A Marvel movie starring a tall, blond, impossibly chiselled Chris? About bloody time.
THE FIRST SPLATOON was a welcome blast of originality in the often risk-averse (and remaster-obsessed) world of video-game development. A twist on the competitive third-person shooter, it added platform elements and — most interestingly — the ability to turn into a squid.
There was a problem, though. It only existed on the unloved Wii U— a machine that, unlike its predecessor, failed to take the world by storm, or even conjure a light, localised shower. Commercially Nintendo’s worst-performing console, it undoubtedly hampered Splatoon’s momentum. The relative early success of the Switch will hopefully change that for this sequel.
A quick recap: you play as an Inkling, a humanoid equipped with a gun that shoots coloured ink. Once the ink is spread over the playing surface, you can change into a squid to move quickly across the playing arena and climb vertical edges, but travel through enemy ink and you’ll slow down as your energy will be sapped. And there are also walkways of grating to watch out for, which wouldn’t pose a problem in human form, but you’ll slip through them as a cephalopod.
This initially bizarre but ultimately simple premise prompts two styles of gameplay. In single player, Splatoon 2 leans more heavily on its platforming elements, which require a tactical approach as you deploy your ink to reach otherwise inaccessible platforms or work out mini-puzzles to transform the environment, such as shooting rotating targets that ratchet out platforms which slowly spring back into place, or inking rolled-up inflatables that spring out into flat, traversable surfaces.
The online side, however, feels far more like the team-based shooter initially promised, with you and your teammates vying to cover as much of each level in your colour of ink as possible, while taking out opponents with your guns, various bombs and grenades, and special weapons. In terms of gameplay, it doesn’t feel that different from the original. Instead, it’s slightly better in just about every department, from the expanded campaign to the glossier graphics that really sell the gloopiness of the ink. Just making an unholy mess of its levels is oddly satisfying.
But the most welcome extras are the new objects that have been added, bringing more depth to an already vibrant mix. You may, for example, encounter evil Octarians (the game’s tentacled enemies who have kidnapped the Great Zapfish) rolling around in giant bowling balls. Or find yourself sloshing great gobbets of ink around levels using nothing more than a surprisingly effective bucket. But no weapon gives the player an unfair advantage — much balancing work appears to have been done, resulting in a far more level battlefield.
While Splatoon 2 may feel like it’s just an incremental update of the original game, the large number of Switch owners who didn’t buy a Wii U means many won’t have come across it before. And the original was so good that Splatoon 2 didn’t have to adopt a radical approach. If you’re a Switch owner, it’s a major title that will bring you vast amounts of fun. STEVE BOXER