At its heart, Splatoon 2 is a multiplayer shooter first and foremost, but the campaign it offered on release was something that a lot of players still enjoyed, despite essentially being a gateway into the action: an extended tutorial of sorts. It was a simple and easy single-player experience that offered an educational path with a bit of narrative draped over the top, although if you knew the mechanics (by playing the first game on Wii U, for example) it was a little on the easy side.
If you thought the same as us, then good news, as the new Octo Expansion is bringing more single-player substance to the table, but forget about the simplicity of the base game's campaign. This is way more difficult, but also fresher and more rewarding, staying several steps ahead in every sense. This time, however, we're the villains and it feels good to be bad.
It's a bit tougher this time around, and another change is that Agent 4 is replaced with Agent 8 - an Octarian - who wakes up having lost their memory, with only a message which links their past to the first game. After the introduction, you're immediately thrown into a tube to complete around 80 missions, all of which will show you just what we mean when we say that Nintendo has upped the difficulty level.
Your goal here is to unblock the different lines of the underground tunnels with the help of your phone (called CQ-80), which requires you to get four objects that'll bring you to the promised paradise, a place that looks like it might be the Inkopolis Square, where Inklings roam freely. There are plenty of references to the previous game in this expansion, with characters developed more fully, telling us a bit more about both the squid and the octopus characters. The phone also grants us access to this information and rewards those who want a bit more meat to the story.
We thought we had seen all the tricks and resources already, but Octo Expansion always finds a way to change the rules and offer something that's as different as it is challenging; Nogami-san's team knows how to squeeze the very last drop of paint out of what they have.
Let's start with the risk-reward system involved when entering each level, as you choose the level of difficulty (depending on the weaponry) and repeat it all again if you lose your lives. The structure of this DLC is clearly different from Hero Mode, and the risk-reward element is there at all times, but it's never too stifling to make you overthink, and you can always pay to skip the levels if you get too frustrated... not real money, we should add.
The feeling of facing a real challenge, of standing before some sort of Lost Levels of Splatoon 2, has been with us throughout the eight hours we've been playing the Octo Expansion. This feeling hasn't dampened our desire to go on though, because each completed mission is a motivation to go to the next. Will we have to take out a gang of enemies in two minutes? Or sharpen our aim and hit targets while moving at full speed? Maybe we'll guide a giant 8-ball to the end of the stage and prevent it from falling down? It's packed with variety.
These brand new scenarios are only part of what this package brings to Switch, as it also brings the title much closer to being a 3D platformer, the genre that Nintendo loves so much. These challenges are also the clear demonstration of the thousands of possibilities the game provides, which makes us think it's a great starting point for a potential Splatoon 3. The company has wanted to focus on the multiplayer side with past entries, and next time the weakness of the single-player mode can be solved, as this expansion shows.
If you liked the music and style of the base game, this all returns by the boatload here, even with the slightly darker touch of the underground setting, and all of these little touches add a new level of personality to Splatoon 2. Not that we're saying it was boring to begin with, mind you.
Splatoon 2's Octo Expansion basically manages to turn the single-player side of the game from a tutorial to a solid fully-formed mode. Each mission with Agent 8 is better than any solo Splatoon content we've seen before, not only in terms of design and creativity but also in terms of difficulty, and the challenges are so good that we almost forgot that we can now play with the Octarians online, or that we have new items for the multiplayer. We only want to go back underground and explore all of the missions. We might be suffering while we have fun, or maybe we'll be having fun while we suffer, either way, we're eager for more.