If you’ve ever wanted a shooter that had more strategy than a normal shooter… If you’ve ever tried to play a shooter and needed better lighting and contrast… If you’ve ever needed to modify your weapons to focus only on things that you can do instead of things you can’t… Y’all, ya gotta try Splatoon 2. It’s so darn good. It makes so many innovations in the shooter genre. It has so many different game modes and ways to progress. But is it quite as fresh if you’re visually impaired?
About me and my play style: I have albinism. My visual acuity fluctuates between 20/100 and 20/500 depending on if I’m wearing contacts and how tired I am. I have color vision, but no depth perception. I also deal with eye strain if I have to focus too precisely for too long. I primarily play in handheld mode so I can hold the screen closer. I tend to play on my long commute with no sound because I need to keep my ears free to listen for my stop to be announced.
For those who are unfamiliar with the world of Splatoon, I’m going to give a brief overview of the game. In Splatoon, you play as a kid who can turn into a squid. You have to pick a binary gender for your squidkid, which is disappointing, but we’ll move on because I’m not sure how much I want to think about squid gender. Your main mechanic is shooting or painting brightly colored ink that you can then swim in. When you swim, you move faster than running, and you recharge your ink and health. You can play online team battles where you try to ink more ground than the opposing team. The teams are matched up randomly. There are other online modes once you’ve leveled up enough, and these modes have different objectives. Salmon Run is an online mode where you have to collect eggs and bring them back to your base, which is much more about movement than about shooting, though you do have to get past your enemies somehow. Your objective is never to kill the most people on the opposing team. In fact, you can’t kill people at all. If you shoot them with enough ink, they get “splatted” back to their base after a few seconds. If that sort of thing matters to you, it’s as non-violent as a shooter can get.
The game also gives you a huge variety of weapons to use. There are traditional guns, though they aren’t called guns. There are also paintbrushes, buckets, and paint rollers. The rollers are my personal favorite because there’s no aiming involved. You can level up your gear with the money you earn in battles.
You can also play the single-player campaign, which is a combination of shooting mechanics and platforming mechanics. The single-player campaign teaches you a lot of the mechanics that you need to be successful in the online portion, but it is by no means required. You can earn special weapons by completing the single-player campaign, but again, the normal weapons you get are just as good. The weapons are carefully balanced so that no one weapon is over powered.
Visual Characteristics 9.5/10
(Contrast, Lighting, Tracking, Clutter)
The ink is bright, and pretty much every mode offers great lighting. The lighting in Salmon run is fairly dusky, but the contrast makes up for it. There are a small number of levels in the single-player campaign that are a tad on the darker side, but they are towards the end of the campaign, which should help because if you make it that far, you know what things look like. Tracking is usually quite good. You can choose your outfit specifically to be noticeable if that helps you, and there aren’t any tiny objects that you need to see except for optional collectibles. The optional collectibles also have really helpful glow effects around them to distinguish them. A few of the single-player levels and some of the Salmon Run stages can be a bit on the cluttered side, but I’m not taking off for this because you can use your ink as a way to see what things are. If it’s a wall, your ink will hit it. If it’s a pit, your ink will fall and disappear. If it’s an enemy, you’ll splat them, etc.
Accessibility Features 5/10
There are some good colorblind/color sensitive features here. The colors in Splatoon are… bright. Kid-friendly, let’s say. And if you find them a bit much, you can lock your colors so you always see yellow and blue (and they have significantly different saturation levels). Your selection won’t affect online play. Other people will still see the wacky colors. If the lighting in Salmon Run is an issue for you, I strongly recommend locking ink colors.
Accessibility-wise, Splatoon isn’t great, though. There are a ton of menus, and there is no text-to-speech or zoom functions. The bulk of the menus and text are not during gameplay, so you can use the built-in zoom function, but it’s still frustrating. The font is nice and bold, but it’s not the clearest font.
To get a better accessibility score from me, I would have wanted to see more font options, zoom options, text-to-speech, and controller remapping. Most importantly, I would have liked to see options for the appearance of the crosshairs for the aimed weapons. I find the crosshairs to be too light to see properly. If I could make them more opaque and some garish color, it would help me a lot. Heck, even if I could just make them bigger, that would help.
The standard controls use gyro aiming, which is actually done really well here once you get used to it. If you aren’t a fan of gyro aiming, you can opt for aiming only with the analog sticks. You can also adjust the sensitivity of the controls and invert the axes if needed. Something that is really neat is that you can save these settings independently in handheld vs. TV mode. So you don’t like gyro aiming in handheld mode but like it in TV mode, now you don’t have to change it back and forth all the time. I’m giving bonus points for this, even though I probably shouldn’t… I haven’t seen separate settings for TV and handheld mode before, and I want to reward that. But they really need to do something to make the text in the menus more accessible.
