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Review: Splatoon 2 (Switch)

Splatoon 2 is a third person shooter and platformer from Nintendo. The previous title received quite a lot of acclaim for its fair gameplay and vibrant visuals. Promotional material for this sequel suggests more of the same, but with a few improvements. As someone who enjoyed the first entry quite a bit, that sounded rather enticing to me.

*Copy purchased by reviewer.

Splatoon 2

Story

Splatoon 2’s new custom protagonist is unfamiliar with the events of the original game. Naturally, this means the game explains what few details players need to know to understand what is going on.

Once again, the Great Zapfish powering Inkopolis has gone missing. It also seems that Callie of the popular “Squid Sisters” idol duo has disappeared between games as well. The likely culprit is a gang of Octarians, long-time enemies of the Inkling race. After learning about the situation from Marie, it is up to the protagonist to rescue both from the Octarian menace.

Adventurous players can find collectibles as they explore, and each of these unlocks a bit of lore. As the first game already explained how the world of Splatoon came to be, these new blurbs focus more on providing a backstory for new elements. Many cover the Salmonids, new newscaster Pearl, or even businesses moving to a new part of town.

Splatoon 2

Each shopkeeper has their own personality and their lines change as players rank up. NPCs seem like window-dressing, but the news broadcasts and lore pages occasionally mention their exploits. Even the multiplayer has its place in the lore. This all helps make the world feel more like a place where people live rather than just an arena for gameplay.

Of course, most of the writing still has a silly tone. There are a ton of puns in the game, both in the story mode and beyond. This lighthearted nature makes the game easy to enjoy casually while enthusiasts will find more as they explore its depth. Nintendo is known for making games everyone can enjoy, and this title certainly seems to live up to that.

Splatoon 2

Graphics

Much like its predecessor, Splatoon 2 makes great use of bright, vibrant colours. During battles, each side uses a colour of ink that compliments that of the other team. This ensures that every battle is pleasing to the eye. There is also a decent variety of environments in the game. Players can visit a variety of locations from platforms over clear blue waters and murky seas to construction sites and indoor sports arenas.

Also like the first game, this sequel features an extensive assortment of clothing options. Whether players want to look cute, cool, or combat-ready, there is a full line of apparel to suit their taste. The round designs of the Squiddos themselves happen to look great in just about anything. Players also have the option to change their hairstyle, eye colour, and legwear independent of their gear.

Each piece of equipment comes with a set of skills, so players may find they have to decide between fashion and function. However, there are systems that allow players to reassign these buffs. Anything can become just as useful as anything else, though players may need to grind first.

Splatoon 2

When players take damage, an ink splatter motif appears around the edge of their screen. When something locks onto them, an arrow appears that lets them know the shot is coming. The containers on their backs show remaining ammunition and a clearer visual appears when they switch forms to refill. Their hair defies gravity and shimmers when specials are ready. In multiplayer matches, the status of every character is always visible at the top of the screen. Overall, the game does a great job of letting people know what they need to with just a quick glance.

In the previous game, the controller displayed a map. Since the Switch is just one device, players need to press a button to bring it up this time around. This feature is only available in competitive multiplayer since figuring out where things are is part of the challenge in other modes.

Whether the Switch is on the dock or not, the frame rate seems to be stable enough. During my time with the game, I never noticed any glaring visual issues.

Splatoon 2

Audio

Players of the original game probably know what to expect here as not much has changed and many tracks return. Music in Splatoon 2 is a weird sort of synth-heavy pop and rock with catchy beats. Many tracks also seem to feature vocals, though they blend in with the rest of the cacophony. It sounds strange, but it is oddly enjoyable. Songs with a faster tempo begin to play near the end of a match, raising the tension.

There is voice acting in the game, though it is all gibberish. Still, speech patterns resemble an actual language rather than just random, annoying nonsense. Much like the music, these voices also undergo heavy digital modulation. This all helps give the game a distinct, otherworldly feel.

Every weapon makes noise, revealing the presence of nearby attackers. Ink also makes a sound when it hits the ground, letting people know when someone is targeting their area. When a shot hits its mark, it makes a distinct sound which helps with aim and makes blind fire feasible. A chime sounds when specials are ready and weapons beep when they reach maximum charge. As with the visuals, there is plenty of audio feedback in the game to help keep players aware of everything that is going on.

