Trust Nintendo to take an established genre (the third person online shooter) and bring its own, colourful twist. It’s a style of game that you wouldn’t expect them to make, especially as the Japanese giant has been criticised many times for not quite understanding how the Internet works.
Although there is a single player component, Splatoon is largely being pushed as an online experience. Following a short tutorial explaining the moves (and unfortunately forcing you to use some terrible motion controls) you’re then thrust into the lobby area. This is where the real people hang out and share Miiverse posts with each other, or you can look at what items people have equipped and order them from the rather shady guy hanging out in the backstreets. There are also shops to buy new equipment and, of course, the main hub where you enter online matches. It’s like Destiny, but without the dancing.
There are certain moments during the game where it does feel like “my first online shooter”, which of course for Nintendo it is. So lobbies are very basic and the matchmaking doesn’t seem to know how to match with people in closer proximity. So a number of times I was matched up with players in Japan. Thankfully lag was unnoticeable in most matches with only a couple of disconnects occurring, but then that could be because everything was moving at such a high pace it’s hard to notice any latency in the paintballs hitting.
The first online mode that was added was Turf War. The aim being to paint as much of the map in your colour before time expires and naturally shooting the enemy as well if they get in your way. It means it plays completely differently to any other shooter out there. The first thing most players will do at the start is circle their own spawn point and paint it all before venturing out into the more contested ground. Weapons come with their own strengths and weakness, so for example while the paint rollers are great at painting the map, when coming across an opponent they’re only really useful in close quarters.
The most unique part of the game though is the way you can turn into a squid and travel through your paint. It means being able to scale walls, go through grates and take cover when you’re under attack. And it’s used to recharge your paint gun. It also graphically looks rather nice, much like the rest of the game. Nintendo certainly know how to get the best out of their somewhat limited hardware.
Actually since I started writing this review Nintendo have already added new modes. These are a King of the Hill style mode called Splat Zones and ranked matches. It bodes well for the future of the game, especially as it made it to #2 in the charts, something which seemed unlikely for a Wii U exclusive and new IP. Long may this support continue.
The six maps released so far are all brilliantly designed, making it hard to pick out a favourite. No team has the advantage, there’s plenty of different routes through the level and they’re not too big or small. It’s impressive when you consider this is Nintendo’s first attempt at this kind of game. As for the single player content, well that’s a bit of a surprise
Despite being positioned as mainly an online game, there’s still a good slice of single player content here. A number of stages are played out with the aim to reach the end, killing all the enemies and navigating the world in order to rescue the Zapfish. Surprisingly these levels don’t feel like an afterthought and actually have a number of clever features I wish were in the online portion, such as being able to travel along zip lines and a cleverer use of the terrain.
In addition, using one of the Splatoon amiibos unlocks a number of different challenges for each of the levels, and each coming with their own reward.
Splatoon just screams Nintendo. Everything about it from the bright, colourful world, to the addictive gameplay make this a great online shooter. It may lack the options of its realistic brethren, but I haven’t had this much fun online in a while. If Nintendo continue this continued support then this could very well be one of the best games on the Wii U by the end of the year.