The Splatoon 2: Octo Expansion is tough. We have already summoned enough courage to ink our way through Octo Canyon to rescue Callie and recover the Great Zapfish, and now, in this paid downloadable content, we wake up in a mysterious underground test facility as Agent 8.
With more than 80 new single-player missions to complete, it is only by conquering these tests that you will learn the truth about what’s happening. The ultimate reward being that you will be able to play as an Octoling in Splatoon 2‘s multiplayer or Salmon Run modes.
That’s ground that has already been inked, but, after having the chance to play six missions, this is clearly far more challenging than the main game’s improved Hero Mode. And, while I’m sure that most will admit that they turn to Splatoon 2 for the frantic team-based multiplayer, Nintendo is out to prove that you can have just as much fun inking around on your own. Now, let’s break down what I played.
“Fly to the goal!” The Iceman Station stage arms you with the Inkjet special weapon and challenges you to somewhat nervously make your way to the end goal. You can use your Blaster-like shots to burst open crates and take out enemies, but, really, you will be concentrating far more on flying through the fried calamari rings and hammering the B Button to maintain your altitude over some tricky jumps.
Mistimed button presses led to me needing to restart on more than one occasion, especially becoming distracted after spotting the clear purple Game Boy Color that was floating in the background for some unknown reason. There are moving platforms that will block your path meaning that your timing is important to not fall to your doom, and, as you near the end of the stage, an Octocommander will try to take you out with his Heavy Splatling.
I came unstuck in Breakdance Station, where, armed with the Tri Slosher and Burst Bomb, you are simply challenged to defeat all the enemies that appear. Except it’s not as simple as it sounds, seeing as this stage takes place on breakable crates that have been arranged in a squid shape. Cap’n Cuttlefish warns you not to blast ink around “willy-nilly,” and he’s right.
Your real concern in this stage isn’t to destroy the five enemies that spawn but to make sure that you don’t break the crates beneath you and end up tumbling into oblivion – a humiliation that I managed to suffer several times over. It was the simplest stage that I played, but surprisingly one of the most challenging. For me, at least.
Tubular 8-Ball Station
Now, here was an interesting one. Tubular 8-Ball Station challenges you to use ink to nudge an 8-ball ever forward along special rails to the stage’s end goal. It sticks to the ground surface when it isn’t rolling about, but let it fall from the stage and you will have to start over again. That can happen when enemy ink splats against it or when the 8-ball unexpectedly bounces off a bumper – with one placed to catch you out the first time around.
I wasn’t the only one to make a brief comparison between this stage and Shrines that had ball-orientated puzzles in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, the team having similarly used a physics-based approach that sees the ball being sprung in different directions and blasted long distances thanks to a conveniently placed Balloon Fish. As with the other stages it has been smartly created, and I hope I’ll have the chance to come across others like it in the Octo Expansion.
Right Round Station
Right Round Station is as dizzying as it sounds. You have two minutes to snipe 20 enemies using a Charger weapon. Again, it sounds like an easy enough challenge to accomplish but these enemies have been placed on platforms that will only come in range once you blast an ink switch to rotate them past you.
There are special weapon pickups like the Tenta Missiles and Sting Ray to help you eliminate them all, but, with the time on the clock constantly ticking down and the chance that an enemy will end up rotating straight past you, it’s far more frantic than you would have ever thought it could be. It can be maddening, but then there’s the unrivalled thrill at scoring the last splat with seconds to spare.
We’re equipped with another special weapon in Ballercise Station, and, as someone that largely sticks to the Neo Splash-o-matic with the Suction-Bomb Launcher these days, was one that I don’t use that often. With the Octo Expansion, Nintendo wants to push you out of your comfort zone with each challenge, and none more so than with the Baller.
You have 30 seconds to reach the goal in this stage, and, as Cap’n Cuttlefish suggests, it’s best to ignore the enemies as you energetically roll to your destination. It can still be useful to detonate the Baller every now and then to clear a path, as Octosnipers, Octomissiles and Rolonium try to steer you off course to make you start over again.
Radical Rails Station
Now, Radical Rails Station was an easy favourite from the stages that I played. Riding around on (radical) rails, you must bust open 20 boxes that are wildly spinning around on them to pass the challenge. As you will see in the video, you can choose to use the Jet Squelcher, Splattershot or Slosher for the chance of greater reward, but, while it sounds simple enough to beat, you have to splat them all open before the one-minute time limit runs out.
That is challenging but also quickly becomes addictive, as your frantic ink spraying leaves you with a handful of crates as the timer ticks down to zero. Your second attempt becomes a third and so on until you eventually burst open that last box. It’s tense but there’s that joyous thrill waiting to reward your perseverance.
The Splatoon 2: Octo Expansion will release exclusively for Nintendo Switch in Summer 2018.