Nintendo shocked everyone last year at E3 with the reveal of their newest IP, Splatoon. The online multiplayer shooter was new territory for Nintendo and boasted an ambitious design. Is Splatoon another win for Nintendo or does it end up splatted under it’s own hype? Lets find out!
Starting off, Splatoon is extremely unique in the way it’s designed. Unlike, well pretty much all shooters, Splatoon’s main game mechanic isn’t designed around killing but using your ink to your advantage. Whether that is covering a certain area to score points or using it to maneuver through as a squid, ink is the name of the game in Splatoon. It sets it apart from most shooters, innovating the way you think about traversing your environment. From Single Player to the online battles, Splatoon is always changing because of the ink mechanic and it’s almost brilliant in it’s design.
Splatoon offers three basic modes: Single Player, Multiplayer and the Battle Dojo. While the majority of Nintendo’s marketing has been for the multiplayer, the Single Player is well crafted and offers a lot of enjoyment. Set up almost like an obstacle course, the Single Player takes you through 30 or so missions, all of which center around some sort of game mechanic. For example, one level will have you learning about platforms that, if ink is shot at the propeller attached, will make the platform move. The rest of the level has you mastering this new gameplay mechanic all while fighting off the Octarians, the game’s antagonists. Rounding out each world is a boss battle that makes you use your ink in some new way to defeat it. The Single Player isn’t based around covering turf as much as it is about using your ink to platform in new and interesting ways.
The Single Player also has amiibo support as well. Using each of the 3 amiibo released grants you extra challenges for each of the games missions. The planets were aligned just right that I was lucky enough to get the Girl Inkling amiibo at launch. It opened up each Single Player mission with a challenge to complete it using a Charger weapon. Doing so granted me a reward of differing amounts of cash as well as unlocking an exclusive outfit for my Inkling. Overall, it seemed shoehorned in. It does add replayability to the Single Player but not by much and the outfit is a pretty neat thing to show off online. Not too harmful and a cool little addition if you’re lucky enough (or rich enough) to grab an amiibo.
The Battle Dojo is the local multiplayer option for Splatoon and it’s pretty disappointing to say the least. It allows one person to use the GamePad where the other uses the TV and a Pro Controller. As a 1v1 mode, you pop balloons to get points and the one with the most points at the end, wins. Simple yet fun, for a short while. After playing a few rounds, I quickly got bored and wanted to desperately go back to the multiplayer. For those expecting something to play with friends locally like Super Smash Bros or Mario Kart, it’s not here unfortunately. Not a bad mode by any means just not an exciting one.
Splatoon’s main focus is it’s multiplayer, which has been the most marketed aspect. Starting off, you can create your Inkling by choosing a gender, eye color and skin tone and then your tossed into the tutorial. The game feels fluid and smooth with both dual tumbsticks or the motion controls. It’s really up to personal preference as I found both work well. After the tutorial, you’re thrown into Inkoplois, Splatoon’s main hub world.
Inkopolis is a great addition to the multiplayer formula, adding a ton of personality to the world of Splatoon. You can explore the hub, enter the battle lobbies or visit some of the games stores, all while previous opponents walk around and talk via Miiverse posts. Instead of menu driven games, Splatoon mixes things up with Inkopolis and it works in it’s favor. If you’re not a fan of it and just want to quickly go from once place to another, you can tap it’s location on the GamePad for easy access.
The game’s visual style and presentation are excellent. Splatoon seems to be set in the 90’s, with Inklings spouting lines like “stay fresh” and “I’ll hook ya up!” It’s all very charming and goes great with it’s art style. The game also looks fantastic, especially the shine on all of the ink. Splatoon also runs at a smooth 60fps online with little to no load times for each map due to the simplistic graphical nature. Overall, a great looking game as far as I’m concerned.
Splatoon’s main mode that you’ll be playing until Level 10 is the 4v4 Turf War in which your main objective is to cover as much turf in your team’s color as possible. As a kid you can spray your ink with a wide variety of weapons and as a squid you can swim through your ink. The opposing teams ink hurts and slows you down and you can splat opposing players with your ink to eliminate them from the battlefield. A simple concept that gets more complicated the more skilled players get at Splatoon’s mechanics.
Splatoon’s other multiplayer mode is Splat Zones which is unlocked after you hit level 10. Splat Zones is…..not as good. It’s Splatoon’s take on King of the Hill and completely goes against what the game does so well. Instead offering the whole environment to players, the mode chooses a center area and the team who covers it in their ink and holds it for a certain amount of time, wins. The problem here is that everyone is running to one area instead of spreading out and covering turf like in Turf War. Splat Zones shows off how terribly bad Splatoon needs voice chat because it’s all about teamwork. The amount of times my team needlessly ran into the area only to get blown up by at least 15 Ink Bombs is too high to count. It’s chaotic in all the wrong ways and for the little time I could stand to play it, I rarely had a good time. There are stages that offer two points for teams to hold which makes it a less of a mess and I will admit I had more fun on these maps. In my opinion, stick to Turf War, it’s more fun and better designed around the games mechanics.
