- Genre: Third-person shooter
- Platform: Switch
Splatoon 3 sits in a weird spot. It’s far more involved than the base single player of Splatoon 2 thanks to it taking advantage of the sort of Portal chamber setup from the Octo expansion. However, it’s not nearly as inventive as that was. Because of that it’s simultaneously a lot of fun but also predictable, so I’m not entirely sure what to make of it.
It’s easy to get drawn into a game when it’s this stylish, and that’s always been a mark for the series. They get a ton of mileage out of bright colors, the cool painting mechanic, and a great soundtrack. However, that’s all stuff that we knew we were going to get. The Octo expansion for Splatoon 2 showed a certain level of play that the series really benefited from in a single player setting. Having a level where you play Breakout is unexpected. Having a level where you are pushing a ball around a maze is cool. It felt like it was taking the playful aspects of the shrines from Breath of the Wild and putting them into a shooter.
Splatoon 3 has the same meta game aspect as that, but it feels like it leaned too hard into the shooter aspects. The levels are almost entirely one of two things – physics platform puzzles around your ink jumps or straight up combat segments. The handful of times that it leans into something a bit more playful, it often feels like it’s just replaying ideas from Octo. It’s not that the mechanics are bad, because honestly the levels are a ton of fun in isolation. However, it’s disappointing. We already knew the mechanics would be solid, and we already knew how they work because this is the third game. It didn’t need to lean into reteaching that core.
The boss fights end up being the real highlight of the single player as a result. Some of them are purely combat focused, but really play well into mixing ink movement and accurate firing. The one above is a standout, not because it’s original, but because it is a 100% riff on the same manta ray ink fight from Super Mario Sunshine. Ya, it leans way harder and leans way more unforgiving, but it was fun to see something so obvious being done to great effect. The final boss just ends up being a complete spectacle. It’s got multiple phases, some ridiculous robot fighting, and all the story spectacle of something that belongs as a game ender.
It was also nice to see some more lore. The previous games have fed some aspects of this being a post-human post-apocalypse world, but seeing the full scope of how the world got into its current state and how the inklings came to exist was a nice little bonus.
In the end though, I was just wanting more. I’m not necessarily looking for something open world or more traditional third-person shooter, because I’m not convinced that it would bring anything beneficial to the gameplay. Splatoon as a multiplayer experience is such a specifically crafted core gameplay that I don’t think translates to a larger experience. What I wanted was just more creativity in making interesting puzzle chambers. The thing that they benefited from with Octo was being able to just do silly things because they were crafting 2-3 minute long isolated experiences. This just felt like it leaned too safe, despite the quality of what is there.