This is a preview of the game’s single player campaign (Hero Mode). A full review will follow, including impressions of the multiplayer content.
If Breath of the Wild is seen as the single player experience to sell people on Switch, then Splatoon 2 could be seen as the multiplayer title to bring those players together.
Yet the one feature barely talked about when looking at Nintendo’s ink-em-up is the game’s Hero Mode. Which, after our time with it, could actually be Splatoon 2’s secret weapon.
Hero Mode is split up into 5 hub-like sectors which can be reached from one of the various manholes scattered throughout Inkopolis Square, the game’s take on a Miiverse-esque environment.
Starting in Tentakeel Outpost, you’re given a series of objectives from Maria heading into three lite-levels. These initial stages introduce you to the controls, various types of enemies, environments, using squid form, how to shoot, and more.
While a little slow to get going, they’re definitely a great way for new Splatoon players to get acclimatised to the action.
By default, the camera is controlled moving your Switch console around in Handheld mode. Likewise, when docked, your Pro or gripped controller also responds to motion. Don’t worry, though, as it’s not essential for play. You can still rely on the good old right analog stick which I most certainly favour.
The aim of each level in Hero Mode is to reach the end goal after taking out loads of enemies while collecting gazillions of power-ups, as well as some rare collectables. It’s all pretty straightforward and sounds fairly standard campaign-fare, but it also happens to be a ton of fun, especially once the developers start to exercise their creativity.
If you’ve never played Splatoon before, the very ability to paint an entire landscape with the gun in your hands can definitely fill you with a sense of glee, but the ink you shoot also enables you to move quickly around the map, swimming through it in squid form. This can be used as an effective evasion tactic, dodging enemy attacks, making it easy to transfer from one cover point to another, but this tactic is also used to refill your weapon when drained.
The first few levels familiarise you with this style of play while sending you along slide-rails, jumping between platforms and climbing hills, all leading up to the mode’s first major boss battle. By then, Hero Mode really comes into its own. Boss battles are dynamic, fast-paced, and fresh, often encouraging you to think outside the box with your approaches and usually punishing you for repetition. They’re an enjoyable challenge.
Once you reach Sector 2 then, you’ll be able to start using new weapons and abilities which can be upgraded with continued use. Once the weapons have been collected, they can also be swapped out at any time and used in any level. This is where the mode really starts to open up as these weapons can also be unlocked and used in online matches, while also being developed in other ways.
We’ll give a full Hero Mode verdict as part of our upcoming review, but after spending an extended period of time splatting everything in sight, we think this could be the special ingredient that makes the Splatoon 2 package completely irresistible.