Seeing Nintendo make a shooter with their own twist in the genre through Splatoon is a breath of fresh air. Replace bullets with colorful ink, and the burly testosterone army machos with adorable “squidlings” and you start having a good idea of what to expect from Splatoon. It is a family-friendly game that conceals a technical and demanding shooter.
Splatoon is a multiplayer game. Do not let the addition of a short single player campaign fool you. This game requires, nay, demands that you have a good enough internet connection. You will control your little squidling in online 4v4 turf wars where the objective is to cover as much of the floor with your ink, and the winning team being the one with the most ink covering the field. The small size of each team and the nature of the objective allows anyone to be useful to the team. If you don’t feel confident in your ability to eliminate opponents, sneaking behind their lines and spraying your ink over their territory is a completely viable strategy.
You are given a somewhat varied pool of weapons to spray your ink all over the place. They are divided in three traditional categories: the basic rifle weapons with a standard rate of fire, the sniping weapons with a charge shot mechanic, and the big rollers that cover a lot of ground but with minimal range capabilities. The three categories are varied enough to suit anyone’s playstyle, and are great to experiment with once you want to try something new.
You also have special and side abilties, such as standard ink grenades or more advanced portable ink shields. The super moves are a feast for the eyes and can turn the tides of battle in an instant. The ink missile, for example, unleashes a literal ink tornado in a location that can annihilate the enemy team if placed well.
As you progress through the levels and win matches, you will have the possibility of unlocking gear from the various shops. Not only do those make you look “fresh,” but each piece of gear has special abilities that can make you have a larger ink container, grant you faster movement as a squid, and more.
Ah, yes. The squid. Your little squidling, as the name implies, can transform into a squid. Which is where the intricacies of the gameplay shine. In squid form you have no offensive capabilities, but you move twice as fast and can swim through your ink, even up walls. Anyone who manages to master both forms will have a substantial advantage over his/her opponents.
The maps are expertly designed to help you bring the most out of both forms. Every weapon is always useful in some way and the pace of battle always stays high. If you feel you are too far from the action, simply tap on an ally from your minimap and you will instantly shoot through the skies and land right next to them. This allows you to always be where the action is, but be careful not to land in an ambush.
Splatoon is a charming game. The characters have a certain adorableness to them and the ultra colorful world draws you in with ease. Sadly, it does have many flaws, chief among them being the lack of content. There are a limited number of maps to play on, made even more scarce by the fact that only two are unlocked at a time. Nintendo has said they will be releasing more, but hopefully they remove the two map limit in the future. Another questionable design choice is the inability to play offline. The game does have a 1v1 offline mode, where a player uses the gamepad while the other plays on the television, but it’s really not enough.
You cannot play splitscreen or host private lobbies, and for a game that is so focused on multiplayer, there aren’t that many multiplayer options. Nintendo has said that it will release the ability to play a game with only online friends, but if that will be enough is for the future to see. They have also announced the addition of two additional modes, one being a payload type mode where each team must try to escort a moving tower to the enemy’s side of the map. But additions in the future do not help the crippling lack of content now.
Splatoon is a great addition to anyone’s Wii U library. The game is hella fun, charming, visually entertaining, and is also challenging once you start facing other squidlings of similar skill. It is sadly crippled by a lack of content that needs to be addressed as fast as possible.
Splatoon is a Wii U exclusive.