Splatoon 3 review: An incredibly fun ink-fueled action game
Splatoon 3 did something incredible, or "ink-redible," for me to become a fan of the series, despite having no prior experience with Nintendo's ink-fueled action game.
The Splatoon series has been around since 2015, but Splatoon 3 marks the very first time I ever got to experience the series. I'm not a big fan of third-person shooters, and Splatoon being just that with more emphasis on multiplayer game modes, it never truly appealed to me.
The premise of Splatoon 3 is simple. Pick a mollusk, a squid, or an octopus, and splatter ink all over the place or arena. Although the premise is pretty straightforward, the gameplay and mechanics here are quite robust and in-depth. I gradually fell in love with the gameplay loop of Splatoon 3 the more I played the game.
An energetic and ink-redibly fun action-puzzle-platformer gameplay
Splatoon 3's general gameplay loop stays the same as its previous two entries. Players pick their character, customize a few visual attributes, and are let loose in an immaculately designed arena. Various game modes have different objectives in both single-player and multiplayer aspects of the game.
Most single-player missions involve exploring an intricately designed level with multiple platforming opportunities. However, multiplayer, essentially the main focus of any Splatoon game, features some exciting PvP and even PvPvP modes, allowing players to go up against their friends or other online players.
While Splatoon 3 features several exciting game modes to choose from, the "Turf Wars" is easily one of the best game modes I enjoyed. It is basically "Capture the Flag," but instead of a flag or signpost, players need to capture regions of the arena by painting it in their team's color, using squirt guns, and spreading it with a roller.
Players can also turn into a literal squid to traverse the arena at blazing speeds. However, doing so requires them to paint the surface in their team's ink.
While the general gameplay loop of shooting ink and traversing the map by turning it into a mollusk is pretty straightforward, it never got boring for me, even after playing the game for more than 30 hours.
The moment-to-moment gameplay is so energetic and fast-paced that it never feels like a mundane arena shooter or puzzle-platformer, even after going through the same level multiple times.
Upon starting the game for the first time, I was greeted with a short tutorial, which quickly got me up to speed with the game's controls, platforming, and traversal. After that, there were no tutorials or hand-holding, which I liked about the game.
Although quite tightly packed, the levels offer some really cool platforming sections and even boss fights, something that I never expected from a Splatoon game.
The closest thing I'd compare the Splatoon 3 experience with is Doom Eternal, an arena shooter featuring bright colors, intricately designed levels, and the ability to paint walls, albeit with demon blood, instead of squid ink.
The spectacular presentation and a banging soundtrack
Splatoon 3's art style is something that I adored, despite never trying out the game for myself. The unique character design somehow manages to humanize the eight-legged or tentacled creatures.
Despite having these outlandish character designs, the overall presentation of Splatoon 3 is relatively modern and grounded. The town of Splatsville immediately reminded me of the Metro Kingdom level of Super Mario Odyssey.
The visual splendor can also be seen in the game's various arenas, basically the highlight of Splatoon 3. Each arena is crafted with meticulous detail, where every wall, pillar, a stack of wooden crates, and even balloons are placed to facilitate the fast-paced shooter gameplay.
The levels in Splatoon 3 reminded me of id Software's Doom games, something that I'm personally very fond of.
The soundtrack, hands down, is the best video game soundtrack I have ever heard in any Nintendo game, period. From the light and melancholy music playing in the background in Splatsville to the energetic and bombastic OST that played during the moment-to-moment gameplay, it added a lot to the experience.
The soundtrack does get repetitive after certain levels. However, it isn't a complaint, given how much I adored the music of Splatoon 3.
The surprisingly good singleplayer campaign of Splatoon 3
Splatoon was always a franchise that I used to actively avoid due to the series is primarily known for its multiplayer rather than single-player story campaign, the latter being my preference in games.
Naturally, I was surprised to see Splatoon 3 having a full-fledged single-player game mode called "Return of the Mammalians," which is not only an excellent tutorial for newcomers like me but also a robust narrative experience with some hilarious cutscenes.
The progression is reminiscent of Super Mario Odyssey, where players must collect a certain amount of in-game currency to unlock new levels and areas to explore. Although the campaign isn't as long as Odyssey's, it kept me playing well beyond 15 hours, searching for the hidden secrets in each level I unlocked.
I found it a bit weird how none of the levels synced with the esthetics of the islands they unlock, akin to how the levels felt natural and a part of the zones in Super Mario Odyssey.
Upon entering a certain level in the game's campaign, players are immediately whisked away to an alternate mystery zone that carries no thematic resemblance to the islands they unlock at. It is a nitpick, but I would've liked it if the levels reflected some of the themes in the game's islands.
After playing through the single-player section of the game, I immediately jumped into multiplayer, which was much more fun than I initially expected. Splatoon 3 shattered my preconception regarding Nintendo's flagship third-person ink-filled shooter, making it one of the best gaming experiences of 2022.
While I thoroughly enjoyed playing through the numerous creative and fun levels of Splatoon 3, I did find a few things that bothered me during my playthrough. Although the game offers a fairly solid frame rate across the board, it struggled during the hectic multiplayer sessions.
Apart from the several connectivity issues that resulted in me getting disconnected mid-game, there were also issues with input delay, which were frustrating to deal with and made me reluctant to try out the game's multiplayer modes.
It is a charming-looking game with a distinct art style. However, at times I could notice the heavy use of DRS (Dynamic Resolution Scaling) to maintain a smooth framerate, causing blurry-looking textures and character models.
DRS in Splatoon 3 isn't as aggressive as The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild or Super Mario Odyssey, but it is still present, and I could notice the resolution dipping below the 720p mark quite often.
Splatoon 3 is a fantastic and enjoyable arena shooter and action-platformer hybrid. The huge offering of diverse levels for its single-player campaign and equally varied and exciting multiplayer game modes is more than enough to satisfy any previous fan of the series while also making the game appealing to newcomers.
However, the game suffers from a few network-related issues that can often be frustrating. Despite that, Splatoon 3, for the most part, is a well-made and polished experience through and through, with a charming presentation, fantastic soundtrack, and ink-redibly engaging gameplay mechanics.
Reviewed On: Nintendo Switch (Review Copy provided by Nintendo)
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch
Developer(s): Nintendo EPD
Release Date: September 9, 2022