The charming squid-based Switch shooter entertains and frustrates.
Nintendo is the masterful chef of the gaming industry. Like Emeril adding spices, they toss in flavorful features, mechanics, and design choices. The end result “just works” in a way that confounds their competition. Many times, their recipe is a resounding success, with nary a blemish or sour taste. Splatoon 2 is an example of a dish that is so close to perfection that it drives you insane. Its delicious gameplay is the main course of the meal, leaving players hungry for more. Yet its side dishes disappoint, thanks to paltry matchmaking options and bland quality-of-life features.
Splatoon 2 is a tantalizing appetizer: a multiplayer shooter that doesn’t focus on butchering the enemy team. You play as squid-child hybrids that cover the map in your team’s ink. “Splatting” an enemy player with your “ink bullets” serves only to stop them from gaining ground. Turf Wars (the game’s primary multiplayer mode) asks you to control more of the map than your enemies.
At any time, you can morph into a cartoon squid that will jettison through the neon waters. Submerging yourself as a squid refills your ink tank and provides a speedy entrance and exit. Often times, you’ll spray ahead, swim forward to reload, and repeat. This tantalizing combo is quick and exciting, as you dart in and out of combat to gain the upper hand.
Your vision blurs and your mind races: this is no kids game.
Being in your own color turf allows your kid to walk at a normal speed. Standing in enemy ink, though, will slow you to a halt, and damage you over time. You must be smart with your ink levels and positioning: if you move in and cover the enemy base, will you have the ammo to make it back? Or will your foes cut off your colorful exit?
After some time mastering Splatoon 2‘s flow and motion controls, the meal begins. You’re pushed forward by your climb to buy new weapons, snag fresh clothes, and unlock new modes. Each match is a rush, as you dash your way through vibrant paint to come out on top. Your vision blurs and your mind races: this is no kids game. It’s a tactical, objective-based shooter, fleshed out by various playstyles and roles.
Splatoon‘s extra modes serve as palate cleansers from a few raucous rounds of Turf Wars. Ranked Battles are home to Tower Control, Splat Zones, and Rainmaker fights. These are “Payload,” “King of the Hill,” and “Capture the Flag” battle styles, respectively. Salmon Run provides a welcome dessert to play with friends, as you face off against hordes of fish.
Splatoon 2 also has an exquisite, meaty single-player campaign peppered in. It provides perfect practice with some of the guns you’ll see in Turf War. Each level presents unique mechanics and environments, most of which aren’t found in multiplayer. While these missions are fun and fresh, it’s obvious that they’re still not the main course of this dinner.
Yet certain modes can leave a sour taste in the mouth. Salmon Run is open at specific times on specific days, but is otherwise closed for online play. Local Wireless Play is possible, but will only allow you to play with local players. It also comes with frequent mid-match disconnects. Ranked Battles only unlock at Level 10, and do not include the default Turf War. After hours of meticulous rumination, the game asks you to spit out your affinity for Turf War if you choose to climb the ranks.
Even worse, Splatoon 2‘s menu has slim pickings for playing with friends. There’s no party system: instead, you can “join” a friend’s Turf War match, wait for it to end, and play the next round. At this point, there’s no voice chat, and also no guarantee you’ll be on the same team. But, a sort of party system does exist in Salmon Run, as well as in League Battles (unlocked at rank B- in Ranked Battles).
Some bites of the dish will be resplendent, and blaze sensation into every inch of your tongue. Others will be bland….
Splatoon 2 is one of the freshest titles of the year, and is fantastic to dive into after a long day at work. Yet it’s tainted with so many little quality-of-life flaws that it’s hard to recommend. It’s obvious that the game is Turf War, while every other mode is icing on the cake. Some bites of the dish will be resplendent, and blaze sensation into every inch of your tongue. Others will be bland, and you’ll chew and nod while the chef smiles expectantly.
Do you want to relax with friends, joking around like you would in Overwatch? Do you want a wide variety of modes and content? If so, Splatoon 2 may not be for you. Yet with one taste, you’ll find that the experience has plenty of flavor in Turf War, Salmon Run, and the campaign. Though not what you’d expect, Splatoon 2 is a great meal.