When Splatoon was announced, people’s heads turned and all eyes were fixated on the new cast of colourful half kid/half squid. It is rare for Nintendo to release a new IP and even more shockingly; it was a shooter! Well now that the Big N’s forway into the unknown has been released and its unique take on the multiplayer shooter genre is definitely a success. Sure it suffers from some teething issues and the method of distributing content is a little eyebrow raising, but all in all Splatoon shows that Nintendo still has the minds to innovate and create obscene amounts of fun.
At it’s core, Splatoon is a squad-based shooter where your goal is to fill the majority of the map with your team’s chosen colour of ink. To do this, you use a variety of weapons and skills to lay down some serious ink. If you took nothing more than a passing glance at Splatoon you would probably enjoy it for this factor alone but much like with Pokemon, Nintendo has created a game that looks simple on the outside but is jam packed with some serious hidden complexity and depth.
In Splatoon, you play as a Squidling, which is a squid that can transform into a kid (or a kid that can transform into a squid. I’m not particularly sure which one it is). As a kid, you run, jump and shoot your ink guns like normal and aim to cover the most floor space with your team’s colour. However, turning into a squid is what really shifts this game into a whole other gear. As a squid, you are able to sneakily and quickly dash through your own ink, adding a whole new level of manoeuvrability that you normally wouldn’t expect in a squad-based shooter. Squids can even dash up walls and get to higher vantage points by painting up a wall in kid mode.
One thing that really impressed me was the map design of the game. Levels are built around not only the manoeuvrability of the players, but the weapons themselves. Verticality is important and in many stages a Squidling can travel up a tall tower and take aim with a sniper-rifle to pick off opposing squids who get in their way, but at the same time a character with a roller (a paint roller that they push along the ground in front of them to cover massive areas with ink) can quickly get around the tight corners and ensure that their team’s colour is painted proudly across the field.
The rounds are short but incredibly chaotic. It is possible for one team to be absolutely dominating the map for 2:50 before the opposition mounts a serious counter attack and wins out of nowhere. The quick gameplay also keeps the intensity up and stops you from losing interest.
Since Splatoon is a multiplayer-focused title it is sad to see it not include any real couch co-op. Now to clarify, the game does let you play with two players on the one console, but only in a weapons test area and not in any of the actual online multiplayer modes. Personally, I was a little disappointed to find that out after reading that there was two-player support right on the back of the box. It is understandable that with the ink physics and nature of the game that two players on the one console might not be feasible with the current hardware, but tempting us with the promise of two player action and not fully delivering is a huge let down. I personally feel that the multiplayer aspect of weapons testing should have been excluded from the game all together.
There is also a single-player aspect to the game, where you take on the roll of your Squidling and run through various challenges designed to teach you on how to properly utilise the game’s mechanics. While it isn’t a massive aspect of the game, I for one learned a lot about squid movement and shooting tactics from running through the stages, and the boss fights were just icing on the cake. However I will note that the final boss encounter is a HUGE difficulty spike in comparison to the others, and it can feel downright frustrating at times.
One thing to definitely note is how stable the online connectivity is with this game. Nintendo is known for not putting up the best servers for their online games *cough cough Smash Bros. cough*, but during my many hours as a squid-kid, I never once got dropped out or had any discernable amount of lag. The whole game runs as buttery smooth as any other shooter out there, which is all the more impressive considering the chaotic and dynamic nature of the game.
Nintendo has also taken a bit of a unique tact when it comes to the content available in Splatoon. At any given time, players will only have access to four maps (two in ranked mode and two in free play), and these rotate every couple of hours. This is very much a double edged sword as it allows players to really get accustomed to a particular map, but at the same time also means that if a map you aren’t fond of pops up in the rotation, you are stick playing on it or just not playing for a couple of hours. I also feel like it is a method of artificially increasing the game’s lifespan, as everyone can’t get bored of the included maps too quickly. In a time where games like Destiny and Titanfall become barren wastelands quickly, I can see why they would want to try this out but I can see players getting agitated at its inclusion.
Splatoon also features Amiibo support, but only for the three Splatoon figures. When you scan one of the Inkling figures into the game, it unlocks a series of challenges for you to replay. These have you running through the levels of the single-player campaign once again but with different limitations placed on you, or by giving you different weapons. Playing through these unlocks some new wearable gear for your online avatar, and I have been rocking the seriously awesome Squidling armor since I first stepped foot into the online lobby.
Visuals & Audio
Splatoon might very well be Nintendo’s most visually impressive game to date, and a lot of that has to do with the ink itself. Water effects are always difficult to get right, no matter what the game is and when you add colour and physics to the mix, the whole thing becomes a recipe for disaster yet somehow they managed to pull it off without hitch.
Ink gets EVERYWHERE in this game, and the subtle animations as it splatters across the floor, or the parting motion as an enemy’s ink supplants it are really beautiful to behold.
The game itself is also vibrant and colourful (which at this point is a trademark for Nintendo and one that II’m sure most of us agrees continues). The various different colours of ink really help the game stand out;Deep blues and contrasting oranges, fluro pinks and royal purples. They all look amazing and there is never a time where you stop and go “wow, my team’s colour is ugly this round.”
Since Splatoon is such a chaotic game, it is only natural that it has an equally energetic soundtrack. The high intensity punk-rock styled tunes really help set the tone and pace for the matches and are a joy to listen to. Although I will admit that I wish there was a few more songs available because after a couple of hours of play you will likely have listened to them all several times.
Shooters are really a niche in gaming that Nintendo has largely left alone, so it is good to see that when they finally dip their toe into that pond, that they have created something totally out there and different. While it has its share of teething issues, Splatoon is still a blast to play. After selling over 1 million copies, I have no doubts that we will see more of the Squidling Kids in the future and I look forward to see how this game becomes the springboard to a truly awesome franchise.
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