Splatoon is a third-person shooter, but to only file it under that label would be a disservice to the idea that lies at the core. It takes the genre in a different direction, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing!
Splatoon‘s a strange little game. You wouldn’t really have expected Nintendo, of all companies, to come out with a new big IP for the Wii U. It feels like this should have had Mario at the centre, and have the title be Mario Paintballing. But no, not this time – they’ve crafted a new experience that’s ultimately designed to suck you in with the fresh new aesthetics that Splatoon offers up.
You control the fourteen year old Inkling, a creature that originated from the oceans of the Earth. Their special trait is that they can go from their almost human forms to a squid form, where they can hide within the ink that they lay with the weapons they carry, which is fueled by an environmentally friendly ink tank. This is the main mechanic Splatoon is created from, and it shakes up what can be quite a boring genre, which is the third-person shooter.
Inkopolis is the hub for this aforementioned super fresh world that is filled with slang and an inkling for fashion. I’m sure that you have figured out that this is not the usual backdrop for a shooter, and to me that’s quite interesting, because it means that Nintendo have foregone the gritty and occasionally rather lazy design of the usual game in the genre and have instead opted for a mix between realistic and a Pixar movie. It’s quite a striking art style, and it reminds me of how Team Fortress 2 is so different from its predecessor in terms of art style.
Those concepts are just way too silly, right? How can that make a shooter fun? It should be about the gritty action, of course! However, that’s not always what shooters are all about, and this game in particular rewrites the conventions that can be so easy to retread time and time again. For example, the mission objective that you, as a player, carry out.
The main multi-player mode is about your team covering more turf than the opposing team. This, on paper, sounds rather tedious – however, it’s all about the mindgames that can happen while you’re playing Splatoon. Do you try and replace the other team’s ink with yours in a barren area, or do you try and take the fight to them as they are doing the same as you are to an innocuous player? This is what puts Splatoon apart from its contemporaries.
What if you’re absolutely awful at Turf War though, and want to properly put your finger on the trigger before you run out like some sort of boneheaded idiot (like a human, perhaps)? Well, Captain Cuttlefish has enlisted you to be Agent 3 of the New Squidbeak Splatoon, largely due to the Octarian threat, who are hellbent on destroying the Inklings for how they lost the Great Turf War one hundred years ago. Armed with the Hero Shot, it’s up to you to find out who, or what, has taken the Great Zapfish and bring justice to their doorstep.
The single-player mode boasts twenty-seven stages for you to complete. Each is like a stage from the Super Mario Galaxy series, with stages not only being split up into smaller chunks, just like that series, but each stage boasting a new mechanism to make you think about your approach differently. It’s an ingenious move, and I love that it always keeps you guessing. My only wish is that there was more meat on the bones for single-player, as it is a bit on the short side.
After you’ve got a handle on the roller-coaster ride that is single-player, you’re probably ready to leap straight into Turf Wars, but here’s where the gear that you can buy comes in to the equation. Every single piece of clothing has a perk for using it, and one to three sub-perks. These perks to using specific combinations of clothing can and probably will effect how you play. The many weapons you can buy also have a sub-weapon and a special weapon, so there’s strategy on that front too, besides the usual weapon variety.
All of these things cannot satisfy any person so that they can get their money’s worth individually, but together, they all feed into each other in a pretty unexpected way. The Octo Valley missions can improve your Turf War skills, with which can then also be improved by the many types of gear you can obtain. This means that Splatoon won’t be light on content for many of those who really dig into a game. Splatoon was really thought out, which is great.
Even waiting is enjoyable! Usually, in games like Call of Duty, you would twiddle your thumbs while waiting for your matches to fill up with dudes who will 360º no scope you, but in Splatoon, the answer to that is Squid Jump, which is a quick time waster to have. You, as a squid, need to jump up to the Zapfish at the top to finish the stage. With there only being twenty-five stages, how much variation is there? Quite a bit, as these stages have turned out to be procedurally generated, which means that it’s very unlikely that one person can get the same stage set as the next person. It’s a fun distraction for a while, but sometimes stages can become nearly impossible. Still, the amiibo offer other minigames that are just as fun.
Still, every aspect of Splatoon is not completely peachy. There are a few blemishes here and there, and Ranked Battle is one of them, to me. The way that ranks currently work is this – you get points for winning, and lose points for losing. One hundred points moves you up a rank. Pretty simple, right? It is, in concept. The truth is that you’re at the mercy of the matchmaking system, and more often than not, your teammates are completely inept. The main Ranked Battle mode is Splat Zones, where you need to use skill and co-ordination to hold a zone (or two) for one hundred seconds. Losing the zone adds a penalty, depending on how far ahead you were. This is a good mode spoiled by how often some can hang back and ruin everything, or instead rush in and get themselves killed, risking my rank and others in the process. I’ll just stick to Turf War in the future.
Another issue is how matchmaking in a friends room is literally impossble until August, when an update will roll out where you can pick the rules. It makes Splatoon feel slightly rushed out the door with less substance (the substance is ink, in this case) than it needed. It feels shallow, much like watching a movie where purely action occurs. It feels a bit pedestrian, much like how some certain other shooters are playing it safe.
The music is literally incredible due to its strangeness, but I wish there was more of it, with Octo Valley in need of some more tracks. I hope they put in some more music, as it’d be incredibly easy to patch it in.
You never quite know what Splatoon‘s multi-player may entail; decimation, or really close games, and that’s what makes Splatoon so great. With an amazing single player mode that tests your ability to tackle tough challenges, amiibo challenges that utilise different abilities to polish up your gameplay skills, and so much different gear to change things up, Splatoon isn’t going to be exhausted by the players and the fan base for a long time. It may have its rough edges, yes, but in the long run, Splatoon is worth your money. Don’t get me wrong, shooters aren’t in need of revitalization, but this game is a breath of fresh air, and with even more content coming now through until August, now is a great time to jump into the fresh world that Splatoon offers.