Since late last week, I’ve been playing Splatoon 2’s single player mode non-stop. I know, I know – I’m lucky. I only played a bit of the original Splatoon, as I didn’t own a Wii U (I’m ashamed, I admit it). But I loved the bit of the creatively non-violent shooter back then, and I’ve been counting down the days since the Switch’s launch when Splatoon 2 would be available. What made the notion of the sequel much more appealing to me is that Splatoon 2 comes packed with a fully-feature single player campaign. A more robust version of the Hero Mode found in the original. While our full review of Nintendo’s latest will go live later next week, I’m happy to report that Splatoon 2’s single player mode is worth the purchase alone.
One of the beautiful things about Splatoon 2 is just how connected its many modes are: there are no bland menus to sort through. When you first boot the game, you’re tasked with creating your basic character (Inkling), which you’ll later customize with rewards and items from playing the game. Once that’s done, you’re shown the main hub of Splatoon 2, a Tokyo-esque bustling city square where you’ll meet other players, buy new weapons, and enter the game’s various modes. Multiplayer for review copies isn’t open until the 13th, and the Nintendo Switch App isn’t online until later, so the main bit of fun we’ve been having has been with the single player campaign.
And yes, it’s darn good.
The story is pretty straightforward – one of the pop-star Squid Sisters is missing (Callie) and her sister Marie is recruiting you to help figure out what’s happened to her. It also seems the Zapfish that power the world have started disappearing, and you’ve got to track them down too. Your main base of operations is Octo Canyon, which is in itself a sort of game. Each level of the campaign is hidden throughout 1 of 5 separate mini-worlds in Octo Canyon. You’ve got to jump, swim, and figure out how to get to each level before you can even try to beat it. It’s also in Octo Canyon where you’ll level up weapons and test them out in the different levels, unlocking them for later use. This is separate from the multiplayer weapon store, where you have to compete online to buy/customize those.
The levels are all expertly designed, and in a lot of ways, the gameplay reminds me of the best bits from the underrated Super Mario Sunshine. There are puzzles, hidden lore items to find, and hidden items to use in upgrading your weapons. And once you’ve rescued enough Zapfish in each world, you unlock the final boss. The first one is a giant toaster controlled by one massive tentacle, constantly trying to whack you with loaves of bread and ink it spits from its top and sides. It’s as crazy as it sounds, and supremely fun as you wait for him to eject his bread, splat it with ink, and then swim up his sides to get at the tentacle on top.
Indeed, I’ve put in about 8-10 hours with the campaign so far, and I’m not yet finished. I’d wager there are a solid 15 hours of gameplay here, less if you just rush to finish it without getting all the goodies. While that might seem light to some folks obsessed with the length of games, given that the single player campaign is so robustly featured, I’d recommend buying Splatoon 2 based on this bit alone. I have a lot of friends who are hesitant to get into competitive shooters, and Splatoon’s single player campaign is worth the price of admission even without what’s bound to be its biggest selling point. I can’t wait for the multiplayer servers to go live, so I can get time with the customization, Salmon Run “horde” mode, and tweak the weapons to my liking.
There’s a whole lot to Splatoon 2 to love. It controls marvelously in handheld or docked mode, and the motion controls are oddly satisfying and accurate once you get used to tilting the controller or the Switch itself to aim. Our full review will come later on, but if we’re going by the single player story mode alone, we’d not hesitate to tell you to pre-order Splatoon 2 now. It’s fantastic.