Back in 2015, Nintendo’s Wii U game Splatoon fired a colorful shot across the bow at typical shooters. “We don’t need no messy gore,” it seemed to say. And, in fact, the game became something of a go-to title for those who liked their running and gunning without all the compulsory kill shots and bilious bloodletting that genre is infamously known for. It was a trigger-puller that actually painted the scenery with, well, paint.
The game’s sequel, Splatoon 2, advances its nonviolent sploshing legacy—this time on Nintendo’s new Switch system. It offers a new single-player campaign, additional team-based challenges, more ink-spewing weaponry as well as even more eye-popping, high-def graphics. And all of that has, not surprisingly, made this title one of the summer’s top-selling family games.
Now, just in case you missed the first Splatoon for lack of a Wii U—or perhaps because you thought it appeared a bit too kiddie-focused—let’s revisit this fun franchise and explore what the latest iteration has in its rainbow-hued tank.
The game’s action once again takes place in Inkopolis, a futuristic city filled with inkling occupants. These hybrid squid-kid teens slouch around in summer-cool tees, ball caps, shorts and sneakers—when they’re not transforming back into their basic cephalopod form and skimming around in pools of colored ink that is. Those dips in the ink pool refresh your favorite inkling and allow him or her to move around quickly and fill up whatever ink-splashing tool they might have in tow. Why is that important? Well, because coating everything with your particular hue of ink is how things get done in this world.
Splatoon 2‘s single-player campaign splashes along in whimsical platforming direction. That said, there is a narrative here. Two years after the last game’s tale concluded, its cartoonish baddies—known as Octarians—have once again snatched the Great Zapfish, which powers the city. And this time, a famed Internet idol named Callie has gone missing, too. So it’s up to your inkling hero to slip into the color-spurting role of a Squidbeak Splatoon Agent and figure out how to rescue Callie and the Zapfish.
Through 32 missions, you learn the tricks of the Splatoon Agent trade. The game teaches you how to maneuver quickly, leap from platform to platform, grind on ink rails and use ink squirts and splashes to overcome environmental obstacles as well as blasting robot and critter foes.
This time around, players can also practice with each of the game’s many weapon types in single-player mode. That arsenal includes long- and short-range ink splattering implements. The enormous ink roller and the fast-and-furious Octobrush, for instance, can both color large swaths of scenery in a hurry. The new Slosher hurls a bucket of ink out to impressive, splash-in-your-face distances. The new Dualies let you quickly dodge-roll around while strafing everything with rapid-fire salvos. And the list of inky splattershot guns, inkzookas and gushing missiles stretches on from there.
Arm in arm with that expanded arsenal of ink-spurting armament is an augmented collection of outfits and gear that gamers can earn and equip, too. These stylish bits of clothing and footwear bequeath bonuses in combat, along with about 20 random, secondary abilities players unlock after wearing the outfits long enough. These special abilities range from ink recovery boosts to enemy tracking perks, among other things.
The game’s six- to eight-hour single-player adventure is fun, and it gives you a chance to get familiar with the controls and game mechanics. But Splatoon 2′s online, multiplayer mode is really what this game is all about.
The standard multiplayer mode is called Turf War. The emphasis in these short, intense conflicts is to work with your assigned teammates in order to claim as much ground as possible. And that sort of color-coded takeover is what makes Splatoon games so rewarding.
No need to worry about how many kills or headshots you’ve racked up, or how to hide from a rampaging horde. It’s just a race against time and a strategic planning of how best to paint your given territory while the enemy team members likewise strive to splash their own colors in your territory. You and others will be zapped with well-placed gushes of ink and tossed inky explosives, of course. But then you simply reconstitute back at your home base to give it another goo-squirting go.
Additionally, the game offers more-competitively focused modes, too. There’s a king-of-the-hill challenge dubbed Splat Zone, for instance. A capture-the-flag variant, meanwhile, features an inky superweapon called a Rainmaker that you have to keep out of your foe’s hands as you skillfully guide it to their home base for a tidal-wave-of-ink win. These modes not only award you with individual points, they demand more reliance on your teammates in the heat of ever-intensifying challenges.
So, there you have it. Like its predecessor, Splatoon 2 is a shooter aimed at spreading around a whole lot of mess … without leaving young gamers in a pool of gory goop.
After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.