Splatoon 2 Octo Expansion Review: Staying Fresh

Splatoon 2 Octo Expansion Review: Staying Fresh

The Octo Expansion for Splatoon 2 suddenly dropped during E3 2018, and I finally decided to give it a download. True to what Nintendo has been teasing since the DLC’s announcement, the Splatoon 2 Octo Expansion adds a decent amount of longevity to the standalone game. What’s more is that the series’ charm is at the forefront of a fun challenge that finally gives players the opportunity to play as an Octoling in Splatoon 2’s Turf War mode.

The Octo Expansion begins with a young Octoling, whom you get to customize like your Inkling, wakes up in a subway metro station with no memory how they got there. You are joined in this mysterious quest to reach the surface of Inkopolis by Captain Cuttlefish, as well as receive radio support from Pearl and Marina.

For gamers thinking that not all Octo-kind are evil, this short but sweet campaign is sure to delight. The Octoling you control has a long Octarian designation, but Captain Cuttlefish rebrands them as the official Agent 8, and then it’s off to work.

Splatoon 2 Octo Expansion

Various challenges appear as white dots throughout the subway’s many tunnels.

Where Splatoon 2’s main campaign featured several overworld hubs with access to different levels within, the Octo Expansion takes place, the majority of the time, within the confines of a series of subway cars. As you play through the expansion, the cars begin filling up with the denizens of Splatoon’s world, but you’ll find that there’s only three characters you can interact with. Too bad, because it’s obviously the speech bubbles that bring some personality to this wacky world.

Instead of jumping around a hub, Agent 8 has access to a device that maps the various subway tunnels. Each time you discover a new tunnel you’re rewarded with extra currency. Each subway tunnels has a series of challenges, each with various victory conditions, monetary rewards, and degree of difficulty. The main goal is for the player to gather the “Four Thangs”, that hold the key to escaping the subway and reaching the surface, but it’s to the player’s benefit to complete each of the 80 challenges.

That’s where you’re going to get the most out of your money. Think of these challenges as test chambers. That is, in fact, what they’re practically called. That’s because the term “test fee” is used for these challenges. You do have to pay a fee in order to attempt a challenge. Normally that would raise some flags, but the Octo Expansion makes it so that you shouldn’t have to worry about losing your in-game currency if you’re having an especially difficult time completing a challenge. For that reason, I highly recommend that novice players begin with challenges that cost between 200-300 monies to attempt. The payout will always be more than what you spend, but should you fail, you’ll have to repay a fraction of that fee for another attempt. This can be especially jarring on more difficult challenges. I wanted to pull my hair out on some of the harder, 1,000-2,000 cost challenges. When I had to repay for another attempt, I’d sometimes walk away breaking even and earning nothing. It really hangs on that notion of picking and choosing your battles. You have to do it wisely.

Several stages harken back to Nintendo’s gaming legacy. Here you can GameCubes in the background.

At no point did I run out of funds for challenges during my play through of the Octo Expansion. However, it is possible to bounce back and earn more money by playing challenges that you’ve already completed, some with different loadouts that can earn you even more money.

With every challenge you complete, Agent 8 is awarded a “mem cake”. I thought these looked a lot like eraser caps, but they’re darned cute looking effigies of various Splatoon characters, iconography, and brands. All you need to know is that mem cakes is the game’s exposition for helping Agent 8 recover their memory. Once a player has cleared every challenge on a given subway tunnel, and earned each’s mem cakes, an isopod named Iso Padre will accept your mem cakes in exchange for various clothing items for use in the game’s main multiplayer mode. Bear in mind that these items will only ever have two max sub gear slots instead of the maximum three. I was hoping the real difficult subway tunnels would at least reward you with the max you can get.

No matter. But now that you know what mem cakes can do, it’s especially important to know this detail: if you find yourself struggling to complete a challenge, Pearl and Marina can bypass the challenge for you, but you won’t receive a true mem cake out of it. If you really want the extra (optional) gear from Iso Padre, you have to complete all 80 challenges yourself. At least there’s a great form of replay value in this regard, provided you didn’t blow all your money away by fail after fail.

Once you have gathered all the “Four Thangs”, there’s a real cool mini-challenge tower in which you must ascend from the depths of the planet back to the surface of Inkopolis. It’s a great and fun gauntlet that brings all your hard work to a close. The final boss, which won’t be spoiled, is a cool nod to what veteran players will recognize. After the credits roll is when the Octoling becomes an official playable character for the game’s multiplayer. Too bad there’s only two hairstyles to choose from (like in the first game) for both the girl and boy Octolings. I hope that with future updates the Octolings can get further customization options.

Completing the expansion allows players to control Octolings in Turf War.

But that’s not all. Returning to the depths of the subway in the Octo Expansion adds a few more nuggets. One is that you can revisit select challenges to receive a “mem token” from C.Q. Cumber for use at the subway’s main platform, which harbors a vending machine that accepts regular currency as well as mem token. The mem tokens can give you loads of cash to use in Inkopolis square’s various shops, as well as give you game-boosting meal tickets from Crusty Sean’s food truck. Meal tickets, of course, grant you timed boosts to money earned, XP gained, and the speed at which you earn secondary features to your cosmetic items. You can also your regular currency for the same items albeit at a premium price. Again, you can always replay every challenge for more money for the vending machine at any time.

There’s also a true final boss that rounds out the Octo Expansion. Again, no spoilers here, but even Splatoon enthusiasts can’t be faint of heart here. This is easily the hardest challenge that has ever appeared thus far in the series. You may end up dying consistently, almost to the point that you want to throw your controller at your TV’s screen. It’s that infuriatingly hard, but it is able to be conquered. Whether it’s worth the final cosmetic item you can get is up to you, but the time you’ve invested to get this far should already feel worth it by that point.

All that said, the Splatoon 2 Octo Expansion is pretty good investment for those who already have the standalone game and are seeking a good challenge. You’ll no doubt get several hours out of the Octo Expansion with 80 challenges to complete and some difficult boss battles to overcome. While the plot may come off as barebones, its fun and intense conclusion is worth going in it for the long run. Plus, getting the opportunity to play as an Octoling is something you don’t just pass up. It’s a rewarding, and oftentimes strenuous goal to attain, but every minute of the Octo Expansion feels like you are making some fulfilling progress. At $19.99 you can’t go wrong. Have a Splatastic time, and I hope to see you and your Octolings out there for some good old Turf War fun. “Don’t get cooked, stay off the hook!”

8.5
Great

The Good

  • Lots of replay value
  • Rewarding sense of challenge
  • Takes a few good hours to reach 100%
  • Signature humor is evident throughout
  • Completing the expansion unlocks the Octoling

The Bad

  • Not many characters to interact with
  • Steep learning curve for novice players
  • Cheap true final boss
  • Gear earned should have more slots
Jason Arriola

One of the biggest Star Wars fans there is. When I don't have one of many gaming peripherals in my hands I probably have my nose in a good book, out amiibo hunting, or contemplating (and never deciding) what game to pull off my shelf next!