Splatoon (Hands-On) (Wii U) Preview

By Jorge Ba-oh 28.06.2014 3

Review for Splatoon (Hands-On) on Wii U

Bold, bright, colourful and very much Nintendo, a new IP for Wii U was announced during this year's E3 Expo in Los Angeles - a third-person shooting game called Splatoon. Is there room for a brand new franchise within a very crammed and demanding genre? Cubed3 took the game for a spin in a post-E3 session in London this week to discover just how Nintendo have put their own special touch on pelting rivals will digital bullets.


 

Shooting games and Nintendo generally don't go hand-in-hand, and the Japanese gaming giant has only dabbled in a handful of shooter experiences during its illustrious history. There has been a selection of point-and-shoot gems in the past like Duck Hunt, Yoshi's Safari and Super Scope Six, to more recent console-exclusives like Geist and Red Steel. The Metroid Prime trilogy had shooter elements, but is still very much classed as a first-person adventure.

Generally, the shooter market for Nintendo has remained in the hands of third-party exclusives or second-party efforts, like the once bountiful Rare with Jet Force Gemini on the Nintendo 64. