Calling all inklings, octolings and everyone in between-olings, Splatoon 3 has dropped on the Nintendo Switch. The good news? It’s absolutely splatacular! Find out why in our Splatoon 3 review.
As you uncover the secrets of the Splatlands and jam to Spaltoon’s always impressive tracklist, you’ll lock and load with an arsenal of new and returning gear, stay fresh with the latest in Splatsville fashion, and be bold as you ink blast your way through the series’ best campaign to date.
While on the surface it may seem like Splatoon 3 isn’t that different from its 2017 predecessor, the more I played, the more I realised how much this game is worth the upgrade. With tightened gameplay, clever updates to familiar multiplayer modes, and satisfying quality-of-life changes, Splatoon 3 presents a charming, polished, and addictive game that is a must-have for Nintendo Switch owners.
If you’ve played any of the previous Splatoon games before, you’ll feel right at home with Splatoon 3. Using your selected loadout of ink-filled weaponry, you’ll splat the walls, floors, and everything else you see in ink, swim through it to resupply your ink tank, and splat some more. While new gameplay elements like the Squid Roll, which allows you to swiftly dodge while swimming in ink, and the Squid Surge, which makes swimming up ink-covered walls a lot easier, aren’t revolutionary changes, they work to make the already tight gameplay feel punchier.
The selection of new gear launching with Splatoon 3 are welcome additions that are sure to please squids new and old. From the bow and arrow-like Stringers and the close combat ink-sword Splatanas, to special weapons like the Akira-inspired Reefslider and the indomitable Crab Tank, the new additions to your squid-kids arsenal facilitate new tactics and add more variety to the ink-filled fun. While I had hoped for more main weapon options at launch, the promise of ongoing free updates to the game leaves me excited to see what will come next!
Love an Akira reference.
Splatoon 3 Review – Single-Player
After creating your character, when you first boot up the game, you may be tempted to jump right into the multiplayer modes and start unlocking access to the shops around Splatsville. I am thankful, however, that I began with Splatoon 3’s single-player campaign. Not only is it the best way for new and rusty players to acclimate themselves to the game’s massive variety of weapon options, it tells an engaging story filled with wildly creative level design. While the first few missions feel like Splatoon of old, once you get into the heart of the campaign, subtitled The Return of Mammalians, you’ll quickly realise just how much there is to do here.
What mysteries does this adventure have in store?
With a similar set-up as previous games, you must explore small island overworlds in search of levels to complete. This time, however, your path is blocked by piles and piles of Fuzzy Ooze capable of instantly turning you into an adorable fuzzball of death with one touch. You’re not on this adventure alone, however. Smallfry, your tiny Salmonid sidekick, is here to help! Not only can they stun enemies, break boxes, and hit switches, they have the ability to eat the Fuzzy Ooze blocking your path. Complete levels to earn Power Eggs, give the Power Eggs to Smallfry, Smallfry eats the Fuzzy Ooze in your way, and unlock another level.
I would die for Smallfry.
This gameplay cycle is simple but utterly addictive. It’s satisfying to methodically clear each island of all its Fuzzy Ooze before moving on to the next one. That’s not to say this is how the campaign is meant to be played. You could spend the time exploring every inch of each island, finding all the hidden collectables, and clearing every last bit of Fuzzy Ooze, or you could blast through the campaign, using your collected eggs to access levels and islands as quickly as you can. Whether you want to fully experience what the campaign has to offer or just looking for a quick distraction in between multiplayer matches, you’re free to tackle Splatoon 3’s campaign however you want!
We’re not in Splatsville anymore.
The levels themselves creatively use Splatoon 3’s mechanics to present intricate, fun, and sometimes challenging levels. One mission will simply have you fighting enemy waves to get to the end, another will see you solving puzzles while dodging enemy fire to unlock your way. Timed challenges will ask you to pop balloons and collect power eggs as quickly as you can, while other more whacky levels will have you playing jump rope over deadly ink waves or ziplining up floating towers Spider-man style.
Most levels also give options on what loadout to use, offering higher rewards for completing the level with a weapon that requires more skill. While the first few islands present levels that are easy enough to get through, I found the later levels to be challenging but not impossible. One of the highlights of the campaign is the boss battles. Although there is only a handful of them, they are entertaining, tough, and some of the most thrilling boss fights I’ve played all year.
With wildly creative level design, an overworld that’s exciting to explore, cinematic and memorable boss encounters, and plenty of secrets to uncover, Splatoon 3’s campaign mode is exceptional.
Who could it be under the masks?