Assist Modes 3/10
I’m giving this category a generous three points. In the single-player mode, they will give you some helpful hints if you stand around confused for a while. However, the text is not that big, and it’s not on screen for very long, so it’s a toss up whether you can read it.
This is an online, multiplayer game. I can definitely see why they don’t have any major assist modes because it would give some players an advantage (yadda yadda yadda…)
That said… I’d have liked to see a “training mode” maybe, and that mode could have given you items that only worked within that mode. Something to help ease players into the learning curve of the game would really help. It took me a while to get into the game because I just wasn’t sure how anything worked, and a “training mode” would have helped me know where to start, and people who knew what they were doing could just skip it.
There is something that kinda serves the training mode function. A couple things. The single-player campaign is broken up into several worlds, and each world contains several levels and an overworld to access the levels. In the overworld, you actually have to find the entrance to each level before you can play said level. You can practice shooting with different weapons as much as you like in the overworlds, and there are things to do and secrets to find. There’s not a ton of stuff to do, and there’s not a ton of secrets to find, but it’s something.
The other thing that I HIGHLY recommend is getting the Starter Guide from myNintendo. I believe some copies of the game also include this guide as a little booklet. The booklet explains a lot about the game and the controls that I think are communicated visually on screen that I never would have known otherwise. The main thing was that I wondered how to use my special weapon for ages until I read the guide and it told me to push down on the right stick. Sidenote: I hate having to push down on the sticks for anything.
About the guide, note that it’s not technically free, though I’m pretty sure you can get the 75 silver points for signing up for myNintendo. Also note that it’s not accessible. You’ll need OCR software or the fancy Adobe Acrobat to make it accessible. And the images don’t have alt text. So… I guess it’s better than nothing.
The last thing I’ll say regarding assist features is that the single-player campaign has a lot of checkpoints. Once you’ve reached a checkpoint, you have three lives to make it to the next checkpoint, when your lives reset. If you lose all three lives, you get kicked out of the level and have to start it again from the beginning. It’s not perfect, but it does give you a decent amount of room to mess up.
I lied. THIS is the last thing I’ll say about assist features. If you complete the entire single-player campaign with a certain weapon, you can unlock that weapon for online play. However, you do not have to wait until you’ve beaten the whole thing to go back and play previous levels with different weapons. So you can practice with different weapons and still make forward progress. If you want to take another pass at certain mechanics, you can do that as much as you want. Or if you want to focus your time on paint rollers, you can do that. The levels aren’t timed exactly. They tell you how long it took you, but you can take as long as you want. So if you want to practice and get faster times before you move on to harder levels, you can. I appreciate that they let you choose how you play.
Non Visual Cues 9/10
The nonvisual cues here are actually pretty good. They make use of rumble to communicate when you’ve taken damage and give you feedback on your movement. The sound effects and score are also pretty helpful in anticipating attacks. There are stealth attacks that you aren’t going to notice, but that’s a universal thing. To make the nonvisual cues better, I’d like to see some more options to enhance the rumble and make it more pronounced. Sometimes it’s a little too subtle for my taste, given how much information it gives me. And I also would have liked to be able to control the sound effects separately from the music. But overall, it’s solid.
Decent Fonts 7.5/10
The font is actually pretty decent. It’s a little cartoony, but pretty much every Nintendo font is. It’s nice and bold. It’s smaller than I would like, but it could definitely be worse. I’m taking off points because the fonts could be bigger and because there should be a large print option.
I will say that this is one game where I do actually understand the size of the font. This is not a situation where they have tons of empty screen and an inexplicably small font. On the shop menus, they have so much text and other visual information to display that larger fonts would be very difficult to incorporate. They still totally should, though.
In-game, there is zero excuse for the size of the font.
Necessity of Text 6/10
(The higher the rating, the less necessary the text is)
I’m really on the fence about how to rate this category because there are so many different ways to play this game. I think the most accessible way to play would be to only play turf wars online. And for these, there is really minimal text needed. You don’t really have to read about the different weapons before you buy them. There is a test mode where you can try out weapons and learn about them that way.
However, if you want to dig into the strategy of the game, you’re going to want to read more about your gear. And in the single-player game, there are a decent amount of instructions given to you through text.
