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Splatoon 2 Is One Inkredible Sequel

If you already played—and obvi loved—the first Splatoon on the Wii U back in 2015, you know this isn’t your paint-by-numbers team-based shooter. Along with last month’s ARMS, Nintendo clearly has no problems creating fresh titles that don’t depend on familiar franchises like Super Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda—though they clearly have no problems knocking those rehashes out of the part.

Brimming with vibrant visuals, innovative gameplay, and one of the finest multiplayer modes on any current-gen console, Splatoon was the gift that kept on giving (literally, it had tons of free post-launch updates). With the bar set so high, could its quickly-released sequel match such greatness? Yes it can, and then some.

Before diving into the game’s beefed-up multiplayer, let’s discuss the one element that kept its predecessor from being and flat-out masterpiece: the single-player campaign. While Splatoon’s Hero Mode certainly had its moments, they were somewhat fleeting. Splatoon 2 doesn’t boast a significantly longer journey (it takes roughly eight hours complete, whereas the first game took about six), its rollout of different weapons is more complex and its variety of Octarians are tougher to outwit.

As you progress though each of the game’s 32 stages (spread across five worlds), you’ll be assigned a specific weapon each time. This allows you to learn the ropes and see if you’re more of a Charger, Roller, Slosher, or Duelies enthusiast—this will come in handy for multiplayer. A nifty new feature is that once you’ve completed a level, you can revisit it with your weapon of choice, which drastically alters the feel of each course and can even help you snag hard-to-reach items. Another reason to replay each stage with every single weapon is it will earn you a Crusty Sean Ticket that can be exchanged for multiplayer stat-increasing fried foods. Thankfully, these buffs expire after a certain number of matches instead of being time-based.

As for the levels themselves, they’re larger in scope and more dynamic than before, with a pleasing amount of enemy variety (and ink rail grinding!), as well as several highly memorable boss battles that we shouldn’t spoil. All and all, Splatoon 2 is still more about the multiplayer experience, but it’s nice to see the single-player mode get a nice spit-polish. I’d personally love to see this grow into an even larger world and give Mario Sunshine a run for its wet, open-world money. Inkopolis is an appealing backdrop with oodles of world-building potential.

Moving away from single-player, the big newcomer here is a co-op horde mode called Salmon Run. Teamed up with three players, the object is to survive multiple waves of Salmanoids whilst grabbing golden eggs from hulking Boss Salmanoids. Typical for Splatoon, things start relatively calm before getting pretty damn fierce. As you rank up, you’ll be assaulted by more Salmanoids, the shifting tide will decrease landmass, fog will decrease visibility, and Salmanoids will become faster. Why would you put yourself through such a challenge? Well it’s hella fun, plus each match rewards you with points that can be exchanged for Crusty Sean Tickets, Ability Chunks (which you can save up for upgrades), coins, and gear. While Salmon Run can be played locally with friends or online with strangers, it’s only available at certain periods during the day, giving it a unique allure that we’re still on the fence about.

Onto the main course: competitive multiplayer. New perks are nice, but there are also several welcome omissions from the first game, like the ability to be temporarily invincible. Tasty additions to the menu include upgraded weapons, elaborate stages encouraging more strategy, and more frequent level rotation.

In terms of multiplayer modes that you’ll find by heading into Inkopolis’ main lobby, Splat Zone is easily the game’s most iconic, with two teams of four squaring off against each other to see who can ink the most ground in three minutes. This is also the only mode you can play as a Ranked or non-Ranked Battle. Other Ranked and League-mandatory Battles are Rainmaker, which plays out like inverse capture-the-flag, and Tower Control, which has players covering a tower in ink and then swimming to the top for the win.

If you’re hoping for some kind of voice chat, there’s a workaround that involves a iOS or Android app. I’m not a huge fan of voice chat in general, so no major inconvenience, but you might feel otherwise about this comparatively tedious method.

While part one looked fab on the Wii U, Splatoon 2 has clearly been given a visual overhaul on the more powerful Switch. The improvements aren’t super apparent at first, but if you were to go back to the first game, you would immediately notice the bump in colours, textures, and animations here, running at a consistently smooth 60 fps. Also, it goes without saying that Switch’s seamless portability is as heavenly as ever.

Splatoon 2 is out July 21 exclusively on the Nintendo Switch. Consider this another must-own title for a console that’s pretty much delivered nonstop knockouts since it launched just four months ago.