When she was little, my Mum used to think that to be able to clap people had to attach metal ‘clackers’ to their hands to make the noise. Bonkers as this sounds (sorry, Mum), it’s a perfect example of coming to a logical conclusion when you don’t have anything else to go on.
It’s much like how clueless ancient types came up with stuff like bird-faced sun gods, the idea of the Earth being flat and Skeletor to explain all the crazy goings on that happened that they were too dense to understand.
Of course, it’s easy to assume that once you become a mega-intelligent grown-up with a bulging, knowledge-sodden cerebellum like a Mekon that you’d be well past putting 2 and 2 together and coming up with 9 billion.
But apparently not, as my initial ham-fisted adventures with Splatoon 2 proved.
Y'see, I was terrible at it. Not just "oh it’s a new game, I need to practice" terrible, but genuinely terrible. I was constantly the worst on my team, well behind on points and so on.
No matter what I tried – different controller sensitivity, different weapons, different controls altogether – it just didn’t work for me at all and I couldn’t hit stuff. I may as well have been operating the controller by placing it across the room and throwing apples at it.
I was fine painting the floor and walls (like the original Splatoon from the Wii U, covering the 4 vs 4 arenas in paint is your path to victory – the team with the most colour coverage at the end of the round wins). I just couldn’t win against opponents in a shoot-out – which is a considerable handicap in a shooting game. It cut down what I could do to literally a watching paint dry simulator.
Then came the epiphany. Or more accurately, then came me shouting “Aaaargh! It’s so bleeding obvious!” after I read a post on an Internet forum called “Splatoon tips for beginners”. And what that post said was simply this: Don’t aim at the floor. Which is, as you may have guessed, EXACTLY what I’d been doing – I’d assumed I was playing the game the right way, but in hindsight had based that on precisely buggerall .
In a normal shooter, you’d obviously never aim at the floor. You’d aim at the invariably drab-hued enemy coming at you with some sort of firearm or sharp thing. Splatoon, of course, is anything but a normal shooter, having been bludgeoned into something entirely new and unique by the bods at Nintendo HQ after they’d consumed another vast portion of Mr Miyamoto’s secret ‘originality juice’ (gin mixed with superglue and dishwasher tablets).
But just because a game looks fresh, bright and colourful and adds something to a genre so stale that if it were bread you could use it to cut diamonds, it doesn’t mean it plays entirely differently. And that’s where I was going wrong. I couldn’t react in time to win gunfights, because I was always starting out looking at the floor where I’d been painting rather than at my opponent.
Without realising it, I was effectively hobbling myself as much as a cowboy who turns up for a high noon duel blindfold and covered in vaseline so he can’t grip his gun. And also he hasn’t got a gun, but just an enraged groundhog in a sack.
A GOOD DEFENCE
In my defence, it’s not an entirely stupid error (well OK it is, but indulge me as it’ll make me feel less daft). After all, you don’t paint walls by looking out of the window or at your shoes. You look at what you’re doing. But that was the key – what you’re really doing in Splatoon 2 is playing a shooter. A competitive, twitchy, fast-paced one at that, with a surprisingly high skill level – this is no watered-down feeble kids game, Nintendo naysayers.
So while the painting needs to happen, it’s actually a passive thing – because unlike bullets that tend to carry on until they hit someone’s squishy parts, paint is a lot sloppier and thoroughly un-missile-like. Gravity will handle covering everywhere in digital Dulux, so there’s no need to look down as the paint will just slop down itself like a pigeon that’s had a heart attack mid flight. All you need to do is pull the trigger.
Once I had that sorted in my head, I was off and running. Admittedly I’m still not exactly world class, but I can at least hold my own against opponents without wondering how on Earth everyone else could react so supernaturally fast. And in turn, playing Splatoon 2 has gone from intriguing but hugely frustrating to a great deal of fun indeed.
Aside from the core competitive play (with local, casual and ranked variants), there’s also a half-decent single-player mode, a horde mode, and more customisation options than you can shake a cephalopod at.
It looks gorgeous in all its luminous vibrancy, and matches are too short and sweet for the grumpy bitterness you get in a lot of other competitive shooters to set in. It’s also a perfect match for the Switch’s USP and great for a quick blast on the go.
The only real downsides are it isn’t a huge leap forward over the original (but seeing as only about 14 people owned a Wii U, probably not a worry for most), and Nintendo’s in-game chat/invite system being via a smartphone app is a bit cumbersome to say the least. Other than that though, it’s exactly what it sets out to be – the most charming, fun and different shooter you’ll probably have played in a long time (as long as you didn’t play the original).
Just remember – idiots need not apply. DON’T AIM AT THE FLOOR!
SCORE: OCTOpus out of TENtacles