Splatoon 2 is quick to encapsulate and intrigue players with a weird and wacky world that’s filled to the brim with fun moments. Players will quickly find themselves either charmed or turned right off by the game’s absurd, post-apocalyptic setting in which squid kids partake in an endless war against humanoid octopi, but therein lies the game’s strength: Splatoon 2 excels in providing a truly unique shooter experience in what arguably has become an over-saturated and stale genre. Rather than following the trend of being dark and edgy with adult themes and an emphasis on realism, Splatoon 2 knows what it wants to be and dives head first to set its own style and trend of just plain fun — and make no mistake, this game is pure fun.
Although not in the traditional sense, Splatoon 2 is an absolutely beautiful game. It takes full advantage of the Nintendo Switch’s graphical capabilities; its vibrant colour palette figuratively and literally bounces off the walls, the quirky character design is nicely executed and the overall game design helps players to immerse themselves in the game. Players who didn’t play the original Splatoon may find themselves somewhat overwhelmed by the amount of information thrown at them when they start playing the sequel, with a lot to see and do from the get-go, but the game is extremely easy to get the hang of; unfortunately, leaving the game alone for an extended period triggers an unskippable cutscene that, while informative, can quickly turn into a frustrating button-mash.
The game’s central hub, Inkopolis Square, immediately calls to mind Destiny’s Tower, but with splashes of colour and, well, Nintendo. Players can use Inkopolis Square to customise their squid kids with new clothes, shoes and weapons, or to set up their next adventure in the campaign or online lobbies. The detailed models and textures within the Square are excellent, and make hopping around the area very pleasing and a blast to wander around. It’s a rather small feature in the grand scheme, but having an aesthetically pleasing hub for players is a nice touch that should not be taken for granted.
The game’s campaign is a rock solid entry, bringing 32 simple single-player missions over five worlds, each of which has its own hub. These hubs are delightfully pleasing in and of themselves, and provide an extra challenge for the player to tackle: the levels’ entrance portals are hidden, forcing players to ink up whatever they can and figure out how to traverse every square inch of the overworld to find each entry. One would think that these challenges would get frustrating, but they were charmingly fun and remained as such throughout the campaign.
Once players find the levels’ entrances, they are confronted by some of the most surreal concoctions the mind could conjure, full of floating platforms arranged like a maze for the player to navigate in order to move through the level. Each level’s end goal is the same: collect all of the available Zapfish. Once the player collects all of the Zapfish in each world, they can proceed to the next one. The campaign does hold the player’s hand for the most part, and players can choose to barrel their way through each level, stopping only to eliminate those enemies that stand directly between them and their next checkpoint, if they don’t want to take it slowly and enjoy what it has to offer.
Although the campaign is quite easy and can be completed in a very short six-hour time frame, none of this detracts too heavily from the game’s overall appeal and entertainment value. Players can grind up ink rails like pro skaters, or slip and slide up inked walls to get around which further adds to the fun, and there are plenty of opportunities to test out a wide array of weaponry in order to gain some familiarity before heading into the multiplayer playlists.
The multiplayer mode is the meat of the game; it’s where players will spend most of their time with Splatoon 2, and it’s what will keep them coming back for more. Players can jump into one of a variety of game modes from Inkopolis Square, with the eight available maps rotating in pairs every two hours; this keeps the game from becoming stale, and stops maps from overstaying their welcome as they have in other multiplayer shooters where the players often choose the same few maps over and over. The returning Turf War game mode, which sees two teams of four simply attempting to cover as much of the ground in their own ink within three minutes; it’s a simple concept, but it’s a unique world of fun for beginners and Splatoon veterans to enjoy. The matches have a way of never feeling the same, as players can use different guns for different strategies, or use different routes than a previous match to cover more territory.
Upon reaching level 10, players gain access to ranked battles, offering a more competitive style of play in the form of three new game modes: Rainmaker, a capture-the-flag style game mode whereby teams vie to carry the Rainmaker weapon into enemy territory; Splat Zone, a zone-control mode that sees teams fighting for control over the titular splat zone and is won by the team that covers that area in the most of its own ink; and Tower Control, an inverse tug-of-war that sees players firing ink at a central tower in an attempt to push it entirely into the enemy territory. While Splat Zone is the easiest of the three ranked modes, Rainmaker and Tower Control do require some teamwork, which is hampered by the Switch’s lack of consistent, viable communication options. Despite this, all three modes provide an enjoyable, fun experience in addition to Turf Wars.
The multiplayer is quite solid overall, with a very addictive premise that will keep players coming back consistently. It does have a few nagging issues, though, highlighted by the fact that players are bound to their matchmaking lobbies once the game mode has been chosen, and going back to Inkopolis requires them to reload the game entirely. Additionally, players have no options to select weaponry within the game lobbies, so they’re stuck with any weapons chosen once they enter a lobby. These aren’t game-breaking issues, but rather annoying nonetheless.
Although it may be an acquired taste for some players, Splatoon 2 is a brilliant game whose colour, life and vibrancy will keep even the most hardened of players coming back for more. The campaign is a solid entry that won’t disappoint, even though it is essentially icing on the cake for what is primarily a multiplayer game. The multiplayer is incredibly solid and just pure fun, offering a variety of game modes and caters to different styles of play, keeping the game feeling fresh for quite some time. Though the matchmaking and game lobbies aren’t quite up to par, the rest of the game is so well done that it’s easy to overlook these issues.
Colourful, corny, and a world of fun, Splatoon 2 is a fantastic game that offers a truly unique experience to the shooter genre, sure to delight returning fans whilst also pleasing newcomers. With impressive visuals and gameplay, along with an addictive fresh take on multiplayer; the game delivers on the lofty expectations set by its predecessor and will undoubtedly keep players coming back for months, if not years.
Splatoon 2 was reviewed using a retail game disc purchased by the reviewer.