Splatoon 2 was some of the most fun I’d ever had on Switch. It’s just so cool compared to most of the other first party Nintendo games, possessing an incredibly fluid rhythm and permeating sense of style. It wasn’t perfect, and I wasn’t too good at it, but I didn’t care. Dystopian futures ruled by lethal paintball battles rule. Sure, this might be the only one, but it’s a really good one.
If you’re already familiar with Splatoon in general, you’ll feel right at home. This is a bigger, bolder Splatoon 2, bursting right out the gate with a fully-fledged story mode and perennial Salmon Run mode. It’s everything the previous game was and more. More Splatfests, more kooky aquatic characters, more incredibly dark lore lurking in the background. With the story mode more accessible than ever, Splatoon is more capable than ever of striking out on its own as a franchise.
Everything is offered up on a platter right off the bat, although the game does strongly try and corral you towards playing a few Turf Wars first. It staggers access to shops until you’ve earned your stripes – although these don’t apply to the story mode or Salmon Run, both of which use their own specific gear. This compartmentalisation means you can really just enjoy Splatoon 3 in whichever way you choose, and that’s great, because story mode this time is an incredibly competent puzzle shooter all by itself.
Splatoon 3 – One of the best puzzle games of the year?
I really can’t sing the praises of story mode enough – I like the game’s online modes a lot, though I tend to spend more time in co-op. It just feels like such a complete experience this time, acting as a sort of experimental series of puzzles that plays with some of Splatoon‘s best toys. One level sees you zipping around like Spider-Man, smashing through obstacles and climbing a series of challenges. The next minute you’re painting a giant Easter Island head from top to bottom, and then before you know it you’ll be fighting giant bosses to incredibly unique soundtracks.
It also gives you time to get to know the new faces of the game, who take a very active role in the storyline – and, blessedly, don’t dominate your first five minutes of time with the game every time you log in. That intro sequence that ran every time you launched Splatoon 2, giving you the rundown on which maps are currently active can now be minimised into a podcast format, which is absolutely excellent.
Turf Wars – Signature multiplayer mode returns.
I am… not doing well in Turf Wars at the moment. I made the mistake of transferring my Splatoon 2 save from when I was actually good at the game, and now it keeps matching me with people who know what they’re doing. My win rate is abysmal, and everyone seems to be significantly better equipped than I am. I could just suck after a long time away from the game, and that’s fair enough, but I can’t help but feel a little frustrated.
One thing I really liked about Splatoon‘s multiplayer was the focus on covering territory instead of just outright killing other players. This is a mindset the player base has abandoned, as many of the higher end games I’ve played are just out-and-out deathmatches. Obviously the less time enemy Inklings are in the field, the better, but even Splatoon 3‘s maps seem to reflect this change in pace. They’re narrower than before, corralling players into incredibly tight skirmishes that easily turn into team wipes if you’re not careful.
Another note – it’s now possible to go into casual games as a full squad. Where Splatoon 2 would allow you to queue together but often dump you on opposing sides, you can now team up and hit the turf wars as a group. This is good and bad in my opinion, as you’ve now got gangs of tryhards dominating the casual game modes whilst the supposed competitive mode is gentle in comparison.
Salmon Run – the friendliest Horde Mode in town.
Salmon Run is easily one of Splatoon‘s most entertaining modes, although it comes with its own frustrations. The focus, more than ever, is on teamwork, and that can be hard to achieve with only two very basic communication methods. It’s easy enough to get started. The game throws a random weapon at you and tasks you with collecting as many salmon eggs as possible alongside three other players. The eggs are dropped by an impressive variety of Boss Salmonids, all requiring different approaches to take them down.
Speed is everything in Salmon Run – you’ve got a quota of eggs to reach every round, with bonuses for over performing. If you’re knocked out, your team can revive you by spraying you with paint, but they’ll often have to wade into the danger that killed you to do so. When Salmon Run starts ramping up the intensity, you’ve got multiple bosses flying around attacking at once with massive area-of-effect attacks. Huge chunks of the arena become hostile territory, the timer running down and failure imminent, but all it takes is one good play to turn the tide.
Splatoon 3 overall thoughts
Splatoon 3 is the most generous serving of the series yet, coming with three fully fledged modes that appeal to everyone. Whether you want to play competitively, co-operatively, or by yourself – this entry has a bit of everything. It maintains the series’ trademark style whilst fleshing out and expanding those undeveloped areas. And it’s all still so quick fire and satisfying – everything is delivered in bite sized pieces that make it perfect for the portability of the Switch.
This is one of my easiest game recommendations for a while. If you want to have some fun on Switch without dumping too much time into it, buy Splatoon 3. Whatever you want it for, it delivers.