Splatoon 2’s Squid Beatz mini-game is off the hook.
In the first Splatoon there was a fun little arcade game called Squid Jump that you could play while you waited for an online match to start. It was a simple jumping platformer, and a cute, fun distraction to fill those idle moments before the main event. Using Nintendo’s range of Splatoon amiibo figurines, three additional games – Squid Racer, Squidball, and Squid Beatz – could also be unlocked.
Unfortunately, these lobby games are absent from Splatoon 2. Instead, you can fiddle with the Nintendo Switch’s thumb sticks and buttons to distort and remix the lobby music as you wait. It’s something to do, but it’s not as much fun.
But elsewhere, in Splatoon 2’s Inkopolis Square hub area, there is a follow-up to one of those games that isn’t locked behind an amiibo, and is free to play. It’s called Squid Beatz 2 – or Ika Radio 2 – and it’s brilliant.
Starting the game you are greeted with a beautifully retro title screen, then a simple graphic equaliser, and the silhouettes of various characters from the game. You can also scroll through – and listen to – a selection of Splatoon 2’s music tracks.
At first I thought it was just a standard game music jukebox, but then I realised that by hitting the triggers and face buttons on the controller, I could add my own drum beats, hand-claps, tambourine slaps. It reminded me the Nintendo 3DS’s bonkers music player, which lets you play along – and add percussion – to any MP3 track.
So why do I say Squid Beatz 2 is easy to miss?
What isn’t immediately obvious, is that if you press the Minus button, a difficulty level display appears. This can then be toggled between Normal and Hard. And so begins a very simple, but very addictive, rhythm game along the lines of Beatmania, Donkey Konga, or Guitar Hero.
There are 42 tracks included, although many need to be unlocked by playing elements of the main game. On hard level Squid Beatz 2 poses a genuine challenge.
It helps that Splatoon 2’s soundtrack – composed by Toru Minegishi, Ryo Nagamatsu and Shiho Fujii – is truly great. Each track is energetic, varied, and madcap, making them perfect for a rhythm game. It’s also lovely to hear the music shorn of gameplay sound effects, bringing to the fore cues and motifs that normally get lost in heat of splattle.
I easily put 45 minutes to Squid Beatz 2 on my first play, and with my meagre high-scores saved, it’s something I will keep returning to.