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In both Splatoon and Splatoon 2, the single-player campaigns offer creative and fun breaks from the madness of online competition. Each campaign combines methodical platforming and puzzle solving with frantic firefights against the octarians and the humanoid octolings. With Splatoon 2’s upcoming Octo Expansion, Nintendo is adding a ton of new content for fans of the base-game campaigns. With Splatoon fans accustomed to free updates, my initial thought upon Octo Expansion’s announcement was that it would be a tough sell for the player base. Thankfully, what I played of the upcoming single-player expansion is creative, challenging, and fun.
With more than 80 new single-player missions, additional unlockable multiplayer gear, and a new story full of mysteries and Splatoon lore, Octo Expansion looks to justify its place as the first piece of premium DLC in the Splatoon franchise. In addition, anyone who gets through the Octo Expansion campaign unlocks Octolings to play as in multiplayer. However, beating every stage will prove no simple task; each stage I played was difficult in unique ways.
Octo Expansion puts you in the shoes of Agent 8 in a subterranean test facility. As such, the stages are presented as subway platforms. You swipe your metro card to enter, choose your preferred weapon for the task, and attack the challenge. Stages vary in their objectives; one stage tasked me with pushing a giant 8-ball down a path toward the objective with few guardrails to prevent failure and myriad enemies to get in the way. If at any point in these stages you reach a total fail point (such as the 8-ball falling off the ledge), Agent 8’s backpack explodes with a different color ink, splatting them and using a life. Thankfully, the checkpoint system seems fair from what I played.
The subterranean vibe combines with the test facility setting to give off a Portal-esque vibe. This is further accentuated by how puzzle-based these missions are. While the Splatoon 2 team developed Octo Expansion, Nintendo tells me members of the Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild team that created the various puzzle shrines joined the Splatoon 2 crew for the design of Octo Expansion.
Though Octo Expansion still focuses keenly on the action elements, each one presents a unique challenge that requires you to think and react. One such stage gives me the choice of close-range weapons. While the ink roller is more precise, I opt for the slosher bucket that gives me a bit more range, even if it is messier. I soon find that the challenge is to battle a host of enemies on a flat area. While that isn’t particularly creative, I soon realize the ground is made of destructible boxes; if I’m not careful, I’ll destroy the ground right from under my feet. I quickly take out a few tentacled menaces before a bulky sniper spawns as a boss. I get him down to his last hit. He blasts at me and I jump out of the way, but his spray of ink destroyed the boxes under my character and I fall to my death. I take a more aggressive approach with the final enemy and come out victorious on my next life.
In another stage, I’m racing against the clock, hitting checkpoints to earn more time and dodging tons of missiles and other enemy fire to reach a goal, while another gives minimal time to grind along rails and destroy boxes. Most stages give you the ability to select a weapon for the job, but some give you unlimited use of a special weapon. The instance of this I encountered gave me an inkjet ability and tasked me with jet-packing from platform to platform. While that sounds simple, if you don’t keep solid ground beneath you, you fall; let me tell you, I had some seriously close calls on this stage.
While those levels are all challenging, none took me to task like the one that placed more than 20 enemies on a carousel in front of me. A countdown flashes on the screen and I blast the switch, rotating the carousel of death before me. I wipe most of them out, but two tank-like enemies with gatling guns give me trouble. I nearly get them, but the timer runs out and my backpack explodes. While I didn’t succeed on this stage in my three attempts, I’m itching to have another crack at it at home.
On top of the new content and multiplayer rewards, Octo Expansion also gives players a new story featuring Pearl and Marina from Off The Hook, as well as characters from the first Splatoon who have been absent in Splatoon 2 like Cap’n Cuttlefish and Agent 3, the inkling from Splatoon 1’s campaign. For players who want to reap the octoling reward and learn the story, but aren’t skilled enough to surmount the tricky challenges, a built in “help” option offers the ability to skip the stage if you fail enough times.
As a huge fan of the first two Splatoon campaigns, Octo Expansion cannot come soon enough. Each stage I played feels distinct and creative, delivering new twists on the blueprints established in the main single-player modes. However, if what I played is any indication, I better brush up on my skills in Splatoon 2 before Octo Expansion’s summer release date.