The battle between Inkling Turf and the Octarian Army has a fresh lick of ink in Splatoon 2. With new weapons, specials and multiplayer stages, the game’s online multiplayer is set to create waves of enjoyment on the Switch. And while Hero Mode may not be the star of the show, it still paints the town blue, purple and green with its spectacular level variation and interesting weapon choices.
Two years have passed since Nintendo’s EAD – now known as EPD – department introduced the gamer community to the squid-come-kid third person shooter on the Wii U. But the Squid Research Lab hasn’t rested on its laurels, working hard to welcome new weapons, modes and stages to the sequel’s arsenal. There was always worry that bringing back an original title that was so well-loved by fans would become less of a sequel and more of a straight Switch port, but Splatoon 2 works hard to keep those fears at bay. Make no mistake, Splatoon is back – and the sequel is served at its freshest.
Before we dive into online multiplayer, Splatoon 2’s Hero Mode has improved tenfold. What was originally an average side showing or distraction from the shooter’s main serving is now a fully fledged single player campaign. With five worlds and approximately 32 levels, including bosses, Hero Mode has the same amount of levels in the sequel as it did in the original, yet it feels much different. With the help of our favourite loquacious military crab, Sheldon, players will be able to trial nine different weapons, including the new Hero Dualies and the Hero Brella, over the course of the campaign.
According to sources in Inkopolis, the Great Zapfish is missing and has presumably been kidnapped by the Octarian Army. On hand to quell the situation, Marie – one of the Squid Sisters from Splatoon – is concerned about her sister, Callie, who mysteriously disappeared around the same time as the Great Zapfish. She enlists you, Agent 4, to help her fight the Octarian assault through all 32 levels in order to restore the Great Zapfish and find her sister.
Featuring three to six levels in each world, Hero Mode still requires a nose for puzzle solving. Levels are uncovered by spraying ink across the terrain after swimming, sliding or jumping to each area by various means and can be completed in any order. Of course, defeating the boss of each world will unlock the path to the next as per usual. Once you’ve begun a new level, Sheldon will require you to use one specific weapon for research or, as I like to put it, data harvesting purposes. The poor crab’s so excited about the prospect of raw data he’s probably remarketing your favourite weapons to you on your social feed. Have they trademarked Squidbook or Inkedogram yet? Perhaps they should.
Players will be able to get to grips with the Hero Shot, Roller, Charger, Dualies, Brella, Splatling, Blaster, Slosher and Brush weapons throughout its levels. While this is a real game changer, it’s as much a boon as it is a hindrance. For instance, using the Charger or Blaster requires the stealth and sneak approach, yet the Brush and Brella will often need a close encounter to show off its unique moves. Due to the ever changing levels and weapons used, players will need to adapt quickly to different scenarios and rapidly learn from their mistakes. I’ve had many a RIP in the latter levels, which require a deft touch and plenty of forward-thinking, believing I can easily wipe out those filthy Octarians in just a few hits.
Until players complete the level with the weapon Sheldon chooses for you, you won’t be able to freely choose any of the others in your arsenal. Although it can be cumbersome to the player, it greatly encourages you to use weapons outside of your comfort zone and discover exactly how each one can work to your advantage in the heat of Octarian battle. And as taking on each new level will require a different weapon, there’s a whiff of excitement in the air knowing that puzzles can’t quite be solved in the same way. Between hidden walkways, switches, ink rails, bouncy pads and revolving metalwork, there’s enough level variation to get your squid in a twist.
Of particular merit in Hero Mode is the ability to upgrade your equipment, including the eight other weapons available to you. By collecting Power Eggs – the in-game currency – and the new item named Sardinium, players can upgrade their weapons, ink tank and purchase two new types of bomb; curling and autobombs. Just like Sunken Scrolls, which return in the sequel, one Sardinium can be found in each level, as well as around Hero Mode’s level sectors. For those who enjoy a solid single player campaign, Splatoon 2’s Hero Mode certainly delivers.
