Anybody remember Jack Thompson? Lawyer, real upset about violent video games, had the gaming community largely unified against him in a way that we’re unlikely to ever see again? Yeah, that guy. I kind of wonder what he’d think of more wholesome shooters like Splatoon, a Nintendo joint that boasts both high-quality gameplay and a much less violent outlook than your average run-and-gun game given that it’s basically paintball. Perhaps ol’ Jack’s got a Switch, and perhaps he’s giving Splatoon 2 a shot lately. The world may never know.
Splatoon 2 is…well, it’s more Splatoon. Somewhat similar to my impressions of Destiny 2, Splatoon 2 doesn’t feel so much like a sequel as an expansion on the original game’s ideas. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, since that was a solid title that was great at what it was trying to do, but if you’re looking for a revolution in your squid and kid action then that’s not what this is going to do for you.
What’s Splatoon, though? It’s basically Nintendo’s take on the team-based shooter concept. Characters control Inklings, hybrid squid/kid creatures who can switch from one form to the other. Turf War Battles, the default mode, typically involve coating an area with ink of your team’s color, with victory being determined not by kills but by who’s claimed the most territory by changing it to their color. You’re able to switch to squid form and swim through ink of your own color, which makes you faster, provides some stealth and “reloads” your weapon with new ink.
Meanwhile, stepping in enemy ink deals damage and significantly slows your character, making it a very unwise decision. Shooting enemies will defeat them temporarily and splash your own color of ink everywhere, but they’ll be back before long; the real value of combat is to take the enemy out of the game for a moment allowing you to make headway into enemy territory. Alongside this there are some territory control modes that shake up the gameplay just a tad without feeling like a whole different shooter.
Splatoon 2 shakes up this concept by introducing a new horde mode called Salmon Run where you and some friends take on the villainous Salmonids. They’re gross-looking fish people who splash disgusting green slime everywhere…but they’ve got oh-so-desirable golden eggs, so you’re going to have to take them out to win the prize. Unlike Turf War, if you’re defeated by the Salmonids you stay down until someone comes to resurrect you. This lends a little more urgency to the combat here, especially when you bring the many and varied boss Salmonids into the mix. There’s fish in mechs, fish that rain goop everywhere, fish that fire missiles and so on; each has their own gimmick you’ll have to learn and conquer to get to those eggs. Salmon Run’s a nice touch, but I imagine most of the action is still going to take place in the classic Turf War mode. Bizarrely, playing Salmon Run online is tied to a schedule, which…well, who knows why Nintendo moves and shakes the way they do?
Finally, if you’re still hurting for squidventure, you’ve got a single-player mode along the same lines as what we saw in the original game. Here, your character teams up with Squid Sister Callie to fight the Octolings and retrieve the stolen Zapfish that power the Inkling city of Inkopolis. It’s pretty similar to the original game’s single-player, in other words, and just as in that game it’s perfectly acceptable if you want some downtime from the multiplayer modes. As expected from Nintendo there’s some top-notch gameplay on offer here, so it’s only the fact that the multiplayer is so addictive that brings it down.
What else is new in Splatoon 2? Well…there’s some new weapons, I suppose. You’ve got your dual pistols, for instance, that have an irritatingly wide spread but also come with a sick dodge roll that can be used to avoid attacks and center your aim. Dodging past an enemy attack and dishing out some death afterwards is pretty nice. New subweapons include your homing bomb, your rolling bomb and your poison mist, with the second of those being particularly useful as you can bank it around corners for surprise attacks. As usual, a lot of the underlying depth in Splatoon 2 comes from mixing and matching clothing to activate special passive skills, and searching for just the right set is a good time; you’re now able to special order other people’s gear as well, which makes the grind a little less painful.
Mostly, though, this is the same Splatoon you knew and loved from the Wii U on a console that looks like it’s going to have some more support behind it. Playing on the Switch is nice, though using tilt controls with the Joycons takes a little practice, and the increased graphical power of the modern console means that Splatoon 2 looks fantastic as well. The only real issue could come from the Switch’s iffy wi-fi, though disconnects proved to be surprisingly rare.
Shooter fans, gamers who want something a little less violent and fans of the original Splatoon alike will find something to love in Splatoon 2. It’s just the right combination of casual and deep gameplay that’s come to characterize first-party Nintendo games. The Switch’s library continues to grow, and with it we’ve got more and more reasons to recommend biting the bullet and picking one up.