SPLAT’S THE ONE

EDGE - - PLAY -

when the first spot of ink from the fast-fir­ing, but com­par­a­tively fee­ble, Splat Dualies hits you and you in­stantly per­ish. Still, af­ter more than 50 hours of play we’ve not en­coun­tered any tele­port­ing In­klings, nor have we seem­ingly sur­vived any close-range splat-offs only to sud­denly ex­plode three sec­onds later.

There’s a stronger con­sis­tency to the map de­sign, with fewer ob­vi­ous gim­micks, not­with­stand­ing a plat­form that moves be­tween ver­ti­cal and hor­i­zon­tal po­si­tions on Stur­geon Ship­yard. Whether you’re play­ing on Starfish Main­stage (a con­cert venue) or The Reef (a hang­out spot sur­rounded by fash­ion em­po­ri­ums) you’ll have plenty of room to build up your spe­cial me­ter be­tween your base and a cen­tral area around which the fiercest ex­changes take place. Out­side routes of­fer al­ter­na­tive an­gles of at­tack from a head-on as­sault on the main con­trol zone, which makes them a lit­tle tougher to hold. On Hump­back Pump Track, you can win by ink­ing the bumps and dips of the track that runs around the edges, with­out hav­ing to risk a leap to the hill in the mid­dle. The two huge slopes lead­ing to the cen­tral plat­form in ex­treme-sports venue Mus­selforge Fit­ness are rarely painted the same colour. It’s harder for snipers to keep teams pinned down, even on the re­turn­ing Mo­ray Tow­ers, with ink rails let­ting you zip be­tween those long ramps. And a re­vamped Port Mack­erel now lets you avoid lanes pa­trolled by Splatling play­ers with ink sponges that let you leap across the fork­lifts and cargo con­tain­ers in­stead.

A host of new spe­cials also helps make last-minute swings more likely. Rain from an ink cloud doesn’t do much di­rect dam­age, but could weaken en­e­mies enough to make them eas­ier to fin­ish off. A rush of curl­ing stones – launched by a de­vice re­sem­bling the Nin­tendo Like the first game, the sin­gle­player Hero Mode is over in a brisk few hours, but its five­world cam­paign is more di­verse and ac­com­plished, of­fer­ing an as­sured blend of shoot­ing and in­ven­tive tra­ver­sal – not least in the hub lev­els, where lo­cat­ing the stages is part of the fun. Its story is linked to the re­sult of the first game’s fi­nal Splat­fest, and fea­tures the two Squid Sis­ters: Cal­lie is miss­ing, and Marie charges you with find­ing her. For the most part, this sim­ply re­casts Marie as your han­dler, ad­vis­ing you on how to deal with trick­ier hazards, but that all changes in a fi­nal en­counter, though it strug­gles to live up to the orig­i­nal’s ex­tended cli­max. Still, an out­stand­ing cred­its se­quence should send you off with a smile. The Inkjet seems like one of the most pow­er­ful spe­cials at first, but it makes you a tar­get for play­ers on high ground. We pre­fer Tenta Mis­siles – head back to base and you can usu­ally lock on to all four op­po­nents Ul­tra Ma­chine, a de­light­ful deep-cut ref­er­ence – will not only flush out dug-in en­e­mies but might also swing the re­sult on the buzzer, as they slide out in all di­rec­tions be­fore burst­ing. And then there’s the Splash­down, an AOE at­tack that’s es­sen­tially a messier ver­sion of a Ti­tan’s Fist of Havoc in Des­tiny and ev­ery bit as sat­is­fy­ing. Ac­ti­vat­ing it mid-Su­per Jump to slam down and kill an en­tire team in Splat Zones is the kind of mo­ment that makes you wish for a re­play func­tion.

Per­haps that’s one for a fu­ture up­date – and if Spla­toon’s gen­er­ous con­tent roll­out is any­thing to go by, you can rea­son­ably ex­pect this to grow sub­stan­tially. Two more maps – a galleon and a skate park – are on the im­me­di­ate hori­zon, and we wouldn’t bet against them be­ing avail­able as you read this. Spla­toon started with five maps and fin­ished with 16; we have eight to be­gin with here, and it would be a sur­prise if the se­quel didn’t at least match the first game’s tally.

Eval­u­at­ing what might be is a fool’s er­rand, of course. We can only judge what’s in front of us, and in truth there’s lit­tle with which to pick se­ri­ous fault – be­yond, per­haps, a lack of am­bi­tion, the difficulty of team­ing up with friends in Turf War (you’ll be put on op­pos­ing teams as of­ten as not), and the in­abil­ity to exit lob­bies with­out quit­ting the game. Still, if the thrill of the new is gone, old plea­sures re­main: the ex­hil­a­ra­tion of the fi­nal-minute count­down as the mu­sic in­creases in tempo, or the ice-cream jin­gle of the Tower as it ad­vances into en­emy ter­ri­tory. Cru­cially, that in­fec­tiously ex­u­ber­ant spirit is undimmed. More of the same? For once, that’ll do nicely.

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