Splatoon 3 Review – Multiplayer
Though the single-player campaign is a must-play, what makes Splatoon 3 shine is its array of multiplayer modes and features. Turf War returns mostly unchanged as the core multiplayer mode. From the Battle Lobby, you’ll squad up in a team of 4 for a 3-minute all-out battle to ink the most turf before times up. These fast-paced matchups are as addictive as they are intense, often leaving me with that ‘just one more match’ feeling. Between the impressive new stages and the selection of returning fan favourites, Splatoon 3 boasts 12 stages at launch, with more to come as free DLC.
While it may take a few matches to figure out the layout and mechanics of each stage, they are succinct in design, allowing you to quickly figure out the best strategy and loadout to bring into battle. As you rise through the ranks and level up, you’ll gain access to shops, new gameplay modes, and ranked modes. It can be frustrating early on when you try to enter a store and are told that you’re not ‘fresh’ enough to shop there, but it doesn’t take too long to level up enough to gain access.
How will I splat my enemies today? Options, options.
Unfortunately, in the few weeks I spent playing Splatoon 3 for this review, I encountered more than my fair share of online connection issues. While Splatoon 3 doesn’t suffer from significant lag spikes in matches like some of Nintendo’s other online offerings, I did find jumping into games to be frustrating. Load times can sometimes take more than a few minutes before finding a new game, and my matchmaking was constantly interrupted by communication errors. I had sessions where I experienced none of these issues, and I had sessions where they plagued me. A few patches have already been released since launch to address these issues, and I am hopeful that it won’t be long before they are non-existent.
Please Nintendo, fix this soon!
In between matches, you can practice your chosen loadout in the lobby, where you’ll also find the locker room and the Crab-N-Go concession stand. The locker room is a charming new feature, allowing you to customise a locker with everything from the clothes and weapons you’ve purchased to decorative items and stickers you’ve found in the single-player mode or purchased from Splatoon 3’s newest shop, Hotlantis. It’s surprisingly fun to customise your locker, and I find myself checking out other players’ lockers more than I thought I would. The Crab-N-Go serves a similar purpose as Splatoon 2’s Crust Bucket, offering you an assortment of grub that boosts the amount of cash or experience earned over the next few matches. It’s a great way to help you quickly level up or earn enough cash to get the hottest shoes in Splatsville.
Speaking of shopping, Splatoon 3 doesn’t shake up the formula too much with its retail options. Besides the aforementioned decoration shop Hotlantis, you’ll find the usual suspects of a store for weapons, headgear, clothing, and shoes at your disposal. While expressing yourself with the freshest fashion options this side of the Splatlands, you’ll also find that each piece of apparel comes equipped with abilities that help you in battle. From reducing respawn times and ink consumption to improving movement speed and special weapon duration, each piece of gear has a primary ability and empty slots ready to be filled with the new abilities you’ll unlock through multiplayer matches. Creating outfits based on ability synergies and loadout strategies can take time, and is a worthwhile endeavour to succeed in ranked play, but it isn’t necessary to have fun. You can simply buy the prettiest outfits and still splat your way to victory.
Let’s get to work!
Splatoon 3’s PvE mode, Salmon Run, has been refined for the better. In teams of 4, you must work together to splat hordes of Salmonids to collect as many Golden Eggs as possible. Not only is the game mode now available at any time, but with new maps, more loadout options, and the ability to throw Golden Eggs, working at Grizzco Industries has never felt better. Though it can be challenging at times, with an even larger variety of Boss Salmonids to blast away and event waves to overcome, this addictive multiplayer mode has enough variety to make every match feel different and memorable.
The Cohozuna has risen!
The maps in all of Splatoon 3’s multiplayer modes are on hourly rotations, meaning you’ll have only a few stages to play on every time you boot up the game. While this sounds disappointing on paper, I appreciated only having access to a small pool of maps in a play session. With Turf War matches being as quick as they are, replaying the maps in rapid succession allowed me to get into a rhythm and figure out the best weapons and strategies that worked for me on any given map. When starting a new play session, players are met with an episode of the biggest show in the Splatlands, the Anarchy Splatcast. Hosted by Deep Cut, a lively and instantly loveable celebrity trio that oozes personality, the short show will let you know what maps are available and when the next rotation will happen. The band will also inform players of upcoming events and game updates, and, for the first time in the Splatoon series, their show can be skipped for players who just want to jump into a match as soon as possible.
Shh! My favourite show is starting!
A new addition to Splatoon 3 that doesn’t quite reach the heights of its other game modes is a new in-game card game called Table Turf Battle. This deck builder minigame is a simple-to-learn, hard-to-master distraction that has players build decks and play cards with unique shapes on them to splat more squares on a grid than their opponent. You’ll unlock new cards by levelling up in multiplayer or finding booster packs hidden in the campaign and can optimise your deck at any time from the menus. Though the card art is full of character and the game’s mechanics are layered, it isn’t the most exciting thing to do in a game that boasts vastly more entertaining modes.
It’s not Gwent, but it has its charms.
