Splatoon 2 review: A refreshing splash of color

Splatoon 2 Marina
(Image: © iMore)

iMore Verdict

Bottom line: Splatoon 2 takes everything the original did and made it better. With new modes, weapons, and a ton of support, this is the definitely a must-have for any Nintendo Switch owner who enjoys the third-person shooter genre.


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    Unique take on the genre

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    Wide variety of game modes

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    Accessible to all skill levels


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    Poor matchmaking

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    No more Splatfest support

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    Poor online infrastructure

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It's safe to say that Nintendo's announcement of the original Splatoon for the Nintendo Wii U was a surprise if fans had ever seen one. At first glance, the concept seemed silly. A third-person shooter, but with ink? Some people were nervous — and rightfully so — that Nintendo's attempt at making a specific type of game family-friendly would do it more harm than good. Nintendo can sometimes take the dedication to an accessible, "fun for all ages" game as a concept a bit too seriously, alienating some more mature fans in the process.

Splatoon 2 is refreshing after many a dull, sepia-toned shooter.

The game ended up being soaked in Nintendo magic. Bullets were replaced with ink, which could be used to "splat" enemies, though splatting is not integral to the game. Players can paint the ground and swim in ink to both re-fill ammunition and get around quickly, completing objectives and working together as a team. It was timeless, and had the perfect balance of being easy to pick up, yet hard to master. Despite being the first completely new IP that Nintendo has released in a very long time, it was a smash hit.

Upon the announcement of the sequel to Splatoon which was set to release on the Nintendo Switch, fans of the genre were almost vibrating with hype. The Wii U, while a great console, did not sell very well, and Splatoon 2 was a chance for a wider audience to be exposed to the freshness that were the not-quite-kids-or-squids Inklings. And while Splatoon 2 did not reinvent the Splattershot, it certainly did streamline the formula and helped to strengthen the Nintendo eSports scene.

Splatoon 2: What you'll like / What's good

Splatoon 2 Inkopolis Square

Splatoon 2 Inkopolis Square (Image credit: iMore)

Unique take on the genre Super fresh

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CategorySplatoon 2
TitleSplatoon 2
GenreThird-person shooter
Game Size6.1 GB
Play Time10 - 50+ hours
Players1 - 4 players
FormatDownload/Game Card
Launch Price$60

Nintendo is all about innovation. It often dips its toes into different genres, turning it into a unique game with its own charm. We see it in real-time strategy games like Pikmin 3, racing games like Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, and boxing games like ARMS. Each of these franchises has a distinct feel, and is super endearing.

Splatoon 2 Turf War (Image credit: iMore)

Splatoon 2 does the same, making a genre that seems inherently violent — the third-person shooter — and managing to turn it into a fun time that harkens back to backyard water gun fights. Players have a variety of weapons that, in essence, resemble real-life guns — such as a sniper rifle, light machine gun, and shotgun. But they're re-designed to be imaginitive, resembling water guns, pens, and umbrellas. It's refreshing after many a dull, sepia-toned shooter that raises questions about how desensitized gamers have become to the realities of wars. For players like me who enjoy the gameplay but don't want to contribute to heavy politics, it's perfect.

Variety of game modes Something for everyone

Splatoon 2 Multiplayer Lounge

Splatoon 2 Multiplayer Lounge (Image credit: iMore)

Not only does Splatoon innovate the classic shooter through the use of fun weapons and ink, it also shakes things up by using ink meachanics in various game modes. The single-player campain encourages the use of different weapons and allows campaign-lovers to get their fix, as they help shape the world while searching for the idol Callie, who mysteriously disappeared after the last Splatfest in the first Splatoon game. A DLC single-player campaign was later added, Octo Expansion, which provides a real challenge for those looking for one. Of the two campaigns, Octo Expansion was definitely my favorite, being just challenging enough without being unfair.

Those who enjoy multiplayer matches will feel right at home. Turf War is the classic default mode of the game and asks players to complete one objective: paint as much of the map as you can. After leveling up enough, players can take on the world of ranked mode. Splat Zones is a King-of-the-Hill mode where players fight for control of a small portion of the map, Tower Control is a Capture-the-Flag mode where players work together to guide a tower across the map, and Clam Blitz requires players to collect clams around the map and score points in a basket situated in the opposing team's territory. Winning matches will raise a player's rank from C- all the way to X rank, incentivising fans to keep coming back and honing their skills.

Splatoon 2 Salmon Run Boss (Image credit: iMore)

The new mode which was beloved by fans immediately upon release was the horde mode, Salmon Run. Players are placed in teams of four and must work together to survive waves of Salmonids and boss enemies, all the while collecting eggs and placing them in a basket until the quota is filled. While players are normally encouraged to find a weapon and main it, Salmon Run has players learn different weapons by assigning them one of four different weapons associated with that specific rotation. Though I was disappointed that this mode is not available 24/7, I do have fond memories of yelling at my friends whenever a new rotation was going on, and learning how surprisingly good I found certain weapons as I was forced to leave my comfort zone and try them out.

Accessibility for all skill levels Everyone is welcome

Splatoon 2 Weapon Shop

Splatoon 2 Weapon Shop (Image credit: iMore)

If it's one thing Nintendo is known for, it's making games fun for everyone. Accessibility is important in games, and while Nintendo is severely lacking in many respects, some accessibility options in Splatoon 2 need to be commended. There are colorblind options for visually impaired people, as well as motion controls for fine-tuned aiming. There's still a ways to go to ensure that disabled and people suffering from chronic pain can enjoy these games, but I do appreciate the step in the right direction.

