The original Splatoon on Wii U was a remarkable and fresh take on team-based shooters, with players taking the role of teenagers who could instantly transform into squids.
You would do battle by spraying your surroundings in your team’s ink, while stopping the opposing team doing the same by spraying them, too. Areas covered in your team’s ink allowed you to swim around at great speed, while the other team’s ink slowed you down. Whoever inks more territory, wins.
Despite being enormously good fun, the game was hobbled by a paucity of options for online play. Initially, there was no easy way to join up with your friends and play together; this was added a few months after release, but it was too little, too late.
Enter Splatoon 2. Just two years on from the original and, in truth, looking very familiar indeed. It does at least contain all of the functionality initially missing from the original, as well as a slew of new maps and features.
The things everyone liked about the first game are present and correct; Splatoon 2 is fun enough for casual players but contains layers of strategic depth for those who’d care to explore them, with knowledge of the relationships between different weapon types and abilities becoming essential. Manipulation of the space around you via the spraying of ink also remains a joy unique to the series, allowing you to swim up walls or literally paint your opponents into a corner for an easy kill.
The trouble is that Splatoon 2 retains some of the original’s problems, too. For example, having a varied selection of weapons across your team is essential, yet the game prevents you from changing your equipment as soon as you start searching for a game to join. Playing with friends and communicating with them beforehand solves this, but it’s hardly ideal or possible.
On the plus side, new co-operative mode Salmon Run is a joy. You and up to three others are tasked with extracting eggs from a school of frying-pan-wielding salmon who assault you in waves, while the appearance of an occasional boss requires some strong teamwork to take down. It’s a near-constant struggle to survive and meet your egg quota, but enormously rewarding with it.
The game also features a new single-player campaign where players find themselves adapting to numerous weird and interesting enemy types and solving environment-based puzzles. It’s great, but not a strong enough draw on its own if you’re uninterested in online play.
Splatoon 2 is a curious one; those persistent niggles are especially galling given the high price-point, and there’s a feeling that perhaps too little has changed since the first iteration. But it’s still one of the best multiplayer games going. Just be aware that you’ll need some mates to play it with if you really want your money’s worth.