Painting can be so therapeutic. That said, it’s not really when it comes to Splatoon 2, Nintendo’s frantic-yet-accessible third-person shooter in which you take on squid/kid creatures in battles to paint the town a pinkish red, orange, purple, or… you get the picture.
Ranked Battle brings additional match types befond Turf War, namely Splat Zones, Tower Defence and Rainmaker. The first is a King of the Hill-style mode with one defined area for both teams to frantically fight over to score, the second concentrates the mayhem even further by making the point a moving tower, which must move through a set track and stop at certain checkpoints, giving the other team a chance to knock players off and take the tower back. Rainmaker is more of an out-and-out assault where players fight for control of the Rainmaker superweapon.
Then there’s League Battle, recommended only for real fanatics, which is a two-hour test of skill players can take on without risking their carefully nurtured rank. Finally we have Salmon Run, a cooperative Horde-type mode that’s only available at set real-world times. You’ll take on waves of fish-based enemies, including eight kinds of mini-boss, in teams of two to four players in search of shiny golden eggs.
There’s a decent amount of variety on offer in multiplayer alone, and on top of that there’s a single player campaign which plays out as a series of increasingly difficult challenges topped off with fiendish boss battles. Think along the lines of Super Monkey Ball.
This campaign of sorts is larger-than-life in the best way possible - to give you an idea, the first boss is an angry oven complete with loaves of bread sporting googly eyes - and the entire experience clocks in at around six hours and gives you plenty of practice for the often unforgiving multiplayer encounters that follow.
There’s plenty to do in Splatoon 2, with a consistent level of quality upheld throughout, each mode handling extremely well, looking pretty, and feeling fairly well-balanced. Add to that sleek dual-purpose mechanics like turning into a squid and submerging in ink to reload, whilst also traveling faster and less conspicuously, and you have a design powerhouse.
Unfortunately, when it comes to networking, the game doesn’t offer as great an experience. The Nintendo Switch online app is every bit as awkward to use as you may have heard. There are some nice stats and little elements tucked in there, but the fact that it takes so many button presses to get where you need to be - and even then the audio struggles to work consistently - is extremely poor. We ended up using third-party app Discord to wax lyrical about the game, and the fact that it’s a much better experience is a real shame.
The ordeal doesn’t end there either, as joining in with friends is frustratingly specific, rather than being the quick and easy solution it could and should be. Heading to the friends screen will reveal who’s online but not allow you to join them unless they’re sat in a lobby about to start a game, meaning you have a window of mere seconds before the lobby fills up and you’ll then need to wait until the next game for another chance. On top of that, there’s no queue option or spectator mode while you wait, meaning coordinating more than one other person at a time is a struggle outside of Salmon Run, which is easier thanks to its PvE setup.
Having so many hurdles to online play, many of which aren’t explained, significantly impacts the overall experience. For some, this won’t be a problem at all, but those looking to gather a group of four and take on the world will be out of luck, as it’s not even assured that you’re on the same team when you do finally end up in a game together. The one saving grace is that you aren’t separated again once a match ends, providing all players choose to continue.
Despite the online barriers, which, while somewhat understandable (Nintendo are thinking of the children), are enough to raise your blood pressure, it’s still hard not to recommend Splatoon 2. It’s a fantastically fun shooter in itself, though it also meets the need to prove that the Switch has more than just the odd Mario or Zelda title to accompany a sea of Neo Geo ports.
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