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 failed to take the world by storm, as its predecessor had, or even conjure up a small localised shower. Commercially Nintendo’s worst performing console, it hampered Splatoon’s success. The relative 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 surface and move up vertical surfaces. Travel through enemy ink and you’ll slow down and your energy will be sapped. And there are also gratings to watch out for, which wouldn’t pose a problem in human form, but you’ll slip through 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 — requiring 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 that slowly spring back into place, or inking rolled-up inflatables which spring out into flat, traversable surfaces.
The online side, however, feels much 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 to 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 best additions are the additional objects that have been added, adding 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 disparity between the number of people who bought the Wii U and have already bought the Switch 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 which will bring you vast amounts of fun.