If I hadn’t seen or played it. I never would’ve believed that the team behind Animal Crossing and Wii Sports were going to make a competitive, online-multiplayer shooter. It’s still surprising how the game just works, how no one has done it before, but in no great surprise Nintendo were the ones to capitalise on it in their usual style of intense colours and fun gameplay. In many ways it’s like playing the Mario spin-off, Super Mario Sunshine, as the villain, where painting everything is key to winning. Splatoon is a refreshing shooter, not steeped in realism or brown, but pure experience of classic video games. Though, in some places, it still fails to reach its true heights.

The primary game is located in the multiplayer mode, Turf War, where two teams of 4 players try to cover as much territory with their team’s coloured ink as possible before time runs out. It’s in this mode where the basis of Splatoon shines. The beauty of the mechanics revolves around constant feedback and keeping players. It’s why that even in the absence of hitting an opponent directly, just spraying fulfils the main objective, helps yourself and your team out, all at the same time. By building up territory points are accrued which increases the player’s score and special ability gauge. The ink also allows faster or hidden movements when in the Squid form, even to scaling buildings and traversing through grates as well as slowing down enemies. Only Nintendo could make missing enemies rewarding.

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However, the singleplayer is rather disappointing comparatively. Much of the design is almost a copied template of Nintendo’s main Super Mario games, where several, separated levels can be accessed from a hub world, which have to be completed before accessing a boss battle to progress. The levels themselves use paint as a central mechanic to fulfil their objectives feel more like mini-game experiences, or a bunch of expanded training levels rather than a mode that was devised in conjunction with the multiplayer. In every essence it is an afterthought, for the player and the designers, if a reasonably well done one. Like almost every shooter in recent years, the real meat is in the multiplayer.

The weapons available are themselves a combination of a main and sub-weapon (such as grenades, radars, etc), including the special ability mentioned earlier, ranging from marking all enemies on the map to turning into a giant squid. There’s no way to create your own, unique combination, as these load-outs are pre-set selections that are unlocked by buying them whilst levelling-up and earning money. The inconsistency irked me at times, considering I could customise the avatars individual clothing, but not their weaponry. Still, the weapons themselves are varied in their application on inking up the environments, with most being familiar to the genre.

The sniper rifle, machine gun and grenade launchers are much like their real life counterparts, but the more exotic giant paint roller acts as an interesting take on the shotgun. They all fit a role that they specialise in. The roller can cover ground effectively, whilst machine guns have range and flexibility, whilst sniper rifles are more designed for taking out enemies. Without telling me so, I was slowly fitting these roles without being told, just by playing on the individual strengths of the weapons. Though, they themselves were a bit awkward at first, mainly as they’re ink based. The issue was more me than the game, as the familiarity of firing bullets meant I often overestimated the distance that certain paint guns could cover. The accessibility shines through though, as after only a few matches, I learned the ebb and flow of how the game worked and everything fitted into place.

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As I mentioned, the Turf War mode focuses on covering as much of the arena in your team’s ink as possible, and many of the maps are designed around it. They are varied enough, taking a cartoony angle to real world skate parks and oil refineries, all very sea or teen based. Each are focused on holding choke points and lanes which usually lead into three distinct areas of the map. As some have mentioned, it makes Splatoon feel like a MOBA, where the constant back-and-forth of taking territory determines overall success. Thanks to the ink ability to traverse the environment quickly, both vertically and horizontally, play becomes more tactical than that. Like any good multiplayer, utilising the knowledge of a map means you can survive longer and become deadlier, rather than relying solely on your team numbers to take into the fight.

Unfortunately there are only a couple of maps available at any one time on matchmaking, which switch up during the day, and only five in total in the base game. Whilst mastering maps is important, variety is often more crucial in keeping player attention, which can wane quickly. Nintendo have advertised free updates over the summer adding new maps, as well as weapons and modes, hopefully meaning this is rectified. But for now, as maps become over familiar quickly and a lack of other modes means it’s easier to get tired of the game. A shame, as when Splatoon hits its heights, it feels great, but too often it also made me feel like I was constantly trying to replicate the same moments and nothing else.

It’s no surprise that despite the problems, Nintendo have created another magnificently colourful world, with a host of equally dazzling mechanics behind it. Its multiplayer now sits along Gears of War and Call of Duty as the best examples of the shooter genre in many ways. And that’s weird. In a really good way. Its unique style means it doesn’t have to be held accountable to clichés or copy other successes. Everything feels unique to it and allows the game to go beyond what others have done. In many ways this is the most memorable new shooter in years and will likely stay that way.

I never had any ink-ling Splatoon could be so good!



Author

Ross Kennedy

I've been an avid lover of video games for years. I always look out for new games that have something different about them, tell an amazing story, have fantastic characters or try to push the medium in new directions.