The squids are all right: Splatoon 2 brings ink-shooting mayhem to Switch
Kid-friendly shooter joins Zelda, Arms, Mario Kart on Nintendo's Switch console
When Splatoon came out for Nintendo's Wii U two years ago it was judged to be an enjoyable third-person shooter, but what was truly interesting about the game was how it knocked the genre on its head.
Trading paint rollers and ink guns for frag grenades and AK-47s, and featuring cartoony teenaged human-squad hybrid characters, Splatoon was a shooter that gamers of all ages could sink their teeth into. But for Nintendo it was more than a kid-friendly Call of Duty; the gaming giant had a successful new intellectual property on its hands for the first time in years.
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And that IP has now been integrated into Nintendo's strategy for its new gaming system. Splatoon 2 carries on the paintball-inspired mayhem of the first game and dovetails nicely into the company's plan to regularly release original titles from its tentpole franchises to support the hybrid console/portable Switch.
While Splatoon 2 doesn't offer any major innovations over its predecessor, that's not necessarily a bad thing. The Wii U was a disappointing seller, so the new title for the Switch will reach gamers who missed Splatoon the first time around. And the game remains fast-paced and fun, with a surprisingly enjoyable single-player campaign to go along with the multiplayer maps.
The main attraction is undoubtedly the multiplayer. Players will start by engaging their avatars, called Inklings, in four-on-four Turf War maps, where the goal is to cover more of the playing field with your team's ink colour while preventing your enemies from doing the same. You will start off with a simple ink gun before getting access to paint rollers — good for inking up large swaths of the playing field — long-range rifles and dual pistols.
You can turn from a hip teenager to a small squid at the press of a button. Squids are great for swimming through areas of friendly ink, allowing you to get around quickly and get the drop on unsuspecting foes. Watch out for enemy ink, which will slow your squid down.
The Turf War levels can be as much skate park as battleground, with ramps to launch off and rails to grind as you race around trying to meet your team's objective. But for a few matches, that's all you will be able to do in multiplayer. Once you reach level 10 ranked matches open up. Here more competitive inklings will engage in maps with different objectives, including tower defence and escort missions.
So long as there is a good internet connection present, matchmaking for the Turf War battles is easy and straightforward. The advantages to these melees is that its easy as a novice player to contribute. Not a crack shot? Slip behind enemy lines and start claiming their territory with ink.
Splat on the go
While in tablet form, the Switch allows you to take Splatoon 2 on the go. You can play in local multiplayer battles with no internet connection, but all participating must have their own copy of the game for their Switch. This is fine for pre-arranged gaming sessions and might even work on a crowded bus, but it isn't much help for long trips out into the countryside.
Fortunately, a robust story campaign called Hero Mode helps with that. This single-player adventure takes your inkling on a quest to defeat the sinister Octarians (why these mollusks are at war is unclear). At its best, the design levels here are approaching Super Mario standards.
While the game controls work well and the game is a blast to play, the aesthetic may not be for everyone, particularly adults. Characters make bad puns about marine life, and the music can grate. These elements work with the game's cartoony vibe, but your mileage may vary.
While Nintendo still has some nagging questions to answer when it comes to the Switch, most notably further details of its online service and the fate of the eShop online store, they have done well to provide the Switch with strong first-party titles.
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Nintendo hopes Splatoon 2, along with new IP Arms, will ably fill the gap between The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and the upcoming Super Mario Odyssey and give the Switch enough content to support its burgeoning install base.
Splatoon 2 is rated E-10 (for everyone ages 10 and up) and retails for about $80.