I’m going to give this a middle-of-the-road score. If you don’t want to read small text, know that you can definitely get by without it, especially if you have a sighted buddy who can help you out from time to time. But know that there will be a fair amount of text presented to you. And sometimes that text is rather important to the gameplay, depending on the mode.
Handheld Play 10/10
Some people might disagree with me on this, but I think handheld play is excellent and can even be easier in some ways than TV mode. In handheld mode, using the gyro, you can essentially use the Switch as a kind of VR device to aim. If you’ve tried the Super Mario Odyssey VR mode, it’s like that. In TV mode, you don’t get that much feedback about your aiming.
The frame rate is very consistent, and the resolution scaling isn’t noticeable to me. I’m sure sensitive folks might get motion sick when using the gyro to aim, but it doesn’t give me any issues.
Level of Precision Required 8/10
I’m also not sure how to grade this category. It’s a shooter. However, you can choose to use weapons that don’t need to be aimed, like the paint roller. In the single-player mode and in Salmon Run, you have to use whatever weapon they give you, but you don’t have to play the single-player or Salmon Run if that’s a deal-breaker. You will still get a fully-fledged experience even if you only play one mode.
There’s also some platforming, and the platforming isn’t super generous. My biggest problem is falling off ledges in turf wars, the online multiplayer mode. You can get splatted just by falling off the edge of the stage, which is immensely frustrating. However, there are a limited number of stages, and you will learn them pretty quickly. I normally try to write my reviews assuming you aren’t willing to put in a million hours of playtime to learn the game. In this case, though, it does not take long to learn the stages. You can also “do recon” on the stages and play in them before you see them in battle.
The stages rotate every two hours, and only two stages are available for each mode at a time. You don’t get to pick the stage, which is a bummer, but like I said, you’ll know what the stages are, and you’ll have a chance to practice if you’d like.
In the future, I would like to see an option where you can select the stage you’d like to play on. I understand that this might increase wait times, but I’d be willing to wait longer for a match if I could only play on stages you can’t fall off of. It’s roughly 50/50 whether you’ll be on a stage that you can fall off of versus one you can’t. (I haven’t done the math. Don’t make me do math.)
For the single-player campaign, you can mess up a fair amount because of how generous they are with lives and checkpoints. In the multiplayer modes, you can be pretty terrible and still win sometimes because it’s a team game. Even if you’re amazing, you’re still gonna lose sometimes because you get stuck with bad teammates. That’s okay. If people aren’t willing to play with unskilled players, they go to the modes where you have to be a certain level to play. So don’t feel bad about playing online even if you’re not very good.
Controls and Depth Perception 8/10
The controls feel pretty natural after a while, but you can’t remap them. The camera is really good, but it can be hard to know how far you can jump because the camera is always behind you. In that way, the depth perception could be better.
My main gripe is that they make you push down the right thumbstick to use your special. Why??? I know they were running out of buttons, but the controllers have like a million buttons. Couldn’t they come up with something else?
In short, remapping controls is really necessary. But it doesn’t really hurt the visuals.
I have a few minor gripes about this game that aren’t related to the visuals. The biggest gripe is that there is no local multiplayer. In some ways, this is good for the visuals because I always have the entire TV screen to myself. But I would just love to play against my girlfriend, and we can’t do that because we only have one Switch. Given how popular Splatoon has become as a franchise, I would be surprised if this isn’t added into Splatoon 3.
Something else for you to note is that not every mode is available at any one time. Salmon Run is usually available, but not 100% of the time. You can check the schedule here to get an idea. The gear also isn’t always available all the time. You can find the gear schedule on that website. Again, this isn’t a reason not to get the game, but it is something to know. I understand that they need to make sure that there is enough demand for each mode, but sometimes Salmon Run isn’t open the only time I have to play, and that can be frustrating.
Recommendation for visual skills needed for enjoyment
For bare minimum enjoyment (in turf war online, with a paint roller, on a stage that you can’t fall off of, and maybe with some assistance getting through the menus), I think you can easily get by with 20/1000. If you don’t have a sighted buddy, you will need to use the built-in zoom to navigate the menus. If you want to play with weapons that need aiming, I’d recommend somewhere in the 20/400 area. For the single-player campaign, I’d also recommend somewhere in the 20/400 neighborhood.
Overall, I recommend this game. Period. Full stop. I don’t care who you are, Splatoon 2 is phenomenal. It definitely isn’t trying to make itself accessible, but the concept of the game itself makes it much more friendly to visually impaired folks than pretty much any other shooter.
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