All the shops and locations in Splatsville are connected through the largest traversable hub world in a Splatoon game yet. Brimming with personality, you’ll be able to walk to all of Splatoon 3’s shops and game modes while taking in all the community art graffitied on the walls, thanks to the returning Mailbox feature. Although you can swiftly get to where you need to go through the menu thanks to the quick travel feature, spending time in Splatsville is compelling, especially when a Splatfest is on.
Hosted by Deep Cut, Splatfests are in-game community events where you join one of three teams and participate in special game modes to earn special rewards. Winning matches while a Splatfest is running earns points for your team, with a victor crowned at the end of the event. Splatsville comes alive during these events, with parades, music, fireworks, floats and an electric energy that’s unlike any community event I’ve experienced in gaming. Whether your team wins or loses, they are an absolute joy to participate in.
Splatoon 3 Review – Visuals and Audio
The Splatoon series has nailed its style and sound design since the first game, and Splatoon 3 is no exception. Everything from character models and outfit styles to the smaller details like weapon logos and locker stickers, every inch of Splatoon 3 has been intricately and lovingly designed. The textured environments and background lighting makes every stage feel lived in and a part of a bigger world. The crisp shine that reflects off ink as you splat everything you see evokes a sense of creating art. Cutscenes in the story mode are cinematic, crisply animated, and effortlessly entertaining. While the game is held back by the limitations of the Nintendo Switch hardware, Splatoon 3’s commitment to a specific tonal style and art direction allows it to look as good as the franchise has ever been.
Can you feel the splatricity in the air?
With a lush variety of game modes to play through that are fierce, fast, and endlessly fun, Splatoon 3’s excellent sound design only amplifies the experience. From the futuristic bops found throughout the campaign mode and the action-packed tracks that build intensity in a Turf War match, to the eerie tones that play in Salmon Run and the catchy dance rhythms that flow through a Splatfest, Splatoon 3’s soundtrack is empowering, energising, and sparks so much joy. Enjoy a mix of some of my favourites:
‘Now or Never’ – A song by Deep Cut that plays in the final moments of a Turf War match.
‘Mission Crater’ – A track from one of the campaign’s sci-fi-themed stages.
‘Splatsville News’ – A chill background beat that plays during the Anarchy Splatcast.
‘Salmon Run Results’ – A strange funk track you hear after a Salmon Run match.
The excellent audio design doesn’t stop with the music though, as gameplay elements are also heightened through sound. Whether it’s the countdown of a bomb timber, the splatter of ink shots flying past you, or even the whoosh that follows you every time you launch onto the battlefield, the moment-to-moment gameplay is reinforced by meticulously crafted and easily recognisable sounds. Splatoon 3 is always a delight to play with the volume up, and you’ll soon find yourself stuck with one of Deep Cut’s latest tracks stuck in your head.
Turf War has never looked so good!
Splatoon 3 is brilliant. As the best game in its trilogy, it refines so many already well-designed game modes and mechanics to deliver a polished package with plenty to do. With diverse level design and captivating boss fights, the compelling single-player content commands attention for the first time in the Splatoon series. Though few in number, the new selection of maps, weapons, and gear are all exciting additions that provide opportunities to develop new gameplay strategies in the exhilarating Turf War multiplayer. Salmon Run is pure fun, offering a variety of challenges and rewards that encourage replayability.
From creative outfit designs that’ll keep you wardrobe shopping to energising music tracks that you’ll look forward to hearing again and again, Splatoon 3’s visual and audio design continues to take the franchise’s sense of style to fresh new heights. While some connectivity issues let me down, and the handful of the new game features aren’t as interesting as the core modes, Splatoon 3 is the best the series has ever been. With addictive gameplay, a commitment to free DLC updates, and new Splatfests always around the corner, I will be playing Splatoon 3 for the rest of the Switch’s lifecycle.
So, why should you play it?
- Enjoyed playing a Splatoon game before.
- You’re looking for a polished online multiplayer for the Nintendo Switch.
- Interested in a creative take on the action platformer genre.
- You appreciate robust art design and dope video game music.
- Need something for the Switch that you’ll be able to pick up and play for years.
But why shouldn’t you play it?
- You absolutely don’t like playing online multiplayer games.
- Looking for a more realistic shooter.
- Not into the cartoony quirkiness the art style offers.
A review code for Nintendo Switch was kindly provided by Nintendo Australia for the purpose of this review. If you enjoyed this review, check out more of our Nintendo Switch game reviews here!
Author: James Grech
James is a writer and absolute dork who is as passionate about making puns as he is about video games. From Melbourne, Australia, when he’s not playing Dungeons and Dragons or rocking out at karaoke, you can usually find him engaged in some kind of story. Keep up with James on Twitter or check out his Folio for more game reviews!