Splatoon 2 is a third-person shooter for the Nintendo Switch. Normally I’d have already reviewed the first game and point you there for the basics, but I actually never played the first one. So keep that in mind as you read on. Also keep in mind that I haven’t done any local mulitplayer and have very limited experience in the ranked online modes. I also pretty much only play with a pro controller without motion controls. Oh, and while there IS DLC for this game… I don’t have it. Now that we have all of that out of the way, let’s get to it!
So while the Splatoon series is a third-person shooter, the way it stands out from the crowd is that what you’re shooting is colored ink. Why? Because you’re a squidlike creature called an Inkling. The general gist of the plot is that Inklings are trying to stop Octolings from… um… taking over the world or something? There’s really not much plot development, it’s just a framework to get you into the action. In the single-player mode you’ll slowly be introduced to the mechanics of the game. You can walk around, aim, and shoot ink like you’d expect. You can also throw out secondary weapons like ink grenades. You only have so much ink on you but it replenishes over time. You also need enough to use your secondary weapons, which generally take a hefty amount from your ink tank to use. But the ink you leave around isn’t just for looks. You can hold a button to go into squid form to hide in it, swiftly swim through it, and quickly recover ink and health while submerged. Enemies will leave their own ink around as well, which will slow you down and harm you if you’re in it.
Most of the early levels are all around learning different techniques and basic controls. You’ll learn things like using your ink you can cover certain walls and swim up them in squid form. You’ll also discover different ways to get around enemy shields, such as swimming around them undetected, throwing a bomb then running to the side opposite the throw, or simply arcing your ink over their shields. You’ll also be introduced to special abilities. In this mode they generally have one use per find and are strategically placed to allow you to take full advantage of the types of situations they are suited to. As levels progress you’ll also be introduced to different weapon types. Each weapon has its strengths and weaknesses and each level is generally designed around a specific weapon. Every level has scrolls and tentacle-looking chunks for you to collect, often hidden in hard-to-reach places off the beaten path. The scrolls unlock bonus artwork that also tells some more of the game’s lore. The tentacle chunks can be used to upgrade your weapons. Defeating enemies also nets you power eggs, which will also be needed to upgrade your weapons in the hub. Every area has a number of stages that must be finished before you can fight the area boss. Defeating the boss will grant you access to the next area. You can also choose to replay previous levels with whatever weapon you’d like, assuming you’ve unlocked that weapon. Your fastest time and which weapon was used to get it will be recorded for you. Beating a level with every weapon will get you a meal ticket that can be used in the main menu world. Beating every level with a weapon will give you the ability to use that version of the weapon in multiplayer. Since both of these things pertain to multiplayer, let’s talk about that.
So Splatoon 2, much like the first, is heavily focused on the online multiplayer, which is only accessible if you have a subscription to Nintendo Switch Online. The main mode to play in is called Turf War. In this mode you play on teams of 4 vs 4 with the objective of inking the most turf. Your weapon, secondary weapon, and special come in sets to keep them balanced and can be selected between games. You can ink turf as well as defeat members of the enemy team, but try not to get splatted yourself. If you die, you’ll respawn at the spawn point. You can jump to any of your teammates’ locations from the spawn but it will take a few seconds to get there and there will be a warning at the location you’re jumping to. You can ink blank turf or over the enemy’s ink, but they can do the same right back. As you ink turf you’ll build up your special gauge. Once it’s full you can activate your special ability, which could be firing missiles, a flurry of bombs, extra armor for your team, and more! The gauge gets reset once you use the ability or if you’re splatted before you can use it. The matches typically last a few minutes and at the end of the time limit the team with the most area inked on the map wins. Winners get bonus experience points and cash.
