Splatoon 2 Review
Note: This review was originally published just covering the single player without a score. The online portion has been added and we’ve now added a score.
Splatoon was a runaway hit for Nintendo, its success in Japan has especially taken everyone by surprise. But outside of that, Nintendo managed to do what it does best and take a genre of a game and do their own thing with it. The original Splatoon was a success despite the platform it was released on. So for a second outing, Nintendo really didn’t have to do too much, but they did anyway. Splatoon 2 manages to take the original game, beef up the weak points of that game and make everything else great even better.
The original Splatoon’s single player mode was the weakest point of the game, it was just along for the ride and there wasn’t much to do in apart from getting from point A to B. Dubbed Hero Mode, Splatoon 2’s single player is a tonne more dynamic, with more to do, more to see and collect, and has more interesting ways to get around the diverse worlds.
We won’t spoil the game’s story, but it follows up two years after the original, and if you’ve been following the game’s social media lead up you’ll be up to speed already. For those who haven’t, the game has Sunken Scrolls hidden on each level which fills in the blanks, and there’s also a new item, Sardinium which makes the power-up system a bit more tricky.
The game’s single player story also prepares you for the game’s online in a much better way and makes the experience a whole lot more fun as well. Each stage, after a certain point, is now centered around a weapon that Sheldon picks for you to ‘test’, each of the level’s challenges shows you different ways, naturally to use the weapons and pick apart their strong and weak points of each weapon. You can then go back and try the level with the other weapons, with the game keeping track of which levels you beat with which weapon. The levels all introduce a new element, elaborate on it and then mix it with everything else you’ve learned to keep the difficulty increasing as you go along. You’ll want to cash in your eggs you collect and Sardinum as well to power up your weapons as well to keep ahead of the curve.
There’s also an incentive for those who only want to play multiplayer to try out the single player at there are food tickets which can boost your cash or experience earned in multiplayer. You can redeem them with Splatoon’s returning character, Crusty Sean, at his new food van. They’ll last for twenty matches before you need another one, but they don’t stack either. It’s good to see more cross-pollination between the modes and ensures even if you’ve got some downtime from the online modes there are reasons to tackle the single player.
Sadly, the boss fights at the end of each world are probably the only downside, they’re all well designed and funny characters, but beating them is just a matter of process and doesn’t take very much to take them down. You should be able to knock over the single player portion of Splatoon 2 in about six or seven hours. For those who want to collect everything and use each weapon on each stage, you could probably triple that estimate.
Splatoon 2 differs from the first in that it allows you to play the game with a number of controller configurations whereas (outside of split-screen, which has been removed here) you had to the Wii U GamePad to play the game. Luckily here you can play the system in a couple of different ways in both docked and undocked modes. While docked, the ‘default’ way to play would be with the two Joy-Con attached in a grip or separate.
With the Joy-Cons separate, the right controller is used for the camera and it just doesn’t really work it requires you to move your hand way too much, bending the wrist the wrong way. Every other method of control allows you to use the gyro to fine tune your aim, but this way is just way too hard. The best way to play is with the Pro Controller; it’s perfectly suited for the game and the controller is a ton more comfortable.
So what about in handheld mode? Thankfully the Switch is a lot lighter than the Wii U GamePad. We actually had to look that one and its hard to believe but it is. Even still while being comfortable enough, after a while you’ll tire of carrying the thing, especially in single player where movement and objectives are more dynamic than in multiplayer where you’re just shooting the ground or people. Each of the different play styles, docked and undocked can be tweaked with different settings independent of each other
Whether you’re playing the game in handheld mode or on the TV there’s one thing about the game that is the same and that’s how good it looks and how fast it runs. The game is a rock solid 60fps the entire time, except for in the Inkopolis Square which acts as the game’s hub. Go back and grab the Wii U gamepad and compare, it’s a thing of beauty on the Switch’s screen. Like the original Inkopolis Plaza, there’s a whole lot more going on there like not-Miiverse messages, mini-games to check out and stores in which to upgrade your look and your armament. The billboard laden square looks terrific and alive. The billboards, the hive of activity going on there- it’s all terrific. If you’re not keen on walking around everywhere looking for shops, you can access all of the game modes through a menu instead.
Upon first glance, you might not think Splatoon 2 looks any better than its predecessor until you actually go back and look at the original. Splatoon 2 has better character animations, it runs at a higher resolution docked, it’s more vibrant and just has more of a gloss to it. Even then ink itself seems more realistic, or as realistic as fictional ink can be, it’s now like toothpaste with the little glittery flecks in it.
