Platform: Wii U
Genre: Third Person Shooter
Announced at last year’s E3, Nintendo has brought Splatoon over to our consoles, taking a new approach at the multiplayer shooter genre. Is the game as fresh as its concept? Or has it been left out in the sun for far too long, letting it go stale?
The basic concept behind Splatoon is that two sets of four players go head to head in a Turf War with the goal of shooting their ink in each map, with the team that covers the most amount of space wins. It’s a simple concept, but one that simply works well. Added to this is the fact that the playable characters, these kids called Inklings, have the ability to turn into squids and swim through their own ink. Tapping an icon of a teammate on the menu shown on the GamePad enables a super jump, where you rocket to that player, which can really help players get into the thick of combat quickly. The gameplay really hooks you in.
At your disposal are an array of weapons divided into three categories; main, sub and special weapons. To be more pacific, Main weapons are then divided into three categories, fast shooting Shooters, the long-range Chargers, and the up and close Rollers. A sub weapon is attached to the main weapon that provides different tactics, such as the Splat Bombs that explode, enemy-seeking Seekers, and the shot-blocking Splash Wall, among others. Ink turf and you’ll charge up a meter, charge it up to maximum and you’ll enable a special weapon, also attached to the main weapon. These special weapons give you an incredible advantage to your enemy stopping power, such as the Killer Wail, a giant sound cannon that instantly splats your foes, or the Kraken, that turns your squid form into an invincible Kraken that spreads ink wherever it goes. While not stated outright, the weapons are varied enough to make Splatoon almost a class-based shooter, with each main weapon and its varying sub and special weapons each filling a different niche.
Upon starting the game, players will find themselves watching the news in Inkopolis Plaza, the hub overworld. The news is hosted by the lovely pun integrated Callie and Marie, who function as the game’s way of updating players when there’s a new map rotation, single player story updates for world building, and notifications when new content is available for players. This wouldn’t be too bad, if it wasn’t for the fact that this news update happens every time the game’s started, and every four hours to notify players of the new map rotation, despite the fact that the maps in rotation are shown in the multiplayer menu. This news update also can’t be skipped which would be nice from time to time, even if Callie and Marie do have some clever wordplay.
After the news, players will have control in Inkopolis Plaza. Other Inklings from playable characters appear here after playing a match with or against them, or if they had posted a Miiverse post. Miiverse posts can also show up as graffiti on the walls here, and in levels. It’s very much a representation of the Internet; there’s some really talent works, some downright deprave images, random mumblings, and memes. It adds a little bit of personality, and there’s always a chance that you could sea your picture somewhere in game.
Inkopolis Plaza is also home to Booyah Base, the shopping district. Here players can acquire new weapons at Ammo Knights, and gear in the form of splashionable footwear, clothes and headgear. Each gear has an innate ability, and up to three slots for random abilities which can range from using up less ink, faster movement speed, dealing stronger damage, or even the ability to see the enemy when standing on the home base; there’s a lot of choices. Gear can level up after multiplayer matches, to which a random ability will be given to that slot. While this may draw attention to certain clothes items over others, extra gear slots can be unlocked for all items, and the random extra abilities can be rerolled, so gear are essentially a drawn out aesthetic choice.
At this point, online multiplayer is playable by only one person per Wii U and is split between two the game modes of Regular Battle and Ranked Battle, each with their own individual game modes of Turf War and Splat Zones. Mentioned prior, the maps rotate every four hours. From the six available maps so far, only two in each game mode are able to be played. While this cuts back on constant variety, it helps to make gameplay feel fresh in the long term; every session, two different maps to play that you might not have played in a while. As an aside, when players search for people to join, the GamePad switches over to the mini game Squid Jump, where a Squid has to jump vertically to get the Zapfish in every level. This kind of endless jumper would be a better fit for mobile devices, but inkluding this little fini game is a fun way to pass the time, and can also be played in Inkopolis Plaza.
Regular Battle matches anyone in the world and pits two sets of four Inklings in a three minute battle to see who can ink the most turf. Win or lose, players gain experience points based on the amount of points earned in the match, and 300 extra points given to winners. Having a friend join you can be chosen from the multiplayer menu. If they’re in a game, you’re put in a queue to join them as soon as someone else leaves and the battle finishes, which is nice enough. Sometimes you’ll both be put on the same team, and other times your friends will be put on the enemy team, which can be frustrating if you have good synergy with someone, but maybe I’m being shellfish and want the good players for myself. After reaching level 10, players can enter Ranked Play, which matches players of a given skill level, from C- to A+. Win a game, and you’ll gain points to rank up and experience points. Lose, and you get nothing, and lose points towards your rank; ranking down is a legitimate possibility, so it’s for only the strongest of character and of will.
Offline modes are restricted to the Battle Dojo and the single player campaign. The Battle dojo pits one person on the GamePad and one person on the TV with a Classic Controller Pro, Wii U or Pro Controller to see who can pop the most balloons. It’s not much, but it’s something. The ability to take a friend online with you on the same console with this layout would have been nice. There’s nothing much to the story of single player, or Hero Mode at first glance. The Great Zapfish and regular sized Zapfish have been stolen and it’s up to you to save them. Secret Sunken Scrolls are scattered throughout the levels, and it’s these that provide the world building and provide subtle clues as to why the world of Splatoon is what it is; they’re inkredible. Gameplay wise, the levels in single player are great too, with mechanics being thrown at you at every turn. The final boss gets a shout out too, and it’s sure to put a smile on your face.
An extra form of replayability comes through with amiibo functionality. The Splatoon series of amiibo, Inkling Girl, Inkling Boy, and the Squid, unlock twenty challenges each based on the single player levels. Inkling Girl has you revisiting levels with a Charger, Inkling Boy, a roller, and the Squid gives you a combination of levels with an unlimited Kraken special weapon, and levels that come with a limited supply of ink. Some of these challenges are quite challenging, but the fair kind. Each amiibo unlocks a gear set, a new mini game, and a Shooter, Charger and Roller to be used online. The only real boon though is the mini game and the challenges themselves; gear sets are almost meaningless with the random abilities, and the weapons are reskins of the default weapons. For those though who can’t get their hands on these amiibo, single player won’t last all too long, but for those who can, it’s the shore thing to give you a little bit more to do.
The soundtrack is downright phenomenal. Puck rock, hip hop; this game sounds as fresh as it declares itself to be. There was no real reason for the game to have such a great soundtrack, but for-tuna-tely it does. Graphically, Splatoon is one fantastic colourful cartoony mess. Colours clash for all the right reasons.
Extra free content is also been added quite regularly, and will continue to do so in the near future. So far the Ranked Battles, two weapons, and a whole new map have been added, with a multitude of new content planned, such as multiplayer game modes Tower Control and Rainmaker, and many maps are planned to be introduced in the rotation, as well as the introduction of Splatfests, where a question will be posed to players, and upon answering that question, they join that team. The first Splatfest will be “Which music do you prefer, rock or pop?”, and will be from June 28th 3:00 AM to June 29th 3:00AM AEST. A major update is expected in August, which will bring with it the ability to have a party of friends in Ranked Battle, and for eight friends to play with each other with custom rulesets. It’s just an endless stream of content.
Splatoon is a very fantastic reason to have a Wii U. The same console multiplayer is a bit of a letdown, and the single player takes a little bit to get used to, but the multiplayer is where Splatoon goes swimmingly. The limited options at first are a bit of a drag, but put in action they make everything feel fresh. With more content coming for free, Splatoon is a must-have right now, and will be an even bigger must-have in the future. A definite pearl.