The experience points help you level up your gear and yourself. As you level up you’ll unlock more weapons from the weapon shop. Here you can purchase sets of weapons, secondary weapons, and specials. Most of the weapon types are fairly closely related to what you experienced in the single-player mode, but some are more unique than even those found there. You use the cash to buy these and can pick which one you want between matches but not during. You can also use the cash to purchase gear. There’s headgear, shoes, and shirts. Each one has at least a primary stat boost and can have up to three additional stat boosts. These are randomized but eventually you’ll be able to get ability chunks as prizes or from sacrificing gear in order to customize pieces of gear with specific stats you want. You can boost the amount of experience or cash earned by purchasing meals in the food court. You can only have one boost active at a time and they are limited to a number of matches before the effect wears off. You can also buy drinks to give you temporary boosts to the drop rate of gear with the specified stat as well which work much in the same way.
In addition to this main mode there are also two versions of ranked play. You’ll have to start with solo ranked play first. In this mode there are a number of different types of matches you play for competition. You’re still in 4 on 4 matches, but not in a turf war battle. One of these modes is called splat zones. Here the goal is to go to the designated area, the “splat zone”, and try to cover the area in your ink and hold it for as long as possible. If you can hold it for the specified amount of time, you’ll win the match. If the time runs out then whoever spent the most time in control is the winner. Then there’s tower control which has teams fighting to stay atop a mobile tower that runs along a track when someone is on it. It’s a tug of war of sorts, stopping at certain checkpoints that will be broken if the tower remains there too long. Whichever team reaches the enemy base first is victorious. If the time runs out then whoever got the tower the furthest at any given point in the match is the winner. In rainmaker each team is trying to grab the titular weapon, which fires down slow but powerful blasts of ink, and bring it to a specified point near the enemy base. Whoever does so wins. If time runs out then whoever got closer at any point during the match is the winner. And lastly there’s clam blitz, which is the most complicated of the modes. In this mode each team has a goal and clams are scattered throughout the stage. Pick up enough of the clams and your collection is transformed into a power clam, which looks like a giant football. Once you have this, you’ll be marked on the enemy’s map, and for good reason. With this ball, if you get close enough and throw it correctly, you can break the barrier around the enemy’s clam basket, which also creates an impenetrable barrier around your own clam basket for the same temporary duration. You’ll get a few points for doing so and then anyone else can toss their clams into the basket for additional points. After the barrier is back up, your impenetrable barrier recedes and an enemy power clam spawns underneath their clam basket, giving them a chance at retaliation. If a power clam falls and is not retrieved in time, it will eventually disappear. Unlike standard clams, which anyone can claim, power clams are team specific. Whoever scores the set amount of points or gets the most after the time is up is declared the winner.
As you win matches, your rank will go up. You’ll also get boosted experience and cash for winning ranked matches. Lose too much and your rank will go down. This is to keep you playing with people of comparable levels of skill. The types of modes rotate periodically. If you rank up enough you’ll be able to do league play, which is essentially the same thing but is played with either a pair of players or a full group of four that will always be on the same team. Here your league power is calculated independently of your ranked mode rank. Also keep in mind that losing will net you next to nothing for rewards either.
There’s also one other mode we need to bring up. It’s called Salmon Run. In this mode you have a group of four people, be them in the same lobby or separately finding them in matchmaking, and you’re all thrown into a special map designed for the mode. The maps rotate as the mode pops up, which the mode itself is only up a certain times. You’re thrown in and randomly given one set of weapons and a special ability that can be used whenever during the match but can only be used twice. The weapon sets are shown before you enter but which set you get is random each time. The sets are also changed out each time the event comes back, though every so often you’ll get an event where for that period every single time you play the sets are entirely randomized. This mode consists of three rounds. You start in a central area and you’ll see a container appear with an icon over it. During the rounds you’ll need to fight of waves of salmonoids that approach from the watery outskirts of the level. Amid these smaller foes are stronger, deadlier opponents called boss salmonoids. These each have their own means of attacks and movements. You’ll typically face multiple bosses at time unless you can make exceptionally quick work of them. They can take a beating, some even requiring special tactics to attack them when they’re vulnerable, but every one of them drops three golden eggs when defeated. Move over a golden egg to pick it up. You can only carry one at a time. The goal is to bring enough of these back to the container in order to clear the target amount for that wave, which changes each time you play. If you get splatted you’ll be put into a life preserver, though still able to pick up golden eggs, and your allies can revive you if they get some ink on you. If everyone goes down or if you don’t get the target amount of golden eggs into the basket in time then you’ll lose and the game ends. Between waves you’ll respawn at the central point and be randomly given one of the other sets of weapons. If you lose on the first round you’ll lose some of your rank afterwards. If you lose on the second round you’ll lose less of it. And if you fail on the final wave your rank will stay the same. If you come out victorious your rank will usually go up, unless you teamed up with someone of a lower rank than yourself. Defeating enemies also gives you power eggs, which are factored in along with exceeding the golden egg limits in giving you better payouts at the end. You’ll get experience and points. The points are tracked on a meter in the salmon run menus and unlock a few pieces of gear along with randomized loot at certain amounts per event. You can go open these random gift balls at the desk outside the building.
