Having seen the amount of commotion traditional games media was lavishing upon Splatoon, I decided to finally jump in head first and see what the fuss was about first hand. Finding the game for sale at £18 (which is rare! Splatoon hasn’t really had any price drops since it’s release), I brought it straight away without hesitation. Here’s my impressions.
Splatoon, Nintendos first ever foray into the Third Person Shooter Multiplayer genre, see’s you play as a squid-kid, a hybrid kind of creature that looks like a kid majority of the time, but can also turn into a squid at will. Being a Squid-kid comes with it’s benefits: you’re able to spray your own ink all over the stage, and use it to traverse to places you wouldn’t normally be able venture to. This mechanic is very reminiscent of Super Mario Sunshine for the Gamecube, where Mario had to spray FLUD (his water backpack) to get rid of toxic paint spread throughout the stage. The similarities stop there though, as Splatoon is a whole different kettle of fish.
From the offset Splatoon makes it known that this is an online multiplayer game first and foremost with its news system. Each day it tells you what levels are available to play in social playlists, and in ranked. But before I got into any of the multiplayer, I decided to give the campaign a go.
First up, I played the entirety of the single player campaign. This mode allows you to get accustomed to the Splatoon controls (I’ll talk about those later; suffice to say, they take some getting used to), whilst also telling a story about the squid-kids versus the octopuses. Each stage has a unique gimmick to it, some will require you to fill up sponges with your own ink, increasing their size and making for some difficult platforming sections, with others having a boss system where you must avoid his attacks throughout the level, only to defeat the baddie at the end. The stages are varied and nice, and not once did I feel like the game was too repetitive, which, over the course of the 5 hour campaign, can only be a good thing. For all your troubles, you’re rewarded with some outfits to use in the online portion of the game (which is the main draw of Splatoon). Whilst this wasn’t much of a pay-off narratively speaking, the campaign doesn’t really set up much of a story in the first place; you’re trying to rescue a massive cuttlefish (electrical fishes basically) that’s been stollen by octopuses.
Between choosing the campaign and the multiplayer, you have a hub world to interact with, allowing you to customise your character, as well as explore and take on extra challenges thanks to the games Amiibo support. Whilst I wasn’t a big fan of the amino challenges, they at least offered extra value in a game that hasn’t really dropped in price since launch. The shopping district in this hub area was a bit annoying though: everything’s level capped, meaning you need to make sure you play the multiplayer quite a bit before you can even interact with a bunch of shopkeepers. In theory this is a good idea: play the multiplayer more to get more loot! it left me disheartened, especially after I had just spent 5 hours playing the campaign. If anything, both multiplayer and campaign should have contributed to the same points system, allowing for single-player users to still feel like they’ve achieved something after so many hours playing the game.
Now before I get onto the core purpose of Splatoon (it’s multiplayer), a quick word about it’s controls. The game defaults with motion controls, meaning you need to move the gamepad up and down in order to look around. As soon as the option was available, I turned this mode off. It’s hard enough looking at a screen and concentrating on where to aim, let alone having to add another layer of complexity to the game by moving the controller up and down. As for the control scheme itself, I found that Splatoon is not accurate at all. You don’t get the precision that you normally would from a third person shooter, which takes some getting used to at first, but after a while, realise that it’s actually ok. You see, since the core purpose of the game is more to spray your ink as far as possible (covering as much of the map as possible), accuracy is mute. Yes, there are times you’ll come across another player and will need to precisely shoot at them, but these moments are few and far between, meaning the inaccuracy is fine for shooting and glooping the stage.
Now onto the core of the game: Multiplayer, where all your skills are put to the test in multiple modes; ranked and social. For starters, you’re not able to join ranked matches until you’re level 10; a trait that’ll take at least 2-3 hours to attain. Whilst this was annoying, there’s a good reason for this restriction: the social playlist will teach you the core mechanics of the multiplayer mode. Every game mode is short (3-5 minutes in length) and as multiple game modes. For the vast majority of the time, you’ll be playing the “turf wars” game mode: a mode that requires each 4 player team to ink as much of the stage as possible. whilst that sounds boring in theory, it’s fantastic to actually experience, and gives every player of every ability the chance to have a great time. I loved being on the front line in this mode, taking on other players and getting rid of their ink in the middle of the level, but I could just as easily enjoy staying at the back of the level and making sure as much of the stage is covered as possible. It’s this flexibility that gives the game so much charm and replayability; everyone is contributing to the final score. Unlike most other shooters where you have to be good at killing others in order to contribute to the overall score, Splatoon makes it so that everyone on a team feels valued. It’s a fantastic feeling, and one which I can now see why so many editors and writers put it in their game of the year lists.
All in all, Splatoon is a marvel of multiplayer shooters. It stands alone in being quite unique and original; where so many other developers in the industry are trying to copy the leader (COD), Splatoon stands as a testament to what can be done when you think outside of the box. If you can find the game for cheap like I did (and of course be one of the 10 million people that own a Wii U), then buy Splatoon. You won’t be disappointed.
p.s. If you do buy the game (or already have it) give me a shout, I’d love to give you a game!