You may have heard Splatoon is a pretty good multiplayer shooter, but did you know it has a single-player, too? More importantly, did you know it has a single-player that doesn’t feel tacked on and might actually be able to stand on its own? I’ll be honest—I saw some brief clips of the single-player levels in a Nintendo Direct and thought it looked alright, but I wasn’t expecting much.
Instead, what I got momentarily stole the show, taking up valuable time that I probably should have spent searching for online matches.
You’re introduced to the single-player mode rather nonchalantly when you first enter the hub area of Splatoon. The basic gist of the plot is that the squids and octopus people have been enemies for a long time, and the evil octopi are planning an invasion. Coincidentally, you happen to be the only hope of stopping them. It’s a very Nintendo kind of plot: short and simple, but just enough to push you along.
The single-player uses the same basic mechanics of the multiplayer component: you shoot ink and you can travel across that ink by surfing in squid form. However, the maps are now less focused on inking up everything you can (although that’s still fun to do!) and more about using that ink to get from point A to B. This shift in focus effectively transforms the game from a shooter to more of a platformer, kind of like the Ratchet and Clank games. There are even tons of boxes for you to destroy!
Splatoon works well as a shooter, but it almost feels like its mechanics were destined to be an awesome platformer. Using ink to climb environments and move from one perilous platform to the next feels incredibly natural. While the levels are clearly designed with the path in mind, the ability to ink up everything on the way makes it seem like you’re forging your own path.
While the mechanics themselves are entertaining, the campaign really shines by constantly introducing something new to the mix. My favorite idea is the sponge blocks. They grow bigger as you shoot them with ink, but smaller every time an enemy shoots them. When you have to hop across multiple sponges in a row with enemy forces right in front of you, things can get really tense as you battle to stay on your sponge.
Similarly creative are the bosses, which possess qualities that I can only describe as a “Nintendo boss”. They follow a familiar structure to a Mario or Zelda game, where they all take advantage of the game’s unique mechanics and force you to exploit the boss’s weakness a couple of times before it dies. The bosses are often bombastic and colorful, and while I didn’t find them to be particularly challenging, they’re all fun to experience.
The difficulty curve in the single-player is pretty mellow in general. You’re given three lives (and an extra every time you hit a checkpoint if you’ve lost one) to make it across the end, and that’s honestly more than enough. I did die a few times in Splatoon, but as long as you’re patient the game shouldn’t pose too many problems. The natural feel to the controls and mechanics goes a long way in accomplishing this.
Overall, I enjoyed the Splatoon single-player a lot more than I was expecting. It’s inventive and uses the game mechanics just as well as the multiplayer does, but in an almost completely different way. While it may not be very challenging, I found every level to be engaging enough to play through, and some cases even compelled to replay again. Long term I think you’ll want Splatoon for the online shooter, but it definitely doesn’t hurt to know that there’s a very competent single-player awaiting you as well.
Food for Thought:
1. One big change from the multiplayer is the lack of customization. In the single-player you’re only given one weapon type, the basic blaster. Instead of using money to buy new gear and weapons, you collect orbs that let you upgrade your existing equipment. The only real choice in arsenal comes from the grenade types. While it would have been cool to tackle all of the levels with the other two kinds of weapons, it’s pretty evident that most of the levels were designed with your basic move set in mind, so it might be for the best.
2. If you’re looking for something extra to do, there is a hidden collectible to find in each level. Some of them can be pretty tricky!
3. Throughout the story you’re bossed around by a guy called Cap’n Cuttlefish. One of my favorite little details about him is that he is actually hiding in the grate you use in the game’s hub area to reach the single-player map, but you can only see him if you’re standing far enough away for him to not notice you. The moment he spots you, he goes back into hiding.