There’s definitely a lot to like with Splatoon 2. The game certainly has a lot of style with the colorful 90’s kid gameshow feel, the goofy yet catchy music, and the interesting dialogue choices. I appreciate that even with my personal form of colorblindness I was able to tell nearly all of the ink colors apart with the combos they chose. That’s a pretty big one for me. I think it’s pretty cool how the single-player campaign does a good job of teaching you the basic and how to use most weapon types so that by the time you finish it you’ll be ready for the online play. And with online play they make sure you’re ready for ranked play and subsequently league play before just jumping in. The ranked modes are a nice change of pace that play around with the game’s core mechanics in a fun way, but the main attraction of turf war is wonderfully addictive. Even if you’re not that great and splattin’ fools, you can always make up for it by gearing yourself up to ink turf while your teammates cover you. Personally I get a little carried away with it so while I rarely get very many kills I make up for it for my comprehensive ink coverage that can save us in what otherwise would look like a loss. I’m also a really big fan of Salmon Run because it puts everyone on the same team against AI opponents and forces you to use weapons you wouldn’t normally pick. I especially liked it when I played an all random event of Salmon Run because I never knew what I’d get and it was just that much more exciting to not even know until the moment I started a wave. I’ll also admit that I basically got this, as well as my subscription to Nintendo Switch Online, to play it with my friend… and I’m very happy with how much fun it has been to play with them.
Playing by myself isn’t quite as fun, though. The single-player is interesting and engaging for a bit, but repeating the same levels that many times to use all the weapons on all the stages gets a bit repetitive. It’s also clear these stages were not built with every weapon in mind, often having slight alterations that make them possible to play with some of the weapons not capable of getting through the original way the stage was built. You get rewarded for using all weapons on each stage and beating all stages with a weapon with things that can only be used online… which is a real slap in the face if you don’t have Nintendo Switch Online. If that’s the case you’re basically rewarded with an advertisement. Likewise it’s frustrating that they include a section of the main menu and hub area that tells you to purchase the Big Octo DLC if you want to check it out. Maybe don’t include menu selection options of things I clearly can’t access. It’s annoying and gross. The grind for gear is also a slog. Since the stuff you can get is pretty randomized and getting enough ability chunks is also largely tied to this, it just feels needlessly tedious to try and build up gear that you like for both the stats AND the aesthetics. And just in general, the game can get pretty tedious if you play it too much, but I suppose that’s the nature of any game.
Overall, Splatoon 2 was a game that I really wasn’t sure I was even going to like. I took a chance, and surprisingly I’ve had a pretty good time with it. A lot of the aspects about it are not really my cup of tea, but some of it is pretty addictive and fun. I can’t recommend it to anyone without a subscription to Nintendo Switch Online unless you can get it cheap. But if you have Nintendo Switch Online and someone to play with, it’s a pretty fun time with enough fun content to keep you from regretting that purchase. Besides, if one of my biggest complaints is just based on taste rather than actual issues with what’s there… that must be a pretty solid game. P.S. Marina is the only time I’ve ever wanted to see tentacle porn that also double as a solo masturbation video.