Splatoon 2 is a sequel to an original game that never got the love it deserved. An accessible and family friendly online multiplayer shooter for the Wii U, Splatoon took a focus on bright neon colours and short match times based on painting large environments over twitch enemy combat, and ended up combining them into one of the most unique titles on the system.
Splatoon 2 is more of the same; sometimes for the better, but often for the worse. It’s still just as fun as ever, and it’s an overall more well-rounded package, but many design holdovers from the original hamper Splatoon 2 and left me scratching my head at the reasoning behind certain design choices.
At its core, Splatoon 2 is still the same as its predecessor. A multiplayer shooter, but instead of shooting enemies, players paint the walls with their team’s neon colour. By transforming from a kid into a squid in the ink splattered across the map, you can travel faster, hide, and recharge your own supply of ink. Players only need to shoot enemies if they want to lower the number of them currently in play, or to force a few seconds of respawn. It’s a short 3 minute burst of fun, colourful chaos.
That much remains unchanged in Splatoon 2. Nintendo have thrown in new weapons and maps, but you play with the same core game mechanics. Turf war, the main multiplayer mode from the original Splatoon, returns and once again takes centre stage. Most of your time playing Splatoon 2 will likely end up being these same, short team-based versus fights, with victory decided by which team covered the larger percentage of the map in their colour of ink.
Single player is considerably expanded in sequel, with a shift towards platforming stages where you need to use ink to traverse maps and fight big, over-the-top bosses. While none of them are particularly tough, and the environmental puzzles usually boil down to spraying ink on a surface then swimming up it as a squid, it still felt a lot more substantial than the virtually non-existent single player offering in the first game.
One of the most enjoyable new mode additions in Splatoon 2 is Salmon Rush, a 4 player co-op Horde Mode where players have to use their ink to fight off waves of incoming angry fish. While it’s an awful lot of fun, it also exemplifies perhaps better than any other game mode my issues with the sequel.
Where Splatoon randomly switched out which multiplayer maps were available every two hours, Splatoon 2 applies this same system to whole game modes. As Salmon Rush is a co-op mode, it’s best enjoyed with a group of four friends on voice chat working together. But most of the time when I log into Splatoon 2, the mode isn’t available for online play, and I have no way of predicting when it will become available. I have to just hope my friends are free, one of us spots the mode is available, and that we can all get online in time to play.
Also, there are some additional design choices in Splatoon 2 that make no sense in a modern online shooter. You can’t switch weapons between matches without completely quitting out of online play and going back to the main menu of the game, you can’t see weapons your teammates pick before a match starts, meaning you can’t modify your weapon selection to ensure team balance and avoid a full team of roller players getting matched, and weapon availability is randomised, so ranked players may drop down in the rankings just because their prefered weapon isn’t available during a play session.
This isn’t to say Splatoon 2 isn’t a hell of a lot of fun to play, but it’s fun with a baffling list of caveats. It’s fun in spite of itself, often not because of itself.
Splatoon 2 is polished. Everything about it feels deliberate, but I don’t understand half of the choices made with it. It’s an odd game I love and hate and enjoy and get maddened by.
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Release date: Out Now
- Polished gameplay
- Improved Game Modes
- Addition of local multiplayer
- Randomised mode access
- infuriating online setup
A polished online shooter that’s deeply enjoyable in spit of itself, not thanks to itself.