I’m a big fan of Splatoon. I love its crazy style. I love its crazy characters. I love its crazy world. And I looove its gameplay. But up until now I hated its single player.

Besides the bosses I’ve found the multiplayer the franchises Achille’s heel up until now. While it occasionally skimmed greatness, levels often felt frustrating to play or frustratingly easy. Splatoon 2 even upped the ante by making levels up to ten minutes long. It was pure torture to have replay entire levels if you got a game over. Even though I loved the second game, it took me half a year to reach the finish line of its campaign and I haven’t revisited it since then. While I enjoyed the single player on occasion, I always felt like it was Nintendo awkwardly retrofitting a shooter into a platformer. Jumping always felt off and the gunplay simply wasn’t fun most of the time because of the simple enemy AI.

So when Nintendo announced it was developing an expansion I was…intrigued to say the least. Shortening levels to bite sized increments and putting the player in an octolings shoes (the natural enemy of the game’s signature inklings) looked interesting to me. However, when I payed twenty dollars for the expansion I couldn’t help but feel like I was wasting my money. I was wrong.

The Octo Expansion is brimming with creativity and style. From the amazing presentation to the top-notch level design, the Octo Expansion exceeded my expectations in almost every area. For the first time in the stages not only felt sufficiently difficult, almost every stage left me in awe of the sheer cleverness on display. It’s Nintendo at its best as the game practically reinvents itself for each and every turn. What’s even better is the game doesn’t confine itself to being a platformer shooter hybrid. At times the expansion even becomes a shockingly amazing puzzle game. (Several of the more puzzling levels could easily be spun off into their own games). Additionally, while some levels simply task you with getting to the end of the level you’re often tasked with finding several pillars throughout at an open area or surviving an onslaught of attacks while your octoling is unarmed.

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The story is simple, but pretty engaging. You play as an octoling who’s lost their memory after a battle with Agent #3. (The hero of the first game’s campaign). They awake in an underground facility and must gain access to “the promised land” by acquiring four “thangs” for a mysterious telephone. Even though it sounds like it was made using Mad Libs the simple conceit of getting my octoling to the surface was a pretty engaging premise. The character is accompanied by Captain Cuttlefish from the first game and Mariana and Pearl, the duo who do the news broadcasts in Inkopolis Square. The interplay between the three is oftentimes really funny, and the added depth to Mariana and Pearl’s relationship is shockingly sweet. However, Captain Cuttlefish, who now has taken up rapping, has a few rap battles with Pearl that are…cringey at best.

Speaking of disappointments, the expansion features less boss battles than I expected. While I really enjoyed the handful it offered, I was disappointed that there weren’t more since they’re usually the highlight of the campaign. The game also boasts a system where you can choose your weapon before a mission. Doing this can alter the difficulty of a level, but the game offers no substantial reward for choosing them that I know of at the time. While completing it with a harder weapon does get you some C.Q points (which are used for accessing levels and you lose after you die) the game is so generous with points that I never felt the need for more. It is still an interesting way of allowing the player to choose their difficulty but I wish the game had rewarded the player for taking the harder route. On top of that, the platforming can still feel a bit awkward and one or two levels are frustratingly difficult and don’t feel fun to play. Luckily, once you fail l a mission enough times the game allows you skip them with the help of Marianna’s hacking skills.

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Despite my complaints, the Octo Expansion is well worth 19.99. Its easily one of the best things Splatoon has done and one of the best experiences I’ve had on my Switch. The 80 levels will last you a while and once you complete them you can return to certain levels for optional challenges. It’s an experience I know I’ll be returning to often and something that makes me even more excited to see the future of this promising new franchise.

8.5/10

Stray Observations

· Playing as octolings in multiplayer is really fun! They aren’t just merely new hairstyles either, they went to the extra mile and gave them completely new animations as well!

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· While the game returns to the eight ball concept pretty often, each and every time put a clever enough spin on it that I never minded.

· The creepy new species that randomly pop up on the subway are a really cool touch. The whole subway has a dark atmosphere that feel different from the rest of Splatoon.

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· [SPOILERS] The long-awaited return of Splattack is great, as well as the context in which its used. I really hope it and the iconic Urchin Underpass make it into the multiplayer eventually!