Splatoon is a great little idea without a whole lot of follow through.
The third-person shooter puts players in the shoes – or tentacles – of the Inklings, half-human, half-squid hybrids, each armed with an ink gun of some sort. The Inklings use their human form to fire off the gun, literally painting anything and everything around them. In squid form, they’re able to swim through their colour of ink, whizzing around the map much faster than humans and theoretically opening up new tactical strategies as a result.
In the only multiplayer mode available, Turf War, you’re tasked to paint the map with as much of your team’s ink as possible to win. A shooter-but-not, ‘killing’ your opponents really isn’t the focus at all, but rather colouring your environment. It’s a very Nintendo game — case in point: it tries to force motion control upon you; turn it off as quickly as you can — in a decidedly non-Nintendo genre.
It’s great fun, but what I’ve described above? Well, that’s about all there is.
Even with ranked matches available from last week, you’re still playing Turf War. On a rotation of 2 to 3 maps, it seems. And I’d know – each time you boot the game up, you’re forced to sit through a news program, of sorts, reminding you that you’ve sparse pickings.
Splatoon also features a single-player campaign, decidedly Super Mario-style, to get you used the multiplayer component. A tad repetitive, even with new mechanics thrown inside every level, it’s really meant to give you a solid footing with which to launch into online play. Boss battles are really where single-player shines, but sadly, the experience is almost done as quickly as it begins.
And then you’re back to Turf War. And only Turf War.
Don’t get me wrong; Splatoon is great fun. It’s a shooter that anyone can pick up and instantly play, and that most will stick with. The ability to paint your environment really changes up the basic hook of Red vs. Blue; you’re now colouring the ground red to pop into that colour, swim around the back of an unwitting opponent, and then lay waste to him or her. It’s fluid, fresh and surely beats the newest innovations in other shooters. I’m looking squarely at you, exo-boost mechanics of the world.
The move from ‘kill baddies’ to ‘complete this basic objective’ works far better than in other shooters, even without voice chat. Playing round after round in a team of four, I only encountered one or two players that really didn’t get it and simply tried to beeline to baddies to fight. Splatoon is so simple, your team can pretty much work effortlessly together to paint the town red.
Yeah, I had to get that in just the once.
Each Inkling can be customised with weaponry, hats, clothes and shoes. Each cosmetic item has a primary function, either providing more ink, a longer special attack time, and so on. Weaponry appears varied at first, but really is either a paintball gun, charged sniper rifle or gigantic roller. The non-sniper guns are great for close to mid-range attacks (it’s obvious what the charged ones are for), while the roller can only be used at point blank range for attacks. The roller can be used as a heavy offensive weapon but is at is best when you’re using it to run around the map and paint it as quickly as possible.
In terms of balance, Splatoon is pretty tight… unless you’re a new, low-level player up against veterans with shields, supers and experience. The nature of Turf War, thankfully, puts you in three-minute match after three-minute match, so you’ll level up fairly quickly to catch up to those champions. My tip? If you’re being spanked, at least pay attention to how it’s happening so you can adopt those tactics as you level up.
As you’re moving from match to match, you’re able to play a little mini-game on the Wii U GamePad called Squid Jump. Reminiscent of 8-bit games on the NES, you’re asked to jump a squid, Doodle Jump-style, from platform to platform, rescuing the same Zap Fish that are the end goals of the single-player campaign. Progressing from level to level in Squid Jump does nothing for you, but it is a great way to get rid of boredom between matches.
As great as Squid Jump is, waiting in a lobby between matches doesn’t let you fiddle with your Inkling’s equipment, which is a real shame. It’s quite a pain to have to exit out of multiplayer altogether to use a different hat or gun or whatever.
I applaud Nintendo for trying something new, but at the moment, Splatoon is almost a half-baked idea. A damn good idea, but one that needs more content – maps or modes, at this stage – now. Not in a couple weeks. Not in the coming months. Now.
Hell, I enjoyed the hell out of NHL 15, but because it was half a game, I didn’t score it well. In comparison, Splatoon fares far better simply because its simple premise can provide hours of fun… but still, I feel like Nintendo didn’t need to rush this out the door and should have added more to it before a release.
Those who want to give a decidedly different shooter a try, or are simply starved for Wii U content should definitely pick this one up. To everyone else, try if possible before you buy; after ten minutes with the game, you’ve almost seen as much as you ever will, and can decide if that’s enough for you or not.
Splatoon was reviewed using a promotional code on Wii U, as provided by the publisher.