Splatoon 3 Campaign Review – The Long and Lonely Road

Splatoon 3 Campaign Review

This first write-up is all about the single-player mode in Splatoon 3. While there were a handful of special sessions held during the review period, I wanted to cover the pure, unfiltered multiplayer experience. So that comes later! In the interim, let’s dig a little into the solo campaign. It’s a fun diversion from the online matches that only felt a little bit lonely.

Splatoon 3’s solo campaign takes place in a region called Alterna. You (Agent 3) have been tasked with recovering the Great Zapfish. This thing apparently gets stolen quite frequently? You can probably guess what’s going to happen in Splatoon 4, is what I’m saying. Though the story is very familiar, the mechanical end of things feels a lot less rote. Sort of. I appreciated the constant influx of new weapons and techniques, but the level design is terribly dull. But maybe this is intentional.

Splatoon 3 Review

It seems like Nintendo cornered themselves with the level design for these games. The original aesthetic is so distinct, that it’s hard to expand on it in any meaningful way. You’ve got pristine industrial ruins, and also some not-ruined landscapes. There’s a variety of textures to mix and match, but none of it feels organic. This isn’t a world you’re exploring, just a puzzle box full of belligerent obstacles. Again, these are all careful, deliberate design choices. They just suck the life out of me a little.

Jam-Packed Yet Empty

On the other hand, the guts of this campaign are positively gleaming. You’re drip-fed a steady stream of new moves, new weapons, and new ideas. The challenge level escalates at a digestible pace, one that keeps you engaged. Although the stages get progressively harder, it never felt impossible. The only times I got properly stuck were when I deliberately chose a more difficult weapon loadout. Then the resulting pain and suffering was my responsibility, which is fine by me!

Splatoon 3 Review

Having never played the previous campaigns, I’m not certain which weapons and skills are brand-new ones. What I can tell you is that I was loaded down with stacks of unique tools during my playthrough. Crossbows, rockets, charged shots, and paintbrushes all gave me new ways of splattering my foes. Enemies and obstacles are effectively remixed, giving you new challenges to defeat at every turn. The mechanical ingenuity is refreshing, but it’s not quite enough to shake off the sense of loneliness.

Splatoon is a series defined by chaos. Vibrant explosions of ink, insane weapons, colorful characters, and frantic action are part of every match. When you try and cram all of this into a series of clever action/puzzle stages, something essential is lost. The pacing feels jagged and stretched. The empty spaces feel vast. In short, it’s a strangely lonely game. Throughout my playthrough, I couldn’t quite escape that nagging sense that something was off. The crafty puzzle design and the expanded weapon roster are awesome, but they can’t address that ephemeral root problem.

Tons Of Puzzles To Solve

In spite of all this, the moment-to-moment gameplay is still great. There are a ton of stages to complete, even if they do blend together a little. Most of the levels have multiple weapon loadouts, which helps keep things fresh. Thanks to the puzzle-centric focus, there’s always a proper solution to any stage you’re stuck on. If you take a step back, you can eventually string it together. I hardly noticed the music, but there are some real bangers on this soundtrack. If nothing else, these songs stand apart from most Nintendo tunes.

The Alterna campaign is only a slice of the Splatoon 3 pie. As such, my final score comes with some caveats. Though the mechanical elements are rock solid, the look and feel of the game is still off. At least for me, this campaign content feels subdued and a little lonely. Taken as part of the complete experience, the single-player content is something of a safe house. A quiet space where you can sharpen your skills and experiment with new weapons. Even so, the solo campaign for Splatoon 3 had me longing for the chaos of the online arena.

***A Nintendo Switch code was provided by the publisher***

The Good

  • More weapon loadouts
  • Tons of stages
  • Clever puzzle design

The Bad

  • Stages lack variety
  • Solo mode feels lonely