Splatoon 2's single-player is an enjoyable if familiar encore
It is, if you want to look at it one way, simply more of the same. Splatoon 2's single-player doesn't offer up any big twists or surprises on the original's formula (okay, there is one delicious plot twist that I'll let you discover on your own), but that's not to say it doesn't have the ability to delight you over the course of its adventure.
Like the original Splatoon, the sequel's single-player is partitioned off from the main event, accessible via a sewer in the central hub. This time your guide is Marie, one half of The Squid Sisters, who's in pursuit of her missing sister Callie (who seems to have suffered a cruel fate after having lost the original Splatoon's final Splatfest). All of which provides the slimmest of excuses for Nintendo to offer a series of impressive sketches around its ink-fuelled premise.
There's a bit more confidence in how Splatoon 2 carries itself, and a bit more craft to its levels. There's a bit more focus, too - whereas last time out it felt like some sweet, half-formed spin-off to Super Mario Sunshine, this time out it feels more like the real deal. Splatoon 2 offers a single player adventure that's as deftly made as any mainline Mario game, an elegant exercise in taking a simple mechanic - in this instance shooting colourful jets of ink - and stretching it to near breaking point. The ingenuity and engineering on display here are something to savour.
You're still beholden to that thick, gloopy ink, spreading it across levels as a means of traversal, attack and defence all at once, but it's now distributed in a wider variety of ways. Different weapons are now folded into the campaign, and as a primer for the multiplayer it's much more effective than what went before; now you'll be sniping and rolling across maps as well as getting your hands on some of Splatoon 2's newer weapons.
It's more than just a tutorial for the multiplayer, though, and if you approach Splatoon 2's single-player on its own terms you'll still enjoy a tightly crafted, frequently challenging adventure that looks like it could happily eat up half a dozen hours. That added confidence means that this adventure is a little quicker to colour outside the lines, folding in all sorts of neat tricks; mechanically complex levels complete with shifting platforms to be coloured in, say, or ink pipes that now act even more like grind rails as you ride atop them with weapons primed, allowing you to flop from one lane to another as Nintendo pulls off an accurate impersonation of the dearly departed Jet Set Radio. More importantly, there's that same restlessness in the design that propels the very best Mario games.
When it all comes together - and there are some pretty devious challenges later on in the campaign I can't go into too much detail on - it's the measure of any other single-player Nintendo action game in recent memory, all topped off by the greatest credits sequence there's been in many a year. If there's one problem it's that it falls back on familiar ground a little too often; there aren't much in the way of new enemy types and a couple of setpieces are reappearances that have been retooled, none of which will help shake off the perception that Splatoon 2 is more of a halfway house rather than a full-blooded sequel. Too many of its climactic moments have been taken almost wholesale from its predecessor.
It's more Splatoon, though, and taken in isolation that's a fantastic thing. Those who skipped the original - and given the limited success of the Wii U, that's sure to be a fair number - won't mind the repetition so much, and they'll be treated to a single-player that's a little smarter than the original, a little better executed, and that on its own terms is possibly the better game. For returning players already smitten with the formula, it's hard to see them minding too much that they're getting a remix rather than a completely new tune.
These are impressions from having played Splatoon 2's single-player - we'll have our full review up early next week.