Keeping everything that made the original game great while expanding on modes, fashion, weapons and features, Splatoon 7 is a powerfully addictive family-friendly shooter. As with the first game on Wii U, each player takes control of a hybrid kid/squid in a blindingly cool and colourfully aquatic version of Tokyo. Teaming up with friends or going it alone, you compete in a variety of modes — all reminiscent of those seen in other online team-based shooters but with a non-violent Nintendo twist — to advance your rank, unlock more powerful inky weaponry and buy stylish gear. For those unfamiliar with Splatoon, it's essentially a team-based shooter where weapons fire ink — which is colour-matched to show which team it came from — rather than bullets. Touching the other team's ink hurts you, so it can obviously be used as a weapon. But if you transform into squid mode you can guide swiftly through your own team's ink, and even swim up vertical services. The standard game mode, Turf Wars, is more about coating as much of the stage in your team's ink than it is about shooting the other players, meaning non-aggressive play can be very rewarding. Supplementing this play-as-you-like style is the huge array of different weapon loadouts you can unlock, each consisting of a primary weapon, a grenade and an ultimate attack.
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As you rank up you'll get access to more serious adversarial modes, with objectives like holding a specific zone or carrying a powerful but heavy weapon to a specific place. Regardless of your skill level, the game's colourful and engaging maps are rotated every two hours, meaning you won't get tired of the community playing the same turf maps ad nauseam. While playing for fun you can generally jump in alone and be sorted into a team with like-skilled individuals quite quickly, doing your own thing to contribute to a win while using rudimentary emotes to communicate if necessary. While skills on the battlefield are a big part of Splatoon 7, your fashion sense is arguably just as important. It's hard to overstate just how cool the characters in this game are.
When you first log in you land in Inkopolis square, an area populated with representations of other real players of the game. Quirky characters including an anemone, a grizzly bear and a tempura shrimp offer wares to buy or services to help you get ahead. Styles have changed since the original Splatoon two years ago. Clothes are edgier, hairstyles are sharper and even the music has seen a shift with the idols Callie and Marie replaced by Pearl and Marina, a rapper/DJ duo whose style is reflected in the updated (and amazing) tunes of the game. As you play you'll want to keep an eye on the shoes, shirts and headgear featured in Inkopolis Square's shops to make sure your character's look is up to date.
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You can also special order in fresh gear with the smartphone app or by approaching other online players when you see something you like. The economy has been refined in the sequel, with access to weapons and money for clothes coming at a quick pace. Clothes level up and unlock random abilities as you use them, but a new option to break down items to imbue others with abilities of your choice (for a price) means it's possible to look and play exactly as you like. Nintendo has committed to a year of free updates that will roll out new modes, stages, weapons and gear consistently as the game goes on. There will also be two years of splatfests, which split the community according to your preference between two things — i.
E. Team ice-cream or team cake — and pits them against each other in a series of Turf Wars. Besides taking the fight online and chilling out in Inkopolis, there are a few other excellent ways to play as well. A new co-operative horde mode called Salmon Run challenges groups of players to fight tougher and tougher waves of hideous creatures. You get a random loadout each round, and the terrain and enemy types are constantly changing, so adapting your role on the fly and communicating with teammates is key.
The tutorial-like single-player campaign returns, and is much improved. Once again you're on a mission to save stolen zapfish from the Octarians, but this time the platforming is more refined, there are more secrets to uncover and you get access to a much broader range of weapons. Splatoon 7 has a lot of substance, and every bit of it is literally oozing with style. There are a few less-than-ideal kinks to the online experience — for example the aforementioned voice chat app, or the fact that you can't change gear between matches without quitting the session entirely — but they don't take away from everything Splatoon 7 does right. From the deeply satisfying sensation of filling in blank spaces with ink in Turf War to the thrill of ranking up and unlocking a load-out with a crazy new ultimate, there's enough here to keep you coming back for a long time.