Due to the online servers not yet being available this preview is entirely focused around the single player campaign. Make sure you keep an eye out for our full review where we look at the whole kit and caboodle!
If there’s one complaint people had about the original Splatoon it’s that the single player Hero Mode, whilst certainly fun, was lacking the level of depth and intricacy that had clearly been poured into the multiplayer. Given that the Splatoon series is a primarily multiplayer experience this isn’t that surprising, but nevertheless a more substantial solo experience would have pushed an already brilliant game into the seriously big leagues, and it looks like Splatoon 2 may have just about cracked it.
Initial levels are admittedly worryingly straightforward and simplistic. The level design is very basic in the early moments, and with your slow-shooting Hero Shot the pacing is supremely pedestrian. Thankfully it seems that this is designed more for absolute beginners to the series, and upon reaching the first boss (which we’re not going to spoil because it’s too damned wonderful) the difficulty takes a sudden and not insignificant turn. Upon reaching the second world all was forgiven from our perspective, as a pair of short-range but ultra-rapid fire Hero Dualies was thrust into our tentacles.
Immediately the pace picked up tremendously and we were gifted with a whole range of new and exciting level designs and elements. The utilitarian Inkrails have been replaced entirely with a new system that also allows you to grind and fire in the middle of a ride, the ink-clearing Squee-Gs that were little more than a mild pest now have giant variants that will suck the ink directly out of you before you can say ‘woomy’; everything has been turned up to eleven, and it feels fantastic.
As we explored new levels in Sectors 2 and 3 we were also gifted with other weapons to take through the levels. Every level forces you to use a pre-determined weapon the first time you play it, but if you return once it’s bested you can choose to use any weapon you like, adding an entirely new dynamic with each run.
In the original you could play through select levels with a charger, Kraken, or a roller, but not only were you restricted to what levels you could play, you’d also have to fork out for an amiibo in order to do it. Not a bit of it in this sequel; you can choose to use any of the weapons available to you in any level without having to buy anything additional, which is a massive improvement and provides a glut of replayability. You’ll also be rewarded for your efforts if you make it through a level with every weapon possible; we can’t tell you what the rewards are, but trust us when we say it’s worth the effort.
Furthermore the limited weapon upgrades from the past make a return in a more significant form. Now each weapon has the ability to be upgraded, but in order to do so you’ll not only have to grab Power Eggs by the bucketload, but also a new collectible called Sardinium. This presumably rare metal with a fishy name can be found one fish at a time in every level in the same way as the Sunken Scrolls, which also make a welcome return.
We briefly mentioned bosses, so we'd better elaborate on them a bit more. Whilst the bosses were undoubtedly fun in Splatoon (with the final boss being a particular highlight), there was a little left to be desired with them. They weren’t especially tricky and followed very linear patterns that become more of a chore than a challenge after the first few hits. In this game however they’re all infinitely more interesting. Some do follow the typical ‘dodge, dodge, hit, repeat’ formula, but each time their strategies change and, in the instance of the oft-reported Octosamurai, become surprisingly tricky.
That’s not to say everything’s perfect in the single player Hero Mode. Level design has improved stupendously but finding the stages throughout the various Sector hub worlds borders on tiresome. It does add more to a game to have to platform to get to a specific location, but when you’re looking around desperately for the last level and you’re sure you’ve been absolutely everywhere, it can become notably frustrating. Exploration is all well and good, but when you just want to progress to the Sector boss and the game hides the last hurdle from you it can be infuriating.
Overall, though, Octo Canyon has come a long way since our original ink-fuelled love affair on the Wii U; with infinitely more replayability and most of our frustrations appropriately ironed out, it deserves its place on the cart. It’s still probably not worth the full retail price by itself if you plan to never go online, but we don’t think there’s much more we could demand from it.