I’ll preface this review by saying that Splatoon 2 is an excellent game – but if you’re reading this, you probably know that already. It’s Nintendo’s answer to the third person shooter, a game that revolves around spraying ink rather than shooting bullets. It’s a colourful splodge on an otherwise coffee-filtered genre – though it also suffers from some of said genres trappings.
For one, it’s a mostly online affair, with a slender (though fun and creative) single-player campaign. For reference, according to my Switch, I’ve played it for about eighty hours – and I’d say that a good seventy-five of those were from online play. If you ain’t a fan of blowing people up online, then, there won’t be a lot of mileage in this game for you.
The Octo Expansion, at least on paper, is trying to rectify this point. Stuffed to the gills with eighty levels of single-player content, it seems to be Nintendo’s way of bulking up the campaign mode. Obviously eighty levels is going to do that well – but are they fun to play? Well, read on, dearest viewer. I’m obviously going to break it down for you, this being a review and that.
Oh, and, brand new feature – you can now click the screenshots to make them all big and that. Don’t say I never do you any favours, alright?
Squid out of water
If you’re at all familiar with Splatoon, then you’ll know that the single player campaign focuses on skirmishes between Inklings – squid people – and Octolings. You’ve probably heard the ‘you’re a kid now, you’re a squid now‘ jingle used in nearly every advert for the game – and memes – so it should be obvious as to what side you’re usually on.
In the Octo Expansion, hence the name, you’re firmly placed within the boots of the enemy. Except, well, the player character isn’t an enemy anymore, obviously. After hearing a song that was busted out at the end of the original Splatoon, your Octoling, known as Agent 8, has effectively been turned over to the good side. Waking up in a mysterious underground subway, you’ve lost your memory, and the only thing that you know is that you want to fight for the other side.
Aided by Captain Cuttlefish, (also from the first game) you’re tasked with escaping the subterranean tunnels that you find yourself in by locating four ‘thingies’ spread across ten different subway tunnels.
This is where you’ll find the eighty test chamber-like levels, though they aren’t presented in a linear order. You don’t have to beat all of them to see the ending – I only beat 45 – but you do get rewards for finishing each individual subway track. More on that later.
The story itself is decent. You unlock cute IM logs as you go along that really expand two central characters in the game, Marina and Pearl. Toward the end of the game, it even pokes into the games post-apocalyptic roots in a way more blatant than the sunken scrolls did in the first game. Fairly interesting stuff all round, and cute to boot, the story was a decent enough carrot for me to hammer through the levels fairly quickly.
Let’s talk about the levels. They’re a mixed bag. You’ll do all kinds of activities in them, ranging from the relatively mundane – like ‘destroy all the enemies’ – to the bizarre, like smashing a big block of crates up so that they resemble a cat.
The difficulty can also be just as erratic – which is either fortunate or unfortunate, depending on how you look at it. For example, one level tasked me with destroying a large amount of crates in thirty seconds. This was an easy task – especially with the weapon that the game provided for that occasion. However, the mission a couple of levels back gave me no weapon, and forced me to precious dodge heavy incoming fire for thirty seconds whilst flying on a jetpack. This was teeth crunchingly tricky.
On the bright side, this does mean that the game is constantly surprising you. On the down side, there were some moments where expletives where shouted loudly enough to make an old lady blush. Fortunately, there are plenty of checkpoints – and even if you run out of lives, you can restart from the last checkpoint you hit. This does cost you a currency that you constantly accumulate throughout your underground adventure.
As a matter of fact, just entering the level can cost you between two hundred to a two thousand of said currency. However, for beating most missions, you do get an appropriate amount for your effort. Put it this way – despite getting ‘game over’ enough times where I was considering throwing things, I never came close to losing enough money that I wasn’t able to proceed further in my adventure.
For an additional amount of currency, after you’ve failed a mission so many times, you can pay a lump sum in order to have the level beat for you, if things get too tricky.
For me, this wasn’t really an option. I can’t leave a level undone, so there were some genuine moments of tedium. One level in particular tasks you with making two towers of crates look identical. This was a task which took over thirty minutes by itself – but if you smash the wrong crate, you better believe that you’re going back to the beginning. And this happened multiple times through the process. For one, the gun that you’re given is accurate enough for the job, but was easy enough to get sloppy and smash the crate on the left or the right of the one that you wanted to, resulting in total mission failure.
This was frustrating because it was inconsistent with the rest of the levels in the game, which are usually peppered with checkpoints as previously mentioned. Not only that, though, but the sheer difficulty of the levels can spoil them, too, turning them into frustrating, shouty affairs.
Many times, the difficulty will feel fair – things will be tricky, tricky enough that you might get splatted several times over – but you’ll always feel like it’s possible, it’s doable, if you just play a little more consistently. For example, there are levels which task you with rolling an eight ball from the beginning to the goal. These aren’t easy – enemies can shoot it, knocking it off course, along with multiple other factors. Still, there are enough checkpoints to make the level feel like a series of bite-size ball rolling challenges, rather than a frustrating onslaught.
Other times, they’ll feel akin to smashing your face repeatedly into a brick wall. The most egregious example of this is the Rainmaker challenges. For those unaware, this is a mode in multiplayer, similar to a reverse capture the flag. You’re tasked with delivering a super weapon from your base onto a plinth in the enemies. You’ll have to do this solo – against a team of four computers.
This would be fine if the Rainmaker was a versatile weapon, but it’s not. Think of the Spartan Laser from Halo – it’s good, but it’s not what you want to use when four enemies are shooting the Splatoon equivalent of assault rifles at you. Dying – and you’ll die a lot – makes you drop the Rainmaker where you melted. As a result, you’ll inch across the map, desperately racing toward where the Rainmaker dropped so that it won’t despawn, all while being shot up the arse. On a time limit.
To say it’s not that fun is an understatement.
Fortunately, more levels are like the former than the latter, meaning that you get a pleasantly challenging experience, hampered by the occasional moment where the difficulty feels rough.
Enough content to shake a fish at
Still, there are eighty levels, and that’s an awful lot – especially for the asking price of the DLC. As I mentioned before, you don’t need to beat all of them – but you are rewarded for doing such. Beating a level will award you with a ‘memcake’ – a tasty looking thing that holds one of Agent 8’s lost memories. Collect all of these across a track, and you’ll unlock pretty damn cool cosmetic items.
Minor multiplayer related nitpick on these – they only come with three out of four skill slots, meaning you’ll need to spend coins or a precious Super Sea Snail in order to make them properly viable.
These items have been reason enough for me to step back into the campaign, vying to complete every level in order to get sweet, sweet cosmetics. Beating every level will easily take you about ten to fifteen hours, with the base campaign eating up about five by itself.
On top of that, beating the campaign will allow you to play as an Octoling online. While the race doesn’t have any differences in gameplay, it’s at least a (slightly) different appearance to play about with. And if you’re a fan of the game, you’ll definitely get a kick out of it. Unfortunately, the customisation options for the Octolings are thin on the ground. Hopefully more will be patched in later, but for now, there’s only two hairstyles per gender to pick from.
For £17.99 / $19.99, it’s not a bad asking price for what you get. I’ve certainly spent that amount of money on worse. For all of it’s inconsistencies, it’s pretty damn fun, and well worth a look-in, particularly if you were a fan of the base games campaign. There’s good variation in the eighty levels on offer, and you’re guaranteed your brains, reflexes, and patience tested.
If I scored games, I’d give it an eight. Because an octopus has eight tentacles. Haha. Get it?
Don’t look at me like that.
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Unlike more fortunate folk, I dumped £17.99 of my own money on this, so you can rest assured, the review above is unbiased.
If you want to buy Splatoon 2 and you live in the UK, you can help me out by buying it off Amazon through this here link. This’ll get me some pennies, which makes me happy. You have a new game, which makes you happy. We’re all happy.
And no, I don’t do scoring.