The first global testfire for Splatoon on the Wii U was a watershed moment for that game. Many were skeptical about the game, as Nintendo was stepping into unfamiliar territory with this team-based shooter. Within one weekend, it silenced the skeptics and became a smash hit upon release.
If it worked the first time, why not try again? Over the weekend, Nintendo gave players access to a beta build of Splatoon 2 on the Nintendo Switch. Was this beta enough excite existing fans and potential new players alike?
As with its predecessor, Splatoon 2 is primarily a team-based third-person shooter where the goal is to cover the floor of the level in your colour of paint. Along the way, if you happen to shoot your opponents, you will take them out of the game temporarily, though winners and losers aren’t defined by kill-death-ratios here. It’s a novel take on the shooter genre that de-emphasizes twitch reflexes and pinpoint accuracy without losing its fun-factor.
Players got access to what appears to be a very small chunk of the game. We got to choose from one of four weapon loadouts and a small pool of levels were chosen by the game before each match. The four weapons in the game include a few old favourites, such as the Splattershot, Charger and Splat Roller. We also got access to a new weapon called the Splat Dualies.
The Splat Dualies are twin pistols that shoot at a fast rate, albeit with a short range. The key to using them is that you gain the ability to tactical roll. This is a very handy maneuver for quickly dodging before performing a counter attack. It’s a lot of fun to roll, but be mindful that the recovery at the end of the roll is a bit slow. If your opponent can anticipate where you’re going, you’re still toast. This weapon and tactical roll are great additions to the game.
As for the legacy guns, those mostly behave the same with a few minor adjustments. For one, the Charger can now maintain its charge even while you’re in squid mode. The Splat Roller also saw a change, as jumping and flicking the roller at the same time will shoot out a longer-ranged, yet skinnier blast of ink. For Splat Roller players, this gives them an option in the event of an opponent trying to pick them off from a distance.
One aspect of the game that has changed quite a bit are the special weapons. Nintendo claims that Splatoon 2 will feature all new special weapons, some of which were on display here. The Splattershot got paired with a giant missile launcher that let you lock onto multiple targets before inking them off the face of the Earth. Splat Roller users got a jumping ground pound that emits a giant circle of paint around the player. Charger users got a large stream of ink, sort of like a fire hose. Splat Dualies got a jet pack, allowing you to shoot from an elevated plane. For a game that does largely feel similar to its predecessor, I’m glad that Nintendo took a stand here in making all of these weapons unique.
Splatoon 2 plays a lot like the original, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The first game was fantastic and it looks like the sequel will at the very least provide the same type of thrills for players that dive into the sequel. What remains to be answered is whether the final product will do enough to differentiate itself. Lots of new maps and toys are great, but I was kind of hoping for a bigger change at the core of the gameplay. Maybe we’ll see those larger shifts in the final product, but if we don’t, this will probably still be a great shooter and a must-have for Nintendo Switch owners.