Directors: Yusuke Amano & Tsubasa Sakaguchi
Platform: Wii U
Ever wondered what an online multiplayer shooter made by Nintendo would look like? Well, Splatoon is the answer and it really is a breath of fresh air, or a splat of fresh ink. Nintendo have dipped their toes into the inkwell of online shooters and have shown everybody else how different and exciting they can be, stripping away the violence and gore for fun and colour.
Splatoon’s central premise is a simple one; cover the map with as much of your team’s ink as possible. You choose your half-squid, half-human character, called an Inkling, choose your weapons (the game features an awesome array of super-soakers, paint-rollers, paint-bombs and so on) and your clothes, all of which can be upgraded based on how much you play and how many matches you win. You can get up to as high as level 20; Nintendo have said that they will raise this cap further down the line. The game is a third person shooter, each individual match lasts 3 minutes and feature two teams of four, so the maps never feel too crowded.
Splatoon is full of vibrant colour, covering the map in dollops of bright pink, blue, purple, orange and green, giving the game a slimy Nickelodeon vibe. This isn’t to say that the game is childish. On the contrary, the game’s directors Yusuke Amano and Tsubasa Sakaguchi have been able to take a genre that has become increasingly tired – with shooters such as Call of Duty and Battlefield dominating the market – and rejuvenate it, adding vibrance and fun with a fresh lick of paint.
Splatoon isn’t really about killing enemies. You can do that if you wish, but it won’t really benefit your team in the long-run. What you should really be concentrating on is covering the map with as much gooey brightly coloured ink as possible. Depending on how you want to play, you can choose the weapon that best fits your style of play. If you are more for covering the map with ink and less about shooting as many people as possible, then one of the paint-roller weapons will be the best fit for you. If you are more about kicking ass and taking names, then one of the super-soaker style weapons probably fits you style better. You also have a pack on your back displaying how much ink you have left. You can get more ink by turning into a squid and gliding through the inky slime, as long as it’s your own team’s ink; you’ll get stuck in the opponents ink and probably end up getting splattered.
The levelling up aspect and the vast array of weapons and gear upgrades makes the game incredibly addictive, despite the relatively low number of maps and game modes. And even if you can only get up to level 20, it takes some time to get there, and the game itself is fun enough for you to still carry on playing. Splatoon has that ‘just one more game’ quality, and once you do finally put the controller down, you may have lost a couple of hours. The addition of ranked matches gives Splatoon and extra edge, where each team fights hard to cover a selected area of the map with as much of their own ink as possible.
Nintendo made a promise to keep Splatoon players happy, and they have stuck to that promise, constantly adding content to the game, whether it be new maps, new weapons, or new gear, every day there seems to be something new. They are also coming up with innovative ways to keep people playing the game, such as Splatfest, which are a series of events hosted by Nintendo where you can choose between two teams, receive a special T shirt, spend a couple of days upgrading your T shirt and its gear, and then compete in a series of battles against the opposing team. During Splatfest you also get to see what Splatoon’s hub city of Inkopolis looks like at night, which is pretty damn cool.
However, Splatoon does have its problems. Firstly there isn’t much content in the game; there isn’t an abundance of maps, and there’s no voice chat, which means that it is difficult to communicate with your team. However, this may not really be a problem. It’s far better to play your game in silence rather than having to endure the constant swearing and stupid remarks made by some kid playing god knows where. Nintendo knew what they were doing when they decided not to add the feature.
The squid sisters are also incredibly annoying. They turn up every time you boot up Splatoon or when something has been added to the game, such as a new map, which is often, and they partake in awful banter, which is unfunny, at times cringeworthy and incredibly frustrating because you can’t skip it – you just have to endure it. Anything which gets in the way of just being able to play the brilliant game is a hindrance and it’s difficult to understand why Nintendo added in these two characters, because they don’t add anything to the overall game.
Splatoon’s campaign is also a bit of an issue. It’s a 3D platforming single-player experience, and is fun and well designed yet also feels a little bit forgotten. It’s almost hidden in its hub city, and you have to find some guy underneath a drain to access it; it’s nowhere near as enjoyable as the core multiplayer experience.
Yet despite its small flaws, Splatoon is a fantastically fun and frantic experience, which takes the conventions of an online multiplayer shooter and makes something completely new and thoroughly Nintendo. The game looks, feels and plays like nothing else on the market right now, and is all the better for it. It will have you hooked for hours and Nintendo have shown us that there is an alternative to the CODs and Battlefields of this generation. Splatoon is a wonderful game full of charm and innovative ideas, which can only get better with time.