Splatoon 2 is a colorful, unique addition to your Switch library.
And definitely a welcome one. Even though the Switch has only been available since March (“available” being a bit of a stretch), the space between the release of each triple-A title feels like a drought. Breath of the Wild powered the launch, and it felt like ages between it and Mario Kart 8. Now, Splatoon 2 comes along three months after that, and breathes life into the console in a way that supplemental indie games can’t seem to achieve.
What the heck is Splatoon?
If you’re not familiar with the franchise, Splatoon takes place in a world (possibly ours in the future?) populated with beings that can transform at will from humanoid to squid form. The youth of this species are heavily invested in paintball-esque competitions involving myriad weapons that spread ink, which allows them to travel quickly in squid form and slows down opponents. The result is a wildly colorful and unique franchise that not only captures the family-friendly spirit of Nintendo but also appeals to more hardcore gamers who prefer combat games filled with upgrades and customization.
It’s quite fun!
Fast-based combat and strategy drives the squad-based matches. The latter stemming from the need to spread ink across a map to increase your team’s mobility and limit your opponents. Sessions range from casual pick-ups to more intense ranked matches, and you earn experience to level up and unlock more weapons and gadgets for your arsenal (and there’s a LOT of them). You also earn in-game currency to purchase new clothing items, which grant significant bonuses to your character. The idea of playing matches to level and unlock items has become a staple for online combat games, sure, but collecting caps and sneakers as opposed to new fatigues and body armor is a fun twist.
There’s also a single-player mode with a fairly light storyline. It’s not a terribly interesting and often-times tedious, but it’s a decent enough break from the intensity of online matches. It also affords you the ability to chase down more unlockables and increase your odds of success against other players.
There’s also new features that evolve the franchise into something great.
Salmon Run is the new horde mode in which you team up to hold ground against waves of incoming enemies. It’s possibly my favorite way to play the game, and it offers a co-operative alternative to all the PvP. However, Nintendo made the frustrating choice to make the mode accessible only during certain hours of the day. If balance is a concern, instead reduce the earned currency and increase require experience to earn bonuses. As it stands, I’ve got about an hour after getting home from work to play Salmon Run. That sucks, as I’d often rather be playing that than squad matches or the lacking single player campaign.
And sadly, the frustration with the game doesn’t end there.
Splatoon 2 contains a lot of strange decision-making. An un-skippable intro greets you every time you boot up the game. Maps for each multiplayer mode rotate every few hours, so the game needlessly makes you wait as it announces them. Why not just throw every map into a randomizer?
Next is Nintendo’s constant need to fill games with annoying chatter and force you to sit through it. Each of the gear and clothing venders are horribly wordy and none of the new weapons require the pages and pages of explanation you can’t avoid. There’s a difference between bridging the gap between casual and hardcore players with extra (preferably optional) explanation, and then there’s shackling the entire audience to endlessly-tedious hand-holding. Splatoon 2 tends to wander too frequently to the latter. All you want to do is get back to splatting enemies, and the experience is bogged down significantly.
No, I’m not going to talk about the voice chat debacle.
It’s terrible. Nintendo is deathly afraid of adults and children interacting, so they created a chat interface that no one will want to use. That’s about it.
Final thoughts on Splatoon 2.
It’s not perfect, but it’s a damn fun game. The amount of things to unlock and ever-evolving strategy in using those unlockables in matches is addicting. The colorful, attitude-filled game world, the music and overall feeling of something unique and special would almost be reason enough to pick up Splatoon 2. But wrapped up in this hypercolor package is a surprisingly deep, far less casual gaming experience than you’d expect. It’s definitely a worthy purchase, and worth adopting early, rather than waiting for a sale.
Are you playing Splatoon 2? Tell us what you think in the comments below, or join the discussion in our FORUMS!