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The Splatoon 2: Octo Expansion is unrelenting in its difficulty, 90s nostalgia, and charm

The Nintendo Switch released an unprecedented amount of heavy-hitting first-party titles in its first year on the market. Among these, Splatoon 2 is a worthy alternative to popular online shooters like Overwatch and Call of Duty which are only available on other consoles. While the developers regularly release new weapons and stages for the online multiplayer modes in Splatoon 2, fans of the single-player offerings were never promised additional story content. That was until Nintendo revealed the Octo Expansion story DLC back in March.

Fast forward to last week’s Splatoon 2 World Championships, where producer Hisashi Nogami announced that the Octo Expansion would be available later in the week. I, along with the other hundreds of fans crammed into the arena, shouted with cheer at the news. But is the Octo Expansion all that it’s inked up to be?

Read the full review below…

Meet the Cephalopod Squad

The Splatoon 2: Octo Expansion takes place after the events of the main campaign, but you aren’t required to beat the main campaign

to access the paid content. For the first time ever, you take control of an Octoling, an octopus-human hybrid who is functionally identical to the traditional Inklings.

You wake up without a memory in a decrepit subterranean subway station, where you are nursed back to health by the quirky Cap’n Cuttlefish. An autonomous telephone tells you that if you want to climb out of the depths you’ll need to collect four “thangs” scattered throughout the subway, which can only be accessed by passing various tests. Thus, your amnesia-induced adventure begins.

Not for Octo-Wussies

Octo Expansion does away with the annoying overworld from the main campaign, allowing you to select stages through a menu that can be accessed from anywhere on the train. Each of the 80 “tests” in Octo Expansion is a short challenge stage that repurposes aspects of the core game in creative and fun ways. While you don’t need to complete every test to roll the credits, there are plenty of incentives to do so including unlocking gear for multiplayer.

The stages are usually a blast and offer a healthy dose of difficulty coupled with a feeling of genuine accomplishment. Getting an Inkjet or Baller special that never expires makes you feel powerful especially as you learn new ways to use them that you never realized were possible.

You’ll use what is likely the entire suite of weapons as you navigate through these challenges, which helps to highlight each weapon’s differences and strengths. This provides a relatively risk-free way to acquaint yourself with the game’s arsenal in legitimate use cases that can be helpful in multiplayer. And if you are a risk-taker, some challenges give you a choice of several weapons to choose from with varying degrees of effectiveness given the situation. For example, if you manage to beat a level designed for a sniper with your automatic weapon, you’ll be rewarded with a higher amount of subway tokens.

There are still a few stinkers in the mix, unfortunately, that are either tedious, contain cheap or inconsistent fail-states, or are just plain boring. For instance, one stage asks you to recreate a piece of art by carefully shooting a fixture of crates. However, you don’t even need to reference the art piece, because the crates you need to destroy are a different color than the ones you need to preserve. Instead, the level becomes about slowly shooting the correct crates without accidentally shooting the wrong ones. With a few close calls, I completed the level in about 12 minutes. For comparison, most every other challenge can be finished in 1–3. Luckily, every stage can be skipped if you really don’t want (or are unable) to complete it.

An Unforgettable Underground Adventure

There’s a surprisingly deep story woven in between Octo Expansion’s bite-sized challenges. The exposition is delivered through in-game cutscenes, a series of hilarious chat logs, and even contextually through clever level design. All this succeeds in meaningfully adding to the ambiguous lore of the Splatoon universe and deepens your emotional connection with the series’ colorful cast of characters. Ultimately, Octo Expansion tells a much more engaging story than the main campaign even dared to.

The climax features amazing music, a perilous stealth sequence, an engaging boss fight, an unforgettable ending challenge, and is the highlight of the expansion. The final half hour takes cues from action anime series. It’s ridiculous, over the top, and downright fun. This same playful spirit is carried throughout the entirety of the expansion.

The Verdict

Splatoon first debuted in 2015, but it has already become one of Nintendo’s most beloved franchises. Octo Expansion convinced me of this after making me feel nostalgic for Splatoon in ways I didn’t think were possible for such a young series. The game finds a perfect balance between revering the source material without ever taking itself too seriously. It is consistently hilarious and thrilling over the course of its dozen hours. If you’re a fan of Splatoon, you’ll want to wrap your tentacles around this gem of a game as soon as you can.

Written by Marcus Garrett

Marcus created Top Shelf Gaming to celebrate the awesome things about the video game industry while challenging the areas of the video game community that could be improved. He loves playing guitar and eating tacos, but never at the same time.

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