"A Fine Mess"
Originality is a hard thing to come by in gaming these days, and no other genre emphasizes this quite as well as that of online competitive shooters, a category dominated by the gritty likes of Call of Duty, Counter-Strike, Halo and all the other games essentially trying to ape their mostly mute-colored, twentysomething-appealing popularity.
That’s what makes Splatoon so refreshing. Nintendo’s newest IP is a quirky all-ages beast (or should I say “squid” to stay on topic) that forges its own unique path with common genre conventions, both aesthetically and gameplay-wise. Splatoon dares to be different in several ways, and ends up hitting most of the targets it aims for while doing so.
That’s mostly down to how polished the multiplayer –the central crux of the game, where players, playing as squid/kid hybrids called Inklings, fight in 3-5 minute 4-vs-4 matches to coat more ground in their side’s colored ink than their opponents– is. From the get-go, the main objective of inking turf with a wide arsenal of squirt-guns, paint rollers, ink bombs, etc. is easy to grasp and execute, but doing so well, especially against a competent team, often proves to be a challenge.
Situational awareness is a huge must here. Fail to keep an eye on the whole of the map (which can be easily done thanks to the Wii U GamePad), and players risk letting wily opponents sneak by and move in on their claimed territory. Matches move at an incredibly rapid-fire (rapid-ink?) pace –sped along by players’ ability to quickly swim through their ink in squid form, as well as the ability to instantly “super jump” to a teammate’s location– and a team’s lead can easily (and oh so painfully) be erased at the drop of a hat if they’re not on top of things, especially as things heat up in the final minute.
It helps, though, that the objective-driven nature of gameplay means everyone on a team can contribute towards a win, even those who tend to get splattered in squid-on-squid shootouts. Since turf control is the key goal, a player can successfully help maintain a team’s lead just by focusing on inking ground and letting their gun-savvier friends fight off enemy Inklings.
Not that actually fighting other players isn’t fun. The ink and the ability to hide in it brings an interesting and thrilling dynamic to ink-fights, as it allows players to seamlessly dodge incoming fire, flank opponents and even set up stealthy sneak attacks and ambushes in some cases. It’s fast, fluid, intuitive and incredibly satisfying when it leads to splattered opponents. Not so much when it goes the other way, though.
Overall, Splatoon’s multiplayer is well bolstered by a solid foundation of zippy, frenetic gameplay that rewards speed, cooperation, smart positioning and adaptability to the ever-changing flow (pun intended) of battle. It’s a pity, then, that server lag tends to poke its annoying head in on occasion, causing matches to be restarted and, even worse, delaying the game registering the ink one splats onto the ground. Matchmaking can also be a bit of a mess at times by grouping relative newcomers against high-ranked players in matches that end up devolving into a brightly-colored massacre.
There’s also the problem of content. For all the strength of the core gameplay, Splatoon’s multiplayer suite is noticeably barebones, with only two modes –the regular action-for-all “Turf War”, and the more hardcore King-of-the-Hill-style “Splat Zones”– and six maps to play them on at present. Small numbers by any measure, but, to be fair, Nintendo has committed to adding extra modes and maps over the coming months. Already, new content has been added in the form of a new weapon and map since the game launched. That said, this drip-feeding of content might not serve to placate the frustrations of players impatient for more variety in the short term.
Good thing there’s more to do outside playing online, like the local 1-vs-1 “Battle Dojo” mode where two couch-buddies shoot it out to pop the highest number of balloons. Splatoon’s single-player offering, however, is where the real offline fun is. Throughout nearly 30 stages, the mode finds interesting ways to let players use ink to overcome obstacles, defeat various types of octopus enemies, and even fight some giant bosses along the way.
The linear progression of these stages, combined with the game’s light and youthful aesthetic, gives them a pleasantly Mario-esque vibe (fitting, given the fan theories that exist connecting the two franchises). Though a bit on the easy side, it’s nonetheless a nice and laidback place to turn to for newcomers polishing their skills for the intensity of multiplayer, and for battle-weary players seeking a break from that messy maelstrom of flying goop.
Enough has been said. Time for the conclusion.
For all that it lacks at the moment, and the small annoyances that get in the way from time to time, Splatoon more than makes up for it by not just diverting from shooter norms, but doing so with a skilled execution, polish and charm that is distinctly Nintendo’s.
It may be Nintendo, it may be the rare shooter marketed for all ages, it may include some modes designed for more casual play, but don’t be mistaken. Splatoon is a worthy, intense and original addition to a hardcore shooter-dom in proper need of new ideas, a bright ink splotch on an overly gritty and dark-ish genre.
GameDynamo's Score for Splatoon (Wii U)
A writer, journalist, and aspiring storyteller, Peter Grimm has been gaming since the days of the Nintendo 64, and reporting on the goings-on in the World of Gaming since late 2011. His base of writing operations is located within the void between Here and There, or so he would have you think.
Images / Screenshots / Artwork
Our Splatoon photo gallery currently contains 89 images. Click on any of the thumbnails below to see some of them, or the button to view more.
More Splatoon Images »
[View Splatoon images / screenshots +]
[Watch Splatoon videos / trailers +]
[View more Splatoon articles (news, previews, reviews) +]
[View Splatoon cheats / guides +]
MORE FROM GAMEDYNAMO