– Stefan Bradley
Splatoon has been out for months now, but Nintendo’s online multiplayer shooter has become a service rather than a simple standalone release, with regular free updates since the game’s launch in May, so yes, I am relevant. Thanks.
It’s still amazing to me and others that Nintendo not only released an online multiplayer focused title, but a shooter of all things. Also it’s a new IP. What a crazy new world we live in.
This is a fantastic and innovative game with the typical Nintendo charm and joy. It technically looks, feels and sounds great. The beautiful and colourful graphics in 60 fps along with a rocking soundtrack and tight controls makes the world of Splatoon feel so rich and alive.
What we have here is a third-person shooter where you shoot ink instead of bullets, and the emphasis is on colouring the map in as much ink as possible rather than kills.
You may have heard that annoying promo “you’re a kid, you’re a squid now”, and thankfully this game allows you to be both! Your character shoots ink of a certain colour, and you can transform into a squid and traverse the map through the ink.
As a squid swimming through the ink, your ink supply replenishes and you can traverse the map much faster, however you can’t use your weapon. Oh and enemy ink slows you down, it’s like glue. Shooting as a kid, then refilling and/or travelling as a squid, that’s the core game concept.
Over the years, we’ve gone from shroom munching plumbers to cockfighting electric rodents and now humanoid/squid beings that engage in ink warfare. Nintendo is still adorably insane.
The game is multiplayer focused, but the single-player campaign, named ‘Octo Valley’ is surprisingly deep and engaging. The campaign doesn’t follow a linear level structure like Halo, Gears of War or other shooters; instead it closely resembles Super Mario Galaxy.
Just like Mario Galaxy, your Inkling (the name of the species your kid/squid belongs to) wonders a hub world that leads to game levels. The mission is always to get pass obstacles and enemies to reach the end where there is a shiny thing that unlocks more levels.
Single player slowly teaches you the mechanics of the game. I loved all the creative ways it used ink and kid/squid mechanic. You can spray ink on the wall as a kid and then climb it as a squid. You can jump in the ink to hide from enemies. The ink rails were fun – in squid form you can move through them at high speed, like those futuristic travel tubes we will hopefully see in our lifetimes.
Each section of the hub concludes with a boss battle, and while enjoyable they’re fairly predictable affairs – expose their weak spot, attack, repeat two more times. Too easy.
Is Metroid the only Nintendo franchise capable of epic boss fights? I know they can do better because the final boss fight in Splatoon is awesome. No seriously, they spent the whole campaign insulting you with easy boss encounters, but the last one is insanity!
If you have the Splatoon amiibo (which I don’t), you unlock extra missions that extend the life of the game. That’s essentially on-disc DLC. For shame Nintendo, for shame.
The main multiplayer modes are four versus four online matches. There’s a variety of weapon types. There’s your standard rapid-fire close range weapon, long-range rifles that you charge up, a large paintbrush, a bucket full of ink, gatling gun and my personal favourite, the ink roller.
Each weapon has a secondary attack and a special attack. You can buy the weapons in many different varieties. An example is different rollers that can be bought with different stats and a different combination of secondary and special attacks. Many of these weapons have been added as updates.
In multiplayer there are ranked and unranked modes. Turfwar is an unranked mode where the teams are given just a few minutes to cover as much turf as they can in ink. You can “splat” your opponents and send them back to the respawn point at their base, but you’re better off focusing on covering the map. At the end, the winning team is simply the one that covered more of the map.
There are three types of Ranked Battles, with two added as updates. Splat Zones is like king of the hill and Rainmaker is capture the flag. In Tower Control, a team captures a small floating tower and escorts it to a target on the enemy’s side. All the modes are suited to different weapons. The rifle feels almost useless in Turf War, but in the other modes it’s a great choice.
In Ranked Battles every player starts with a C- rank and improves the rank by winning matches, with S+ being the best. The higher your rank, the more EXP and cash you receive with each victory. EXP unlocks more weapons in the shop as well as clothes and accessories which affect certain stats during matches.
I created my own sense of progression by playing many matches with one weapon at a time, and then try another one once you get good (and have the money).
The map is displayed on the Gamepad, and you can tap the icons representing any of your teammates to perform a “super jump” to their location, which is especially useful after respawning. You can also see the distribution of ink on the map, allowing you to plan your movements, which is quite useful considering that there is no voice chat, because Nintendo.
Matchmaking is usually nice and quick. When it does take a while, there’s a mini-game you can play on the Gamepad while you wait, an idea I hope is incorporated in other games.
Quite a few maps are available now, compared to the miniscule number at launch. You can’t choose what you want to play because it’s completely random from a selection of two at a time and rotates every four hours. I’m not fond of just two maps to play over four hours. Why not at least three? Nintendo probably wants you to get good at all the maps by having this focus, but it limits variety.
The ranked match changes too. Go online and don’t like the Rainmaker mode? Too bad, you’re stuck with that one for a while.
For local players there is a split screen two-player mode where the two compete to see who can splat the most balloons. The updates have also added the ability to play online with only friends, or to play in the same random matches with your friends against other players, but I haven’t been able to test that out.
Splatoon was pretty great when it came out, but the free updates (paid DLC will apparently be available at some point) have added more depth, variety and fun. What its missing is just a bit more depth and variety to make it even more fun. This game created so much hype when it was unveiled and for good reason, it’s just so fun and inventive.