Splatoon 2 Review – Didn’t Stay Fresh

Despite the obstacles of being on a poorly selling console, Splatoon was able to carve phenomenal success by “staying fresh.” It was a fresh take on the shooter genre offering new and bold ideas that the market had never seen before. It was accessible at the surface level and incredible deep for the more adept gamer’s. It was a game for everyone and it’s new idea attracted consumers. Splatoon 2 arrives for the Nintendo switch. Does the sequel push the boundaries like it’s predecessor? Has it stayed fresh? Continue reading to find out.

Splatoon 2 features a simple but fun single player campaign. Admittedly, like many other multiplayer orientated games, the single player campaign is served as an appetizer to the main course. Unchanged from the first title, the campaign features dozens of linear Mario-galaxy-like obstacles courses, introducing and familiarizing players with core gameplay mechanics of the games. Unfortunately, the singe player never evolves from being a glorified tutorial. While some stages introduce some interesting, here and there,  the designs remain rather derivative from each other. You are going from checkpoint to checkpoint, inking the area and shooting Octo’s until you reach the end. Objectives never change and there is never a drastic change up to the stage designs to keep my interest. I would loved to have a stealth mission, an escort missions, and a lot more boss-type enemies to add more variety and challenge to the experience. In my honest opinion, there is a lot of untapped potential for Splatoon’s campaign, it’s such a shame failed to deliver here.

Splatoon 2 true colors are highlighted in it’s wonderful online multiplayer. It goes without saying that most players will spend most of their time online, splatting inklings from all reaches of the world . The fundamentals from the original remain intact in this sequel. Irrespective of the mode – whether it’s Turf War or Rank – the core objective is stage control, this is achieved by covering the surface area with your respective ink. Controlling the stage with your own ink offers a number of tactical advantages. For starter, when in Squid form Inklings can conceal themselves inside the ink to avoid being seen or if need be, swiftly retreat to safety. Perhaps more importantly, stage control greatly inhibits opposing teams advances. The premise is genius as it offers an additional tactical layer on top of the usual “who can kill the most player” (in this case splat) mindsets and it allows casual players to contribute meaningfully to the team objectives.

All the modes from the first return in Splatoon 2. Turf War is perfect for casual players and newcomers as they can primarily focus on covering the stage with ink in order to win . For those looking for more variety, tactics, challenge and a test of skills – Rank Battles will be the lobby of choice with Splat Zones, Tower Control and  Rainmaker all on offer. All these modes are just so much fun. Stages and win conditions are designed so that the action is plentiful and the objective is always focused, entrenching the player deeply into the match from start to finish. It’s very easy to lose track of time. One game can turn into 5 games, 5 games can turn into 10 and before you realize, an hour has passed and you’ve had a splashing good time.

Perhaps most impressive is the level of nuance and depth to the core gameplay. Players can select dozens of weapon load-outs, each complete with their own unique sub and special weapon combination. On top of this, players can stylize their Inkling with clothing which provides buffs and additional attributes. I had plenty of fun trying each weapon and changing up my inkling to find the most suitable combination to fit my play-style. Nintendo should be lauded for the level of balance in Splatoon 2. No one weapon, sub weapon, special weapon or piece of clothing are centralizing in Splatoon 2. Nothing seems overpowered and there is always a great deal of variety in team compositions.

Unfortunately, not all is well Splatoon 2 online. There are a few baffling design choices that bog down the quality of life of the Inklings. I find it perplexing that Nintendo does not give players the option to change weapons in a lobby. I find it frustrating that I had to wait until to the timer counts to zero to leave a half empty room in order to find a new room. And don’t get me started on the convoluted method for voice chat. Perhaps I’m nitpicking, however, I do believe that doing the small things right makes the biggest differences. Nintendo should be making decisions based on what will have players staying in games and not away from them.

If you are getting tired of online matches, you can take up a part time job at Grezco to take on the Salmonids. Salmon Run is Splatoon’s take on horde mode. Here you will take on hoards of average Salmonids and boss enemies to harvest the precious eggs. Don’t dismiss Salmon Run as your run-off a mill horde mode. It is intense, chaotic, action packed and incredibly fun, especially with a mate or two helping you out. Playing Salmon Run is very much reminiscent of the old days where games were played on couches in front of the TV. Friends laughing, screaming and just having a great time playing a fun game.

Aesthetically Splatoon 2 hits all the right marks. The art design and style is top notch. The game is colorful, crisp and clean. And best of all the performance is consistently at 60 FPS. Even in handheld mode, Splatoon 2 performance never drops and the game always looks great on the small screen.

While I do have so much praise for Splatoon 2, it is very much a safe sequel. Splatoon 2 is antithetical to what made the original so magical. Nintendo did not stay “fresh” with this sequel. Many of the weapons from the first return in 2. The single player plays exactly the same as the first. The look and aesthetic is very much like the first. The original Splatoon pushed the boundaries and challenged our perception of what an online shooter can be. Splatoon 2, on the other hand, is more a refinement of the experience and does not push the series into bold new territory. It’s disappointing to see Nintendo not staying true to the originals design philosophies and opted to deliver a great but safe sequel.

However with this said, Splatoon 2 isn’t a bad game, it’s bloody great. I have over 60 hours of game time killed and there’s more to go with the consistent content update in the next year. If fun measures the quality of a game, Splatoon 2 delivers the fun emphatically and it is definitely worthy to join your Switch Library.

Images courtesy of Nintendo.