At the heart of Splatoon 2 is Inkopolis Square. The refurbishment has meant improvements to the weapon, headgear, clothes and shoe shops, which can be quickly visited by toggling the L and R buttons and a neat fast-forward button for Sheldon. There’s no need to walk around Inkopolis either as every location can be fast-travelled to when opening the menu. Jumping into the Lobby means players can fight in one of three battle modes; Regular, Ranked and League. Turf Wars, the classic 4v4 mode to see which team can cover the most ground with their ink, appears in regular battle with the same lobby interface as the first game, albeit with a few nuances. With no noticeable lags or glitches, the sequel’s online multiplayer is just as swift as the first.
In order to unlock ranked battles, players will need to gain enough experience to reach level 10. To speed this process up, you’ll be able to purchase salty snacks with special tickets found in Hero Mode at Crusty Sean’s food truck. These delectable sounding snacks can boost your experience gained or the money received after each battle, allowing you to level up or buy better weapons quicker. Unlike Turf Wars, Ranked Mode sees the Rainmaker and Tower Control modes in full swing. While these modes are accessible to anyone, reaching B-level or higher will grant you access to the League Battles, where only the pros dare to seek battle. Unfortunately I’ve yet to test how well Nintendo’s special Voice Chat app fares in ranked battles with friends, but it’s still a crying shame Voice Chat cannot be used with those who aren’t registered as friends.
With the sequel comes all new online multiplayer maps. While Port Mackerel and Moray Towers make a return, there are six new stages to discover. Particular favourites are Sturgeon Shipyard, with its revolving platforms and moving vehicles to block players from moving around seamlessly, and The Reef, which has a neat underpass and overhead bridge for stand-offs between teams. Inkblot Art Academy is perhaps one of the weakest stages as it centres around one main central plaza with very little ability to manoeuvre to hidden places. Even Musselforge Fitness, Humpback Pump Track and Starfish Mainstage have their own unique features to make each map memorable and rotate every two hours. Of course, there’s still a 50 percent chance the algorithm will choose the same map each time, a gripe that can’t be easily solved.
At the end of its DLC haul, Splatoon had many different weapons to choose from. In Splatoon 2, firm favourite weapons such as the Aerospray, Splattershot and Slosher can still be chosen alongside new weapons, including the Clash Blaster, Flingza Roller, Goo Tuber and the Dapple Dualies. Using the Dualies will allow your Inkling to dodge while firing, a super handy technique when in the line of fire. The Brella, which is promised to come at a later stage and can be used during Hero Mode, is also home to a unique move that enables the release of a floating umbrella head followed by a trail of ink. Plus, the sequel also houses new special attacks, including splashdown, tenta missiles and inkjet. And although there may need to be some fine-tuning and rebalancing of the special attacks, they are great fun to use with or without motion controls.
Featuring an all new 4-player team mode, Splatoon 2 introduces Salmon Run. As an employee of Grizzco, you’ll be trained in two separate tutorials before venturing out into the field. Your main mission is to obliterate three waves of Salmonids and collect the illustrious Golden Eggs. Only by working as a team will you be able to overcome these highly dangerous odds and live to tell the tale.
At face value, Salmon Run will give each player one pre-selected weapon, which rotate after every wave. Players will have to help each other out by signalling where the enemy is or by calling for aid at the press of a button. For those who have watched The Lord of the Rings, imagine Salmon Run as the Battle of Osgiliath. As Faramir and co. brave the onslaught of orcs and the fleshy-faced Gothmog, Osgiliath is torn apart and surrenders itself to the orc army. Those Salmonids are your orcs, hugely outnumbering your team, as they slide their way into your domain. Faced with an impossible challenge, Salmon Run is an energetic mode that requires you to really work together as a team. A great addition to an otherwise superb game.
As a game that never forgets to mock itself, Splatoon 2 is a must-buy for any Switch owner. Although it will always have its niggles, the base game feels much more satisfying than the original. With the promise of more weapons, stages and Splatfests in the future, Nintendo has certainly refined its colourful shooter and has plenty more ink in the tank.