Splatoon 3 review - A super sequel splashing onto Switch

Splatoon 3 character

Splatoon 3 character

Check it, Splatoon 3’s making waves and is going to sink the competition. Fresh new faces, wild new weapons, and multiple maps to sink your squid beaks into.

Splatoon 3 carries on the cool themes of the previous games while adding a laundry list of features and new things to do in the chaos-riddled world of the Splatlands. Visit icy Alterna in a single-player story mode, battle it out in Splatsville’s Turf Wars, or try your hand at working shifts for Grizzco. Don’t forget the new addition: the Tableturf Battle card game, which is not to be missed!

The Splatoon name prides itself on customisable characters, a catchy soundtrack, and fun game mechanics set in a post-human world where Inklings rule. This time we’re in Splatsville, and we’re ready to roll.

Deep Cut in Splatoon 3
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Paint the Town

Let’s kick things off in the single-player mode. Once you land in Splatsville, the game points out a mysterious grate where the story mode is found. Set in Alterna, an icy area filled with fuzzy goop, you meet Callie, Marie, Captain Cuttlefish, and the previous Agent 3 who will point you in the right direction.

Splatoon 3’s campaign rolls together the previous two games’ mechanics with the Octo Expansion, starting you off with free levels along with some you need to spend minimal in-game currency to enter. This time, you have a tiny Salmonid with you - your Lil Buddy. It will destroy the goop and unlock new areas for you, and also acts as a projectile weapon. But don’t feel bad, they’re happy to be lobbed at enemies!

The story mode serves as a way to introduce new and returning players to obstacles and tactics, and how to properly make use of weapon types such as the new bow and arrow weapon Stringers, and sweeping katana-shaped Splatanas. The levels are fun, with some challenging stages sprinkled in between fun romps, and have fantastic catchy music in the background. I’d like to add a special shout-out to the stage that is the antithesis of PowerWash Simulator where you have to completely paint a giant statue. Truly satisfying.

Once you’re done with the story and have figured out what happened to humanity, or want a break from squashing the bosses (no spoilers here!), you can head back to the vibrant Splatsville. The main area is bigger and better than previous locations, with more space to explore, new shops, and interesting decorations to see. There’s also the addition of the incredibly addictive Tableturf Battle card game, nestled away behind the Grizzco building.

I don’t usually like card games, but my goodness did I sink some hours into this. You don’t need to be online for it either: you can challenge other players, but there’s a roster of NPCs with different decks and maps to try your luck with. I found a few packs of cards in Alterna, but rinsed the gashapon machine in the lobby to get more. Once you get your head around the basics, the game is very fun and an absolute time sink.

the lobby area in splatoon 3
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Got an Inking Feeling

Every inkling knows that Turf War is where it's at. It’s how you make money, level up your gear, and show your skills in front of others. Splatoon 3’s Turf War functions as the previous games do, and brings back remade maps from both Splatoon and Splatoon 2, like Mahi Mahi Resort and Inkblot Academy for your inking.

This time, there are new and improved specials, and two new classes of weapons to try. The Splatana proves itself as a useful tool on the battlefield, whereas the Stringers do well in the single-player. The best new specials have to be the explodable inflatable shark, the Reefslider, and the Crab Tank that can shoot and curl up into a ball to defend the player, available on weapons like the Aerospray and Dualies. I thought I’d miss the bomb launcher, but no, the Reefslider has become my favourite immediately with its quick damage.

Specials like the Tacticooler and Big Bubbler add new strategies too, as the cooler gives each team member a drink that buffs performance and the Bubbler provides an impenetrable shield to hide under while deep in enemy territory.

You can try these newfangled items out in a couple of places. When waiting in a lobby, there is a testing area, and Splatoon 3 finally adds a much-needed recon mode to the game, accessible via a kindly Goldfish in the main square. Here, you’ll be given an hour in an empty stage of your choice where you can practice inking every inch, and test out weapons. It may not be the intended point, but running around covering every surface in paint without threat was incredibly satisfying. Great addition, ten out of ten.

Splatoon 3 really pushes a focus on customisation and showing off your personality to others. For starters, Ink- and Octolings are now genderless, and hair and clothing styles are therefore available to all. There’s also eyebrow options now, too! But it doesn’t stop there. Splatoon the third adds in banners, complete with stickers and titles much like Fall Guys, and a locker for us to deck out in the Lobby building. A new shop, Hotlantis, sells items to place in and on the lockers and is run by a member of Chirpy Chips, who provided music for the first two games.

There is, of course, another multiplayer mode… the fishy and formidable Salmon Run. Introduced in Splatoon 2, Salmon Run sends your Inklings on shifts to collect eggs for Mr Grizz - a talking, bear-shaped radio. This time, the Salmonids are bigger, badder, and bolder than before. There are a handful of new bosses, like the Fish Stick that somehow hides in plain sight, and new mechanics to take advantage of. All the added special weapons make an appearance here, and both Splatanas and Stringers are in the weapon rotation. And get this - Salmon Run is now open 24/7, a very welcome change to Splatoon 2’s picky shift schedule.

Locker customisation in splatoon 3
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Fish you were here

So, what does Splatoon 3 really add compared to Splatoon 2? In basic terms, the games are very similar, however, the new instalment fixes some gripes players had and adds an entirely new story and single-player mode. Splatoon 3 builds on what previous games set out, and brings in fresh content for long-term players to enjoy.

The biggest fix? You don’t have to sit through the news programme every time you open the game. Now it pops up when you launch it, but if you return without closing it, the news appears in a textbox in the corner. No more unskippable cut scenes!

There’s the addition of recon mode and more ways to play with friends and join them when they’re already playing. Now, if one or more player disconnects from a game, the entire game will end. This will not lose any points for players and will ensure a fair match. Too many times in Splatoon 2 was I on the receiving end of team members dropping out, and two vs four squids isn’t a fun way to go. This does, of course, rely on Nintendo’s server abilities.

Lobby scene after a battle with new splashtags
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Keep calm and stay fresh

It’s hard to really point out any drawbacks in Splatoon 3, aside from its similarity to previous games. This would be a negative for anyone wanting an entirely new experience or an overhauled game, but really, that’s never going to happen. The other issue is communication errors. Both the Splatfest and the pre-release online access suffered these every so often, though I put that down to teething issues. Hopefully, they’ll clear up by launch.

A tiny thing I hoped would be built upon was speech options between teammates. Unfortunately, we still only have two - to call other Inklings to us or to shout a Booyah. There’s four buttons on the d-pad guys, let’s use them all. I also feel like the Splatfest, fun though it was, was not a great way to introduce new people to Splatoon 3. I feel sorry for any unwitting soul who wanted to gently test the game out during the Splatfest. The squid kids did not hold back. Sure, you could go at your own pace, but clearly, veteran players were out in force and fighting tooth and nail. Or beak and tentacle.

Overall, though, Splatoon 3 is a very polished game that will definitely hold its own against its predecessor. There’s enough new content to warrant any fan investing in it, and it can be a great start for anyone trying the franchise for the first time. The game has so much personality, with style options, story, great music, and so much more to discover. As they say in Splatsville, ‘woomy!’, and I’ll see you on the battlefield soon.

Splatoon 3
Splatoon 3 is a step up again for Nintendo’s multiplayer shooter series and offers more of what we love with better graphics, a new cast, and even more chaos - though the formula remains much the same.
8 out of 10

A code was provided by the publisher.

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