Splatoon 2

Gameplay

In Splatoon 2, players play as squid-like beings and fight battles with ink. There are quite a few weapons available in the game for launching this liquid. Whether players prefer rapid-fire at medium range, sniping at a distance, or powerful melee, there is something for every style of play. Unlike the previous game, players will use a full assortment of weapons in the single player stages. Most stages require using specific weaponry on the first run, but the player has free choice when playing through again.

Throughout the campaign, players take on a variety of Octarian enemies. Some fly, some operate stationary turrets, and a few even have the same abilities as the protagonist. Players will also face a number of bosses on their quest. Each of these unique foes have gimmicks that players must figure out and overcome to emerge victorious. While not as intense as the multiplayer, this combat still provides a decent amount of casual fun.

While Inklings normally take on humanoid form for combat, they also have a squid form. When in this form, players can travel through their ink at high speeds. Not only does this allow for quick escapes, it also lets players scale structures and makes it more difficult for enemies to spot them.

Splatoon 2

The single player stages feature quite a lot of platforming and obstacles unique to this mode. Rather than just slaying enemies, levels usually revolve around reaching the goal at the end. On their way there, observant players may find hidden areas containing collectibles. Most platforming challenges are not especially tricky–the focus of the game is on combat, after all. Still, navigating these paths adds some variety to the gameplay which leads to a better experience overall.

In addition to the campaign, solo players may also engage in a musical mini-game. While two lanes of notes scroll from right to left, players must hit buttons in time with the music. One of these two lanes will accept input from any of the directional and face buttons while the other requires the use of the shoulder buttons. The low quantity of note types may make it sound easy, but the game will ask players to hit multiple buttons at once. There are 42 tracks and 2 difficulties available, and hard lives up to its name.

Splatoon 2

Multiplayer

Obviously, this is the main component of Splatoon 2 and the reason most gamers will buy it. Players will not have a hard time finding a match.

As before, the standard game mode has players painting the arena with their ink. Whichever team covers the most area wins. Defeating enemies not only temporarily takes them out of commission but also causes them to paint the area in your colour. When a player steps on their enemy’s ink, they slow down and take damage. Overall, there are quite a few tactical aspects to this gameplay that separates it from most other shooters.

Ranked matches have a variety of different goals. These include king of the hill style bouts and a few sorts of payload delivery games. As these battles focus on controlling a smaller area, fights become more intense and kills become more crucial. The game divides player rankings into brackets, ensuring players go up against those who have proven themselves to be at least of comparable skill. While these are still team games, players receive bigger rewards for individual effort.

At any given time, there are two maps available for each mode. The selection of maps cycles throughout the day at set intervals. When the maps change, the game modes for ranked play change as well. This is an odd design choice, but it hardly seems to be anything to complain about. Every now and then, Nintendo will host a special “Splatfest” series of battles. While these are functionally the same as regular Turf Wars, there is a bit more to them. Prior to the event, players will need to join one of two factions. Throughout the Splatfest, players will always team up with other members of the same faction. Once it is over, all participants receive special rewards with the winners and MVPs getting larger quantities.

Despite the wide variety of weapons available, they all feel balanced. Just about every fight feels fair. Still, since Splatoon 2 is a team sport, you may find yourself at the mercy of the matchmaking.

Splatoon 2

For those who are not particularly competitive, the Splatoon 2 also offers cooperative play. “Salmon Run” is a wave based survival mode. During these matches, players must defeat AI enemies and collect the eggs they drop within a time limit. When this task is complete, the team still needs to survive until the clock hits zero. If someone falls, their comrades can revive them by shooting them with ink. While the rules are different, the core gameplay mechanics stay the same.

As players continue to rack up victories in Salmon Run, they will rank up and face harder challenges. At higher difficulties, these matches can become rather intense. Adding to the difficulty, only certain weapons are available for this mode. Weapons swap randomly at the start of each wave, helping keep the gameplay fresh. Different waves may also feature events like high tide or the appearance of special spawn points. There are quite a few types of Salmonids to slay, and some of their gimmicks are pretty interesting. Overall, this mode is a fun, challenging way to take a break from competitive battles.

Splatoon 2

 

Verdict

I have enjoyed my time with Splatoon 2 so far, and I intend on continuing to play. The story was nothing spectacular, but not every tale needs to be. The silly gags and solid gameplay still make it worthwhile. Of course, the visuals are striking and the audio is catchy as well. The original is beloved for a reason, and this sequel kept what worked while making improvements. This is a game I feel comfortable recommending to anyone who owns a Switch. It is a must-have for multiplayer enthusiasts, and the single player is not too shabby either.

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