A few months ago I wrote about how my child and I tried Splatoon 2 for the first time. My kid – who I’ll be referring to as Inkling throughout this post – chose their nickname out of sheer excitement for Splatoon 3. They looked at that first trailer, saw all the style and swagger of the character, and immediately downloaded a personality. So last Christmas someone in my family got a copy of Splatoon 2 for Inkling. Unfortunately, our first time with the game didn’t go smoothly. Inkling found Splatoon to be too difficult and with the lack of local multiplayer, we couldn’t just goof around in a safe space or get into a match and rely on my skill to carry us through like we do in some other games. We put Splatoon down for a long time after that. Inkling would bring it up occasionally when we were picking games to play together but ultimately would drift to other options each time.
What got me playing Splatoon again was one of the most powerful forces known to humanity: boredom. After finishing Chicory I didn’t have any more Switch games to fill the spots in my week where I don’t have access to my gaming PC, and I didn’t feel up to replaying any old games. While Inkling hadn’t cared for Splatoon 2 during our first foray, I thought it was fine. And with the Octo Expansion DLC now on our console as part of the Nintendo Switch Online Expansion Pass (#notasponsor), it seemed like a good time to check the game out again. I wanted to focus on finishing the original single player mode before moving on to Octo Expansion, so I picked up where I had left off and began exploring the second of five sectors.
If you haven’t played Splatoon 2’s single player before, its essential function is to teach you the techniques you need to know in order to play multiplayer at a decent skill level. Starting at sector 2, that also means introducing the various weapon types available in the game. You depart from operating the generic ink blaster to utilizing a number of other tools. The roller I recognized as a classic even as a casual observer of Splatoon: it’s a big ole paint roller you push along the ground to cover a lot of space at once. But I also got to try out a sniper rifle -like weapon, the dualies (a pair of ink pistols), and literally just a bucket with a bunch of ink in it. Each weapon has a distinct mechanical function that makes it easy to identify a unique playstyle for that tool.
Here are some example use cases. The roller is great for covering ground quickly, but is tricky to utilize as a weapon because of its limited range and weird splash pattern. Conversely, the sniper rifle is almost useless for covering ground but is great for hitting foes from a distance, as well as interactive elements in the environment that move your character or move distant platforms to new positions. The dualies are a fast and straightforward weapon and enable a dodge roll ability, but they run out of ink quickly. Finally, the bucket (I think it’s actually called the slosher, maybe?) covers a solid area for both combat and turf coloring purposes but has a slow rate of fire and somewhat limited range. I personally like the dualies but the levels do a good job of showcasing that no weapon is right for every single situation.
The levels themselves have been pretty interesting to engage with. Splatoon has an interesting blend of third person shooter and platformer where you use the ink fired from your gun to interact with elements of the environment and create paths to swim through in your much more agile squid form. As a squid you can jump further, slide through grates, and climb vertically up structures, creating a lot of interesting puzzle possibilities. One level featured giant ink-eating robots that I had to find a way to climb on top of and then lead around with ink to reach new locations. Another had moving platforms operated by fans where I needed to shoot a series of fans in order to get platforms in position and then quickly jump across before they reset. And while they are largely linear in nature, each one has little hidden pockets where you can find special collectibles like an ore that upgrades your weapons or pages of your travel brochure to learn more about the setting. You can replay levels for the collectibles but I like to try and get them the first time through so I only end up doing each level one time.
Seeing me play Splatoon has been what it took to get Inkling really interested in checking it out again. We started by taking turns during levels; Inkling would start a level and if it became too frustrating then I would step in and get them past the difficult phase they were stuck on. It’s a notable change in Inkling’s ability to deal with frustration – as I explained in my last article, they tended to get pretty upset right away when things didn’t go their way before. Now when Inkling hits a wall, they calmly ask me to intervene. We swapped like this for a bit and then Inkling found something they really liked: the overworld. Each sector in Splatoon 2 has an overworld area scattered with tea kettles that lead to each level. While the sector 1 map is nothing to write home about, sectors 2 and 3 actually have a lot of interesting space to move around in. Here in a zone where losing lives wasn’t a concern, there wasn’t a linear path to be forced along, and no enemies interfered with your actions, Inkling could explore to their heart’s content.
Our second visit with Splatoon 2 has been a lot more successful than the first. Unlocking the new weapons in single player has expanded the puzzle options during the platforming levels and allowed me to experiment with different playstyles. And a more interesting overworld to explore combined with some impressive personal growth on Inkling’s part has helped them find something to like as well. I’ll be curious to see what the rest of the game has in store, and I’m excited to have Inkling along for the ride.