The tunes in the Splatoon universe play a big part of the game and so far its been pretty good, mostly because Hero Mode is using a lot of tracks from the first game but remixed. It’s not all a recycle job, but it’s not as ‘fresh’ as it could have been. If you’re hoping to get more out of your Splatoon amiibo you bought for the first game, you might be a little bit disappointed here. Like the figures themselves, in a lot of ways, they’re more cool than actually functional. You can save your loadouts to your amiibo, to quickly swap on the lobby screen, as well as befriending the amiibo characters, which lets you take photos with them. On top of that, bonus gear is given for the first scan, then every 5 levels after that, but at least with the original amiibo you’ve seen these before, we’ll update the review should the new amiibo do anything different.
Oh you can also pose for photos with your amiibo, like such;
The real reason you buy Splatoon 2 isn’t for the single player but of course for the multiplayer. Nintendo with the original Splatoon took the shooter genre and did their own little thing with it. Splatoon 2 doesn’t do too much to disrupt that and instead focuses on improving the gameplay, the experience and adding some new modes in.
There’s a lot more out of the box compared to the original game too. There are now 8 maps in total, two of them are from the original game but they have been augmented with new ideas from single player to make them feel new. Likewise, the online maps now rotate every two hours as opposed to four, it’s probably still not the best idea Nintendo has ever had, but we’ll take it over four hours.
Splatoon 2 makes being an informed squid much easier too with the SplatNet 2 part of the Nintendo Switch Online app. Yup the voice chat part is a bit rubbish but Splatnet 2 is actually good and engaging. You can check your stats, see the play schedule to see when your favorite maps are on rotation but more important is the shop element where there are exclusive items to buy for your character. Don’t worry they only cost in-game currency, but if you want to be the freshest squid in Inkpolis the fashion here is the best.
There are a few problems with multiplayer that could hopefully be resolved with a patch, but at the moment they’re really annoying. Firstly you can’t group with friends and find a match. You can only join them mid-match and hope that a slot in their game becomes free. You also can’t choose to be on the same team all the time, not unless you do a private battle but then it’s all of your friends and no one else. The lack of flexibility with Splatoon 2 is probably the only thing they really didn’t improve too much between games, you can’t even change your load-out between matches, you have to quit out and then go back and possibly wait in the queue to join your friends again.
For all the fun and easy pick-up-and-play gameplay that Splatoon 2 offers there’s also a darker, more difficult side to the game and those modes are Ranked Battles and League Battles.
Ranked Battles is where you can find the Rainmaker, Splat Zones, and Tower Control mode. The whole idea of just inking the most map is gone and each mode provides a more competitive experience. You’ll start on rank C- and have to make your way all the way to A+. On the way there, when you reach B- you can play in League Battles which are even more intense and competitive. League Battles can be played in either a group of two or four players over a two hour period. The group who has the most points at the end of that win. The ranking is only displayed at the end as well so you don’t know how we’ll you’re going until the end. League Battle unlike the rest of the game also lets you change your load-out before queuing up for a match, it would be great to see that come to the rest of the game.
Everything you can play online in Splatoon 2 you can also play locally, this also does mean you can play Salmon Run at any time as long as you have friends around. For those wondering, split-screen has been removed entirely from Splatoon 2.
Which brings us to Salmon Run and if you’re like me and hear the words ‘horde mode’ and cringe a little well get ready to be proven wrong. Salmon Run is co-operative gameplay at its best, it’s amazingly fun and once you rank up to the higher levels it gets insanely hard. Communication is key, it’s one of the first Nintendo games that you really do voice chat to properly work together. Salmon Run puts you into a little island with waves of every increasing salmon coming toward your four player team. You have to kill more difficult boss Salmon to collect their eggs for Mr. Grizz. If you die you’ll need someone to splat you with ink to get back into the game, if you don’t collect enough eggs or everyone on your team dies – game over. The entire ranking system in Salmon Run is completely separate from the rest of the game but the money collected in it doesn’t and it’s a good way to farm money, at least when the mode is ‘open’. Salmon Run is also one of the game modes that you can use the Online Lounge in, but you could use any voice chat application to get things done.
Put any doubt in your mind away about Splatoon 2 being some enhanced port or 1.5 release. The improved single-player experience, the enhanced and multitude of online modes for all skill levels and Salmon Run which is just a ton of fun make Splatoon 2 the complete Switch game. The game’s style and charm are terrific and it runs at an amazing 1080p 60fps rock solid the entire time. With a year or more of updates promised and regular Splatfests planned, Splatoon 2 will among your most played games for a while to come.
Troy Wassenaar contributed to this review.