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Splatoon 2’s single-player campaign inks my heart

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You probably think of Splatoon as a multiplayer thing, but it’s the single-player campaign that inked my heart with Nintendo‘s unique take on the shooter genre when it came out for the Wii U in 2015.

The multiplayer mode — which had teams competing to cover as much of a level in their color of ink as possible — is a lot of fun, but the solo experience has all the things that I love about Nintendo games: tight level design, clever ideas, and a special brand of charm. When Nintendo announced a sequel for the Switch — which comes out on July 21 — I hoped that it would get another single-player campaign.

Well, it does! Hooray! And I’ve had a chance to play some of it. And it’s just as fun and charming as the first one.

Above: You use jump pads to soar across levels.

Image Credit: GamesBeat

Not a throwaway

Splatoon 2‘s campaign is like a mix of a third-person shooter and a 3D Mario game. You’ll need to use some platforming skills to make your way around levels, often taking advantage of Splatoon’s unique ink-based abilities, which can let you climb up walls or disappear into the ground. But you need to shoot enemies to beat them. This results in a unique experience that has you dodging enemies while covering levels in ink.

The ink itself is your ammo, so you’ll need to submerge yourself every once in a while if you want to keep shooting. Moving around in ink is also faster than normal walking.

Just like with a classic Nintendo experience like Super Mario Galaxy, levels are constantly throwing new gimmicks and tricks at you. You’ll come across new enemies, like giant rollers that can immediately kill you and cover large areas in non-friendly ink (you can disappear inside the ink you shoot, but standing in ink of a different color will slowly kill you). Or you’ll come across new mechanics, like small sponges that grow into useful platforms if you shoot them enough.

The cleverness extends to Splatoon 2’s boss fights, which are comically crazy. The first boss, for example, is some sort of giant … oven. It attacks you by shooting out cooked loaves of bread. To beat it, you need to use your ink to make a path up the loaves to its top, where you can attack its weak point. It’s absurd, and I love it.

Above: Now that is a boss.

Image Credit: GamesBeat

The charm

The whole thing is funny. Marie, one of two pop idols that served as broadcasters in the first Splatoon, now takes the role of your guide, which often means she delivers (wonderfully) awful puns as you play through the game.

Even the overworld, which serves as a hub connecting all of the campaign’s levels, is plenty of fun. You can’t just waltz into a new stage. You need to find its entrance, which itself can take a little platforming and puzzle-solving to do. You can even find a few items and secrets if you dig around the overworld.

It also just looks great. Splatoon 2 has such a unique setting and style. It’s a wonderful mix of pop, punk, and humanized sea creatures. And the campaign runs smoothly and looks beautiful.

Above: The entrance area of the overworld.

Image Credit: GamesBeat

Most people are probably going to pick up Splatoon 2 for its multiplayer, and I get that. As much as I love Splatoon’s take on the shooter campaign, it’s a much shorter affair than the infinite value guaranteed in queuing up for endless online matches. While I haven’t beaten Splatoon 2’s solo mode yet, it looks to be about as long as the first one’s, which only takes about five hours or so to beat.

But even though the hours are few, they are a blast. Splatoon 2’s campaign may not be the star of the game, but it’s a shining example of why people love Nintendo.

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