While Splat Zones doesn’t do the game justice, Turf War does. The genius design of Splatoon’s mechanics create a multiplayer that is always changing. The environment is the source of points not the traditional kill which changes up how you play entirely. Matches aren’t dominated by those who camp and kill anymore but those who use the map and their ink effectively. I found myself avoiding conflict with opposing players most of the time just to get more points for my team. The maps are designed in a way that conflict will arise eventually and the weapons Splatoon offers are a great way to deal with those scenarios.
You can outfit your Inkling with different Weapon Sets to battle it out online. Each set comes with a Main Weapon, a Sub Weapon and a Special Weapon and are balanced with different styles of play in mind. Want to cover a lot of turf? Pick a roller class that covers a large area with ink pretty quickly. Want to take on enemies from a distance? Choose the Charger and shoot a wall of ink straight out in once blast. Splatoon has an extensive and varied list of weapons that fit into any players strategy and style.
Like previously stated, Inkopolis is home to many different stores where your Inkling can get some fresh new threads bro (sorry). Each store is run by a charismatic and charming sea creature that will sell you weapons, headgear, shoes and shirts to customize your Inkling. Gear is more than cosmetic, as it allows for you Inkling to gain different abilities like swimming faster through ink or getting a defensive buff. It works well to let players tweak their game just a bit along with looking pretty cool too.
I can gush over Splatoon’s ingenious design this whole review but the one question remains: Is it fun? I can say, with out a doubt, Splatoon’s Turf War is some of the most fun I’ve had with an online shooter in years. The three minute matches are frantic and fast and always ended in me saying “just one more match”. Game mechanics like swimming as a squid and Super Jumping to teammate’s location are fun and kept the pace of the matches going. The music is great, adding the extra bit of flare to each match and making it just that much more exciting and fun. That anticipation at the end of each close match, watching Judd the Cat tallying up the each teams ink and seeing who wins is just awesome. Long story short, Turf War is a blast.
While Splatoon was the most fun I’ve had in a long time, it’s by no means perfect. Although it’s game design is innovative, it’s structure seems somewhat archaic. Splatoon is marred by bizarre structural decisions and a severe lack of content on the multiplayer front. My biggest complaint is the almost anemic amount of maps and modes Splatoon ships with. There are 5 maps in total that were shipped with the game and you can play all of 2 game modes on these maps. In 2015, I find that a unacceptable, especially when Splatoon’s multiplayer was heavily marketed. Three days after launch, a new map and weapon were released for free, which is awesome but I feel like that content should have been available from the start.
The way Splatoon is set up with it’s map selection is odd as well. You’re only given 2 maps to randomly switch between every 4 hours. This drives home the fact that Splatoon’s map selection is bare-bones and left me bored of some of the maps pretty quickly. The maps themselves are designed really well and all work but having to wait every 4 hours for some variety can be annoying at times.
Splatoon, at launch, only has 2 games modes, one of which is locked away behind a level cap. For your first 7-8 hours or so you’ll be playing nothing but Turf War. Although Turf War is a fantastic mode, variety is the spice of life after all. Two modes at launch is extremely disappointing for a game which it’s main focus is multiplayer, especially when Turf War is the only one worth playing. I know more content is coming at the end of August, and for free, but I feel the $60 price tag is a bit much for the base game.
There is also a sever lack of options when it comes to matchmaking, some being staples of the genre since its inception. Things like the ability to party up with friends, lack of extensive split screen local multiplayer, the ability to choose your Gear and Weapon Sets in lobbies and lack of voice chat. I know some of these features will be added for free in updates but at release, again, these should already be in the game and working.
Overall, Splatoon is a fantastic title at its core. It has frantic fun in multiplayer and an interesting and involving campaign that experiments with Splatoon’s formula in all the right ways. The only complaints I truly have with the game aren’t gameplay related just structural. Splatoon is an odd experience. On one hand the game mechanics are brilliant but on the other the structure of matchmaking is archaic. The game is the most fun I’ve had online in a long time but there’s not that much content to experience. If these problems bother you, I’d suggest waiting until the big update in August to pick the game up. If you just care about having fun then I believe Turf War, Single Player and Inkopolis will do the trick nicely. Either way, I had fun with Splatoon and while it’s rough around the edges, Nintendo’s new IP works and is a step in the right direction.
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