Beginners aren't punished for their skill level, while advanced players are incentivized to hone their skills.

While mobility accessibility may need some work, Nintendo has made sure that this game is accessible to all skill levels. Beginners or people of lower skill aren't punished for not being an eSports athlete, as being splatted or losing a game won't impair your experience. People can't go down levels by losing, and while Ranked Mode players can go down in rank if they lose too many times in a row, they aren't barred from playing for losing and can't go below C- rank; which is also true for Salmon Run.

People who have dedicated themselves to the craft that is Splatoon are in for a treat — through an entire metagame of clothing and weapon customization via Ability Chunks and Super Sea Snails. The best of the best in Ranked Mode are rewarded with X Rank and can be sure that everyone they play with will, more or less, be on their skill level.

Splatoon 2: What you won't like / What's not good

Splatoon 2 Inked

Splatoon 2 Inked (Image credit: iMore)

Poor matchmaking So unfair

Making the game accessible for all skill levels is important, but it has its limits in Splatoon 2. All players can access Turf War from the start, but matchmaking is essentially a free-for-all. In contrast to Ranked Mode and Salmon Run, Turf War players are not placed in lobbies where the other people match their skill level.

Splatoon 2 Matchmaking

Splatoon 2 Matchmaking (Image credit: iMore)

At level one, you could be placed in a lobby with people who are over level 100. Should you be dealt a poor hand and be placed in groups of low-level people who are up against veteran players, being at a disadvantage can be demotivating. This seems unnecessary since Nintendo is capable of ranking players by skill. What would make more sense would be if players were grouped into lobbies with up to 10 levels in the same range as them. It makes me hope that this issue is fixed in Splatoon 3.

No more Splatfest support I miss the snails

Splatoon 2 Splatfest

Splatoon 2 Splatfest (Image credit: iMore)

Splatfests were one of my favorite parts of Splatoon 2. Every month, players were presented with a theme comprised of two opposing sides: such as Cake versus Ice Cream, Salsa versus Guacamole, and Time Travel versus Teleportation. Players would pick a side and compete in Turf War for 24 to 48 hours, with Ranked Modes being unavailable for the duration of the Splatfest.

Splatfests were one of my favorite parts of Splatoon 2.

The number of points being collected during matches amounted to "Clout", which would be tallied at the end for each team. Players could choose either "Normal" or "Pro" mode, with both modes being identical except Pro mode players being unable to team up with friends. At the end of the Splatfest, three points are allotted to the most popular team, the team with the most Clout in Normal mode and the team with the most Clout in Pro mode. The team with the majority points won, and Super Sea Snails, which can be used to add Ability Chunk slots to clothing or re-roll Chunks for better abilities.

Splatoon 2 Final Fest

Splatoon 2 Final Fest (Image credit: iMore)

Unfortunately, Splatfests are no longer running. There was a big, bad "Final Fest" in July of 2019 which had players choose between Chaos and Order. Chaos won, which some fans surmise had a bearing on Splatoon 3's theme, since the final Splatfest of Splatoon 1 influenced the Splatoon 2 single-player story. This is disappointing, since Nintendo could have just placed existing Splatfests on rotation like they did with Salmon Run rotations. For late adopters of the game, it hinders their ability to earn Super Sea Snails, making customization difficult.

Poor online infrastructure So inconvenient

Splatoon 2 Splatnet

Splatoon 2 Splatnet (Image credit: Nadine Dornieden / iMore)

This is my biggest gripe with the game. From the jump, Nintendo explained that Splatoon 2 would not support native voice chat, instead requiring the use of the cumbersome Nintendo Switch Online app. In order to use voice chat with friends, one would have to arrange a date with friends, create or join a room in the Online Lounge, and then use the NSO app (and headphones, probably) to talk to friends. However, with the Online Lounge no longer being supported, players will have to make regular voice chat rooms and place a password on the room to keep it private. It's more trouble than it's worth, sometimes, which is disappointing.

If the internet connection wavers or becomes unstable, you're kicked out of the call, which can be irritating. It also discourages keeping your game volume up, so that you can hear your friends properly. And with no support for Bluetooth headphones outside of third-party dongles, players like me ended up finding it less aggravating to resort to applications like Skype or Discord. Hori ended up releasing a headset that split the audio between the game and the call, which is good in theory but ended up resulting in a mess of cables.

Splatoon 2: Should you play it?

Splatoon 2 Inkling

Splatoon 2 Inkling (Image credit: iMore)

Despite its hangups with online connectivity and matchmaking, Splatoon 2 is one of the best multiplayer games on the system. Learning different weapons and how they work in different game modes, customizing your character, and finding a game mode that best suits your preferences can give everyone a unique and pleasant experience. If you're interested in the art style, the memes, or are wondering what a shooter can be like for both kids and squids, this game is for you.

Nadine Dornieden

Nadine is a freelance writer for iMore with a specialty in all things Nintendo, often working on news, guides, reviews, and editorials. She's been a huge Nintendo fan ever since she got to pet her very own Nintendog, and enjoys looking at Nintendo's place in the video game industry. Writing is her passion, but she mostly does it so that she can pay off her ever-growing debt to Tom Nook. Her favorite genres are simulation games, rhythm games, visual novels, and platformers. You can find her at @stopthenadness on Twitter, where she'll more than likely be reposting cute Animal Crossing content.