Once again Nintendo has made a smash hit. Odd way to start a review, but for a console that is still struggling to find a way to bring in new gamers. Splatoon is a great example of a title that some gamers are missing out on.
Welcome to the wonderful world of Inkopolis. The friendly Inkling filled city overwatched by the great zapfish! What are Inklings you ask? Well, they are the heroes of this story as well as your characters for online battle. The Inklings, participate in ink battles for sport and compete to become the top of their game. These characters have the ability to morph into a squid at anypoint in time to travel or hide within their own colour of ink. Now with every hero we of course need a villain and as always, Nintendo goes all out with creativity. Here we introduce the Octarians. The evil octopus clan who steal all the zap fish from Inkopolis and hide them throughout Octo Valley. The Octarians have many shapes and forms. Some more lethal than others so be careful out there Inklings. So lets take you through the basics of the story without sharing too much detail. When you enter the main lobby of the game a news flash appears. Alerting the player that the Great zap fish has gone missing. So now you have a choice, you can go to the story mode or head over to the battle arena and take on your friends and foes worldwide. Obviously, I chose to save the great zapfish.
Enter Octo valley, a rather simple place compiled of all the elements you would see in any battle arena. Except every stage within a level is hidden. Fun right? The only way to uncover these levels is of course your trusty ink gun.Once found you must go into squid form and head into the area, When you first arrive to Octo Valley you meet Cap’n Cuttlefish, he will become your wise mentor as you travel throughout the stages in the story mode. Along with the trusty captain, you will be joined by both Agents 1 and 2. These two agents, once held the roll you have now, but failed and now its your turn to try and save the great Zapfish.
Now while this game is widely considered an action shooter, one could also consider the story mode more of a puzzle game. Most action shooters follow the script of run, duck, hide and of course shoot. However, Splatoon also offers the player the challenge of getting from here to there in the most non linear way possible. The stages while offering fun and unique features are more of a quick study for more advanced gamers. While they would offer a larger challenge for beginner/intermediate gamers. This could be Splatoon biggest downfall. I found as I was playing throughout the levels and became more comfortable with the control scheme, stages became underwhelming and could take as little as three minutes to complete. This was attributed to the simplicity of the puzzles offered by the game paired with the repetitive style of content every few stages. To break it down, there are really three types of stages. These include action, puzzle, and stealth. In the action stages you must navigate through the stage while battling opposing Octolings (much like yourself as they can take squid form.) At the same time you are making your way to the protected zap fish. Puzzle style stages offer a slower paced game that allows you to collect in game currency that is used for upgrading your equipment. Search for and collect the hidden sunken scrolls and of course work your way through the level while navigating your way through obstacles. Finally, we have stealth style stages. These ones are the ones I found the best to work on your skills within the game. When you start the level you are warned that there is an Octostiker protecting the zapfish. His sole goal is to hit you with a large strike of ink, so don’t get stuck sitting in one space for too long. Hide within your ink and navigate your way through the map without getting scene.
Multiplayer offers a little less structure and a lot more fun in regards to how the game is played. In online battle arenas, you work with a team of other players to score the most points. The more area your team covers in paint, the easier it is to move around the map and take out your enemies. Now at the time of the review, I was only able to get into a few matches due to the fact when I was working on the game many other reviewers were likely in bed. However from the experience I had, I cannot wait to get onto a server filled with many more people. The multiplayer experience was not only fun but it was rather exciting and also offered up a leveling system that we usually see in some major FPS franchises. Allowing you to purchase new weapons and clothing while upgrading your overall rank and level in the game. Splatoon also offers local multiplayer and an amiibo challenge. Unfortunately at the time of review, this reviewer didn’t have a compatible amiibo.
Now that we know about the game, lets talk about how it was to control. To my immediate disappointment, I wasn’t able to switch to my pro controller leaving me playing with the gamepad. Now this isn’t a major gamebreaker as I did enjoy the experience and the added elements provided by the gamepad. While the game controlled like a regular shooter in most aspects, having the ability to look around and aim with the gamepad in hand, made Splatoon much more in depth. This paired with the ability to have a map available to you at all times enhanced the experience. Now fret not pro controller lovers, if you play local multiplayer you have the ability to use your favourite paddle. Personally after playing with both types of controllers, I preferred the gamepad. Sure the pro controller handled as if I was playing a hard core FPS. However, that is exactly what this game is not. For this I applaud the developers to sticking to the decision of having the gamepad the only option for single player gameplay.
When it comes to the way the game is presented on both the screen and the gamepad I have no complaints.Visually speaking the game is more than just aesthetically pleasing. Beautiful is a word that could be used to describe the environments in which you both see and play in. I often found myself, wandering around both multiplayer maps and story mode levels in awe of the immense detail in both the foreground and background imagery.
The character models all moved very fluid, while not not taking away from the visuals of your ink hitting walls and sliding down as if it were actually paint. Did I mention that this game is colourful? The wide array of bright colours was the perfect balance to the battle arenas that had more of a concrete look. To me this was the absolute perfect balance of colour. Usually this type of presentation usually costs games in the audio department. Splatoon was no exception to this as the games soundtrack was rather bleak. Featuring the same few background tracks, over and over again this title heavily relied on its sound effects to pick up the slack . While the sound effects were top notch in regards to environmental sounds, and ink splatter, I wish the Inklings would speak more audibly, the only word i could really make out was the word “nerds”. However, this could have also been me hearing what I wanted to hear. Overall the game sounded pretty good, if there is a chance for a second game I would hope to have some more music added to the game.
Valuing a title like this is becoming more and more difficult as the genre of action shooter is becoming more broad. Knowing full well that this game could be played for hours based on its exciting multiplayer platform makes this game worth it for some players. The added value to this game comes with its fun filled and action packed story mode. Which again allows you to develop your skills while still offering the ability for the player to collect their way through the game.
Where Splatoon gets my support, is its sheer simplicity. Nintendo once again did its homework and found a platform in which it can open itself up to new avenues for future titles. It was easy to pick up and hard to forget. This game is fun, immersive, and addicting, thus making Splatoon a must buy for any Wii U owner this summer.
This review is based on a Wii U copy of Splatoon provided to 3GEM by the publisher.