Splatoon was a very fun multiplayer game for the Wii U. Unfortunately, hardly anyone bothered buying that console, so very few people actually played it. It makes total sense, then, that it's being given another chance on the Nintendo Switch. What's surprising is that, rather than release a "definitive" edition à la Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Nintendo is busting out an actual Splatoon sequel.
Based on my time with the game, however, I found it almost indistinguishable from its predecessor – not that that should put off Splatoon newbies.
The biggest additions to Splatoon 2 are its new guns. Splat Dualies allow for dual-ink-splatting mayhem and a wider spread of fire than the previous arsenal. There are also brand-new special attacks, which can be earned over the course of matches, including a lock-on rocket launcher and a jetpack which sends Inklings – the cutesy things you play as – high up and able to rain down bombs.
Aside from this, the Switch allows for local multiplayer for the first time thanks to the Switch's ad-hoc functionality, both on the TV and on the Switch itself, plus there's a new single-player campaign.
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Jumping into Turf War – Splatoon’s signature multiplayer mode – on a new map called Reef, I try out the Dualies first. Inklings are able to do a dodge roll while using the double pistols, which allows for rapid movement before quickly returning fire on enemies. After the roll the double-reticule also converges for more focused fire and higher damage. It makes the Dualies a viable option for one-on-one combat, with the roll far quicker than turning into a squid and disappearing into the paint you’ve marked on the floor or walls.
Splatoon 2 once again combines analogue stick and motion controls, where the left stick controls movement, the right aims on the X-axis and motion controls aim along the Y-axis. In the original I dropped these controls like a bad habit, and for most of my first match they continued to break my brain. However, being forced to use them helped me realise they actually provide strategic advantages – the motion controls allow for rapid, accurate aiming while the sticks help keep your Inkling moving to cover as much ground as possible.
Aside from the Dualies, all the classic weapons from Splatoon return. The Splattershot, Ink Roller and Splat Charger are back, and having a good balance of each on the team will help secure more wins than defeats. The addition of special attacks further emphasises the sense of contributing to the team, even when you’re not directly battling the opponents. Each weapon layout brings with it its own special attack, which plays to the strengths of the playstyle the weapon encourages.
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The first – the Inkjet – sends your Inkling high above the map before being able to throw bombs down to the floor below. The Inkjet behaves in the exact same way as Mario’s water pack did in Super Mario Sunshine, which is a cute nod. The downside to this booster is that it leaves you very vulnerable to sniper fire, as you can’t move much while hovering.
The other special – Tenta Missiles – enables you to lock onto opponents and fire four missiles at each of them. However, this is balanced by it taking a bit of time to lock on, plus the missiles being quite slow to reach their target and therefore easily dodged.
The game feels incredibly fast-paced, and its use of vibrant colours makes gameplay a stunning spectacle. However, sharp jaggies are noticeable both on the TV and on the Switch screen itself. This could be due to the hyper-stylized look of the game, and doesn’t in any way impact on the gameplay experience – but for those who dream only in 4K it may be off-putting.
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Splatoon 2 plays and looks a lot like its predecessor, to the point where the Reef map could quite easily have belonged in the first game. Again, this feels very much like a refresh rather than a brand-new entry.
With this and Mario Kart, Nintendo seems to be trying to give some of its bigger Wii U titles a second bite at the cherry with a (hopefully) larger Nintendo Switch audience. But for those Wii U owners who've spent plenty of time in Splatoon already, you may be disappointed by the overwhelming sense of déjà vu.
Splatoon 2 is as fun and engaging as its predecessor, but what's new feels more like a DLC add-on rather than enough to justify an entirely new entry. Although more could be revealed in the lead-up to the game’s summer 2017 launch, right now it feels more like a minor step up with a few tweaks rather than wholesale changes.
That’s no bad thing, though, as Splatoon still provides the frantic multiplayer experience that shies away from a focus on kill-death ratios and instead on tasks which allow even amateur players to enjoy matches.
As someone who's grown tired of the Call of Duty spawn-shoot-die-repeat multiplayer experience, Splatoon is definitely something I can see myself playing. Hopefully it'll get the audience it deserves on its second attempt.
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