War is back too and it’s still focused on painting as much of the map in your team colour as you can within the time limit, all the while taking out enemy Inklings. There’s nothing revolutionary about the mode between this and what it was like in the original Splatoon, but Nintendo is very much sticking to the old adage of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.
But the multiplayer isn’t totally without flaw and the problems are particularly shameful because they’re similar issues to those players had with the original game. For starters, map rotation isn’t quite what it should be, with our matches taking place on the same map multiple times in a row. It’s frustrating as you feel like you have very little control over what you’re playing unless you’re the host on a local match.
Then there’s the matchmaking itself. Despite logging on at the specified times by Nintendo – in order to guarantee high player counts pre-release – we still had serious issues finding matches with enough players to get cracking. And to add to that frustration, you still can’t quit out of a match, leaving you helpless to do anything than waiting for the timer to tick down or restarting the entire game.
Hopefully this will change when the game launches in full, but it’s a frustration that was definitely prevalent with the original game, and isn’t a good sign for Splatoon 2.
Is Splatoon 2 good?
Splatoon 2 is so close to being a masterpiece that it’s almost frustrating. A few little flaws really hold the game back from being an absolute must buy for the Nintendo Switch. Hopefully Nintendo’s tendency to offer regular free DLC updates for the series will mean this is a game that eventually blossoms into the game it so has the potential to be, but for now you’ve still got a brilliant multiplayer title with an excellent single-player offering — you’ve just got to look past a few idiosyncrasies.
Splatoon 2 is out exclusively on Nintendo Switch on July 21.