|Release: July 21, 2017|
|Players: 1-8 Player|
|Screen Resolution: 720p-1080p||Cartoon Violence|
by Sean Engemann
Upon first glance you might mistake Splatoon 2 for its predecessor. You start in Inkopolis Square, a small plaza hub filled with fashionably fresh Inklings, the entrance to a multiplayer hosting skyscraper in front, and a strip mall of weapon and gear shops to the side. It looks like the original Splatoon. It sounds like the original Splatoon. But after diving into Splatoon 2 for a few hours and slathering yourself in everything the game has to offer, you’ll easily agree that this is a full-fledged sequel and worth every penny. Despite a few design flaws from the first game that still haven’t been addressed, Splatoon 2 is fully loaded with addictive content whether you prefer playing solo, cooperatively, or competitively.
The single-player campaign is much more robust than before. It’s still a secret agent adventure to save the Great Zapfish, sending you through a series of challenging platforming missions, but the level design has been kicked up a notch. Most stages focus on a singular environmental element, such as ink rails, expanding sponges, giant bowling balls, and blown up bouncy mats. The boss fights are epic and will test your maneuvering and ink splattering skills. The solo campaign is also a great place to get acclimated with the different weapon types and cling to some favorites. Scouring the stages and smashing all the crates could also yield Inkling lore scrolls, Sardinium, and exchangeable food tickets.
Take those tickets to Crusty Sean’s food truck parked in Inkopolis Square, one of the best new additions in Splatoon 2. The tempura battered shrimp chef will trade your tickets for delicious deep fried dishes or tasty beverages, providing a bonus to experience, cash, or weapon upgrade potential for the next twenty multiplayer matches. Don’t head into battle without one of these buffs active.
As in the original Splatoon, there are shops to buy headwear, shirts, and footwear. Each one is run by eclectic sea-dwelling proprietors. The selection is updated daily. Each piece sports slots to house random abilities, such as faster run or swim speed, larger ink tank capacity, and shorter respawn time, among many other things. Casual players may just buy for looks, but the more competitive crowd will ditch style in favor of substance. Wealthy players can take their gear to Murch, a shady sea urchin who can have abilities wiped from clothes for a chance at preferred abilities rolled. You can even toss him some Ability Chunks to tailor the gear to your exact specifications. All this provides dedicated players the means to fine-tune their gear to maximize its efficiency in matches.
Across the street from the shops is The Shoal, the lobby for local play where you can setup competitive battles with other nearby Switch owners or work together offline in Splatoon 2’s new co-op mode, Salmon Run. This horde-style survival mode is insanely fun, challenging, and provides a refreshing new entree to the menu. It also introduces an entertaining, yet vicious, new enemy race, the Salmonids. Survive waves of enemy fish and snag as many eggs as possible to build your score and snag exclusive loot. Cranking up the difficulty percentage raises the speed and intensity of the match. Communication is vital in this mode, so until the SplatNet 2 service for the Nintendo Switch Online mobile app is released (it was not available for this review), local play is the best option. It appears, however, that there is no split screen functionality, and local multiplayer requires each player to use their own Switch with their own copy of the game, which is disappointing. The online version of Salmon Run is only available at specific times, rather than 24/7, an odd and unfortunate design choice by Nintendo.
But let’s move down the street to Inkopolis Tower, where the competitive action takes place. Turf Wars, the bread-and-butter of the Splatoon series, has a decent selection of new, as well as renovated, maps to coat with brightly colored ink. Cover more of the map than the opposing 4-player team within three minutes to claim victory. Old favorites, such the Splat Roller and sniping Splat Charger, return to the weapons arsenal, along with some interesting new ones. The Splat Brella is my personal favorite. This shotgun-style weapon opens into an umbrella to protect against incoming fire. I was also impressed with the Splat Dualies, one of the new and highly hyped weapons in Splatoon 2. Its high rate of fire and added Dodge Roll ability make it an enticing choice. I’m actually surprised the evade maneuver did not come standard for all weapons, instead being exclusive to the Splat Dualies. The maps themselves are tightly packed with walls and other barriers, playing heavily with height variations. I’m happy to see some of the environmental features from the single-mode slipping into a few multiplayer maps, with an ink rail here and a sponge block there, however I think a bigger incorporation of these and other hazards from the solo mode would have given the multiplayer maps a lot more character and tactical elements to exploit.
My biggest criticism comes from Nintendo’s insistence on not providing a means to swap weapon loadouts before and during a match. Maps are randomly selected, and having the opportunity to grab a Roller with complimentary gear for a map with narrow corridors or a Charger for maps with strategic perches, as well as switching out sets depending on your teammates loadouts, is practically standard practice in competitive shooters. If Nintendo is keen on sending Splatoon 2 to eSports, they better think hard about adding this function.
Nintendo is standing by its adoption of motion controls, and Splatoon 2 makes a great case for its incorporation in shooters. They can be switched off in favor of the traditional dual analog stick configuration. However, after a few hours working the motion controls and adjusting the sensitivity to my liking, going back to conventional controls felt clunky and archaic. I actually blended both styles, using the right analog stick for horizontal panning and the motion controls for glancing my reticle up and down. This was ideal, especially in handheld mode, because it allowed me to keep the screen fixed in front, with only slight tilts required to find my target above or below me.