Review Context: I’ve played many arena shooters in my time. I spent nearly twenty hours with Splatoon finishing the campaign completely and leveling up to eleven, as well as half of the Splatoon Girl Amiibo mission.
Date of Playthrough: May 29, 2015
When Splatoon was announced everyone was a little skeptical about Nintendo trying to put a stake in the online shooter genre. In a 4 vs. 4 versus four-arena match, the goal is to cover the entire arena in ink while trying to hold off the other team who is trying to do the same. It’s a strange concept and it doesn’t follow the style of a ‘typical shooter’ in trying to get the highest kill count or kill death ratio. Somehow it works, bringing a fun fresh breath into a genre that has gotten seemingly stale over the years.
The central hub of Splatoon is a place called “Inkopolis,” almost like an interactive menu. Inkopolis gives you access to the multiplayer, the underwhelming local coop mode, and single-player. As you start the game you’ll be given a news update by Splatoon’s pop group, “The Squid-sisters” and ending with a “Stay Fresh.” While these are welcomed so players know which two of the five maps are in circulation for regular and ranked matches, as well as updates on new maps and weapons, they can get very annoying every time you boot up the game before the next change of maps, which happens every four hours. In Inkopolis you will find shops for all the gear; head, shirt, and shoes, as well as a weapons shop. The stores update once a day so you can buy new equipment. If you find a piece of gear you want you can special order it and buy it the next day from a certain merchant who over charges for everything. Players who have posted to Miiverse will be seen hanging out around Inkopolis. Walking up to them allows you to respond to their post or check out their gear.
Although multiplayer has received the most attention for Splatoon, the single player should not be missed. It seemed to be something that they tacked on, but it is far from that. With twenty-seven missions and five boss fights, there is a lot going on. Each mission has a unique type of obstacle, like a sponge block that will shrink or grow depending on who’s ink is hitting it. The story is based around the evil Octarians who are trying to over throw the Squids. While the story isn’t really plot heavy, there are hidden scrolls in each mission that will give you backstory about the world. The boss fights are well thought out, similar to those found in Super Mario Sunshine, with one of the best final boss fights in quite some time. After clearing the single player you will unlock some gear and weapons for multiplayer. While the single player is fun, it doesn’t have much for replay value unless you need to find all the scrolls. Amiibos may be difficult to find but if you manage to get all three of the Splatoon Amiibos, or even just one, you’ll be able to replay the missions with a different weapon. Clearing the missions on the Amiibos will get you exclusive gear that you can’t buy in the game.
The controls of Splatoon follow that of a ‘normal’ shooter. With the Wii U gamepad you have the option to use motion control, which seem to be hit or miss. While some will find them to be natural for the shooter and help for more precision aiming, others will find them annoying and will want to turn them off as soon as possible. One big difference between Splatoon and other shooters is how to traverse the map; you’re a kid shooting paint as much and fast as possible, kind of slow, and can’t jump high. With the press of a trigger, you’re a squid now! Now you can swim fast through your own team’s ink and even climb walls to get to a higher ledge, or hide until an unsuspecting enemy is in range. This is what makes the matches fun and exciting. By using different strategies you can turn the tide of the game.
There are four different types of weapons; the spatter shot, sub-machine gun, the splatter shot pro, and the assault rifle. The ‘charger’ is basically a sniper rifle, and the ‘roller’ is a giant paint roller, which is great for covering a lot of turf at once. All the weapons come with sub-weapons; a grenade, sprinkler, a quick launch, as well as a special weapon which builds up by a meter dictated by the points you build. The special weapons could be anything from a Kraken, a missile, to a rocket launcher, to name a few. What’s nice about these sets is there are so many different combinations and variants of the weapons that there is always something to find in the store.
Multiplayer matches are timed for three minutes, and in that amount of time you have to cover everything with ink. If an enemy splats or kills you, with a touch of the gamepad’s real time map showing live ink splats and friendlies, you can launch yourself across the map to quickly get back into the action. The more area you cover with ink, the more points you gain. These points you collect from matches will net you money for buying new gear and weapons, as well as turn into experience to level up and unlock more weapons to buy. The more points you build, the more you earn, so it’s well worth the work. Winning a match will give you a bonus of three hundred points. and getting a winning streak will build your “fresh meter,” which means you can collect even more bonus points in Inkopolis.
The multiplayer does have its downsides; starting fresh in Splatoon is hard because you have very basic weapons and everyone out levels you. Worse, you aren’t even allowed to buy new gear or weapons until you are level four. Even on the very first day this felt like a long unfair grind that can potentially turn some people off from the game. Don’t let it though, after level four everything gets easier. Another downside is while waiting for a match you are completely unable to change what weapon set you use for the next match. It gets annoying when trying to find a good set to use in live matches. While there will still be some issues with lag and connection issues, they are few and far between making almost every match very enjoyable. Lag can be annoying in any game. and when it does creep up mid-match in Splatoon it can be as well, but when the game catches up with itself, it’s pretty amusing seeing all the splat marks pop up. If one or more people lose connection to the match while you are still playing the game will continue, but then it becomes a 1, 2 or 3 vs 4 match, giving the team with more players a really good advantage. Again, these issues don’t happen very often.
After you hit level ten you’re able to go into ranked matches. This is where the game is supposed to be competitive the most. Unfortunately, due to the lack of voice chat, it’s impossible to coordinate if you don’t end up on a team acting like the mode ‘Splat Zone (Splatoon’s version of King of the Hill) is Turf Wars. Voice chat isn’t that much of a loss in regular matches because shooters tend to attract a lot of trolls and they ruin online experiences. When Splatoon launched there were four maps, each unique and very well designed to never let one team have an advantage. Thanks to Nintendo’s spot on handling of DLC, Splatoon is getting new weapons and maps up until the end of August for FREE! One new map and two new weapons have already been made available at the time of writing this review, but there are more on the way, and hopefully we will hear about future support for Splatoon.
Overall, Splatoon is a great game. The soundtrack is always fun to listen to, and the matches are quick enough to get in a round or two at any time. Even with all the downsides, Nintendo has managed to not only build turf in the shooter genre, but also bring a breath of fresh air and give players who may be tired of all the repetitiveness of other shooters something fresh to play. If you’re a Nintendo fan, a shooter fan, a gamer with or getting a Wii U, then you should really pick Splatoon up and remember, “Stay Fresh.”
Similar Games Liked:
Super Mario Sunshine (Gamecube)
Unreal Tournament (PC)