History of Splatoon
When Nintendo first made Splatoon, the idea of a competitive multiplayer shooter that kids could play was strange. The game’s unique way of controlling zones made combat important, but the main goal was to cover everything in sticky goo. Painting the battlefield made it easy to see who was winning and who was losing without having to use a big scoreboard. This kind of pleasant surprise is what Nintendo has become known for. After two games and a big add-on, Splatoon 3 is a better version of everything that came before it. This time, it’s less new, but it’s still fun, and it all comes together to make the best Splatoon game yet.
Good game for a beginner
Splatoon 3 assumes you don’t know all of this, so it starts you off with a short tutorial that teaches you the basics of splatting before putting you in the main hub area, a new city called Splatsville in the middle of the desert Splatlands. From there, you’re told to look around to find out more about all the ways to play and places to go, which can be a bit overwhelming at first. The city isn’t that big—mostly it’s a hub for other game modes—but it feels busy and full of places to check out. You can play the single-player campaign, the co-op Salmon Run mode, or the competitive multiplayer mode.
For new players, the single-player mode is the best place to start because it gives you more chances to practice splatting than the short pre-Splatsville introduction. It’s not just a glorified tutorial, though. The campaign is long and does a great job of using the game’s mechanics to repeat and give you different kinds of challenges.
The story follows your character as the newest member of a team of special agents as they explore the island of Alterna, which is said to hold secrets that are important to understanding this post-apocalyptic squid world. Some characters and events from before are mentioned, but for the most part, the story stands on its own. And it does explain what happened to people, just like it said it would. Fans of Splatoon who have been dying to know why the world is now full of squid-octopus hybrids will be glad to finally find out.
The main plot of the story, though, has less to do with people and more to do with figuring out what’s going on with a big, fuzzy rocket. Explore the challenge stages to move forward in the campaign. To get to the challenge stages, you have to go around or through the fuzzy ooze. If you fall in, you’ll turn into something like Captain Caveman and die right away. If you win money in a stage, you can use it to pop bubbles of pulsating ooze. This starts a chain reaction that gets rid of some of the fuzz and opens up new paths. It’s all very classy, and the system is flexible enough that you can skip a stage if it’s too hard and move on to the next one.
Many secret Gems to find
Because there are so many different kinds of challenges, the stage design itself shows a lot of creativity. The game goes beyond its core paint-gun mechanic to include bare-knuckle platforming, combat, and even some light puzzles. However, none of these things feel too different from the paint-gun mechanic. The only problem is that the enemies don’t look different enough to keep the game interesting for 8–10 hours. You’ll fight the same few types of enemies over and over, with small changes here and there. Even so, the ending feels like a fittingly grand ending, not just to this game but to the whole trilogy. The final battle in Splatoon 3 is so ridiculously big that I couldn’t help but laugh out loud. It’s also a test of skill unlike any other in the campaign, which makes it both exciting and maybe a little bit cheap, since the difficulty suddenly goes up.
The city, which is the center of both the single-player story mode and the many multiplayer options, can be a lot to take in. You can jump right into any area you want by using a shortcut in the menu, but it’s also fun to just walk around the city and find out where everything is. Even though it’s not necessary, it makes the city feel lived-in and complete in a way that a simple menu might not. But sometimes the frame rate seemed to slow down a little while I was exploring, so my Switch OLED hardware might not be up to the task of keeping up with a busy city.
Tableturf Battles, a new minigame in Splatoon 3 that is a standout original idea, is an even bigger change from the norm. The card-based game is similar to Splatoon in that the goal is to cover the most area with ink. It does this by putting blocks together like Tetriminos in an overhead view of a squared-off battlefield. You need to make a path of ink across the field of play, boxing in your opponent and covering your own zone with ink. It’s a simple idea that, like the core game mechanics of Splatoon, is easy to understand right away. I found myself playing Tableturf alone for hours, and I had to force myself back to Turf War so I could make more progress in multiplayer.
Splatoon 3 is the best game for Splatoon game
Overall, Splatoon 3 is the most complete Splatoon game so far. It has the most creative single-player story campaign and the most modes and options for multiplayer play. Even though it groans a bit under the weight of Nintendo’s online infrastructure, this third game brings together everything that made the previous games work, as well as some great new features like Tabletop Battles. Anyone who hasn’t liked Splatoon games in the past won’t like this one, but both newcomers and old pros should give it a try.