Splatoon 2 – Hero Mode Preview (Switch)

This preview covers the single-player mode in the upcoming Nintendo Switch game- Splatoon 2. Check back next week for a review of the online/multiplayer modes. It should be noted that this was played primarily in TV Mode with the Joy-cons only. 

Unapologetically eccentric, thoroughly quirky, and downright bizarre- Splatoon 2 is the sequel to the hit Wii U game Splatoon; a rich and energetic ink splattering FPS that charmed millions worldwide. Splatoon 2 has built upon the first instalment quite sturdily. New players to the series should slide in smoothly, while those who played the first will probably notice all the nods (big or small) to the original. Hero Mode, the single player campaign is once again shallow in plot with the depth lying in gameplay. Each level hones your skills with small morsels being introduced frequently, the difference being Splatoon 2 does it much better this time around. Hero Mode has you not only learning the standard mechanics but also lets you try out new weapons more flexibly, with each successful completion rewarding the player with new skills applicable to other gamemodes. Each level takes place in what looks to be a far more advanced Octarian land littered with broken highway signs, small beaches, floating mason jars, and many more intriguing oddities. From the get-go Splatoon 2 introduces even more wacky stage hazards, enemies and items, including but not limited to- deathly ink pistons, grind rails, dash tracks, floating calamari, glitter drenched ink, and a giant Octo-Oven-toast hybrid boss battle that slings bread puns at you the entire time. (I did mention this game was bizarre.) For those who are a fan of collectibles, the game gives you multiple ways to get many of them, with rewards such as expanded backstory, boosts in battle, or buffs on your gear. For those who prefer not to poke around every corner looking for Sunken Scrolls- fear not, the game is more than playable if you don’t 100% every bit of side-content.

Color-Lock remains in place for those who prefer to stick to the standard shades.

Visually, the game is prettier than its Wii U predecessor, it’s also far more diverse, packed with rich ideas and pushing the boat further out with new areas, characters, and customization options. To start with each inkling has 4 hairstyles and 3 legwear styles to choose from. Gear is displayed in the new packaging theme, abilities are shown in that familiar button style, and every friendly NPC seems just that little bit more vibrant. Your current health state is monitored in gorgeous pastel lights on your gear, armor upgrades sport a galaxy style theme, and new collectables being so aesthetically bizarre yet pleasing make knowing you found them just that little bit more satisfying.

The game unfortunately does suffer from the hardware limitations of the Switch. Joy-cons made the experience unnecessarily frustrating with fickle gyro and dead zones messing with the camera/aim, something which I imagine will be far more punishing in higher ranks of multiplayer play. The awkward placement of the right analog stick was a poor substitute for the frequent tantrums thrown by my Joy-Cons. Given how responsive I found the Pro-Controller at the Nintendo Switch Premiere, I’d imagine many of these issues will be solved once I play the game with that instead, though it is still not an excuse for the default hardware to be so challenging to work with. Visually, while beautiful, there are some questionable shortcomings such as certain objects, like some signs and backdrops, being noticeably more pixellated than the rest of your surroundings, and consistent frame issues occur within Inkopolis Square. There’s a fair amount of recycling present, though that isn’t always a bad thing. The adorable chattering of your Inkling is a mix of new and old, you can hear familiar tunes accompanying your adventure, and of course there are many visuals, such as hairstyles, gear, enemies, animations, and graphics that have made a comeback.

Bold & Brash. Splatoon 2 has some noticeably daring updates to user interfaces

The music in Splatoon 2 is a strange mix-up of sound effects that accompany more traditional instruments, all blending into tracks that follow strongly in tone to the originals, that is, were you to hear these new songs in the first game, they wouldn’t seem out of place. Erratic hoots and pangs accompany you on your single player missions, while thicker oscillations pulse through areas like the Plaza. Bringing the general sound effects into the picture, the audio of Splatoon 2 is just oozing with confidence and character. The visuals follow suit and much of the user interface imagery is bold and in-your-face, borderline over-the-top with blocky text, thick lines, splats, and zigzags decorating the speech bubbles and menus.

Let’s talk more about the mechanics, starting with arguably the core feature of the series- the ink. In the original Splatoon the ink functioned exceptionally well, but there were some shortcomings. When attempting to swim vertically too often your character left the ink due to a very small nearby patch not being covered, this unfortunately returns in Splatoon 2 and at its best chops up the momentum, at its worst leads to your downfall. Momentum issues are a fairly recurring theme in this game, such as sludgy-feeling dismounts off of grind-rails or dash-tracks, as well as attempting to jump onto a horizontal surface after swimming up a vertical one. In terms of visuals the ink has been changed to what now looks more like glitter slime rather than something thinner, though it doesn’t lack attention to detail. The way the light hits the new ink is often photorealistic, the varying glitter opacity and shadows combine to give a stronger depth, and certain cutscenes remember where you splatted the ink prior to watching them, adding a unique individuality to your gameplay experience. For some reason you’re unable to use the right analog stick when using motion controls in handheld, so you end up having to constantly swing the screen to get a better grip on your aim/camera- which is awkward and unnecessary. The primary weapon you start Hero Mode with has a strange fire-rate which could have been a little more generous, but overall single-player not only has way more content in Splatoon 2, but is vastly more accessible and rewarding.

New idols Pearl and Marina are already a hit. Marina is superior though.

Brighter, bolder, more ambitious, packed with old and new; Splatoon 2 is impressive and off to a promising start. Keeping so much of what was successful in Splatoon, but throwing plenty more new content into the mix. Knowing what utterly ridiculous new weapons and abilities are stored away in this game, I look forward to seeing how the multiplayer mode holds up.

Thank you to Nintendo for providing this copy of Splatoon 2 for me to review. Next week I’ll have my impressions of the online modes up and look forward to seeing you then. In the meantime you can share your thoughts with me in the comments, or on my Twitter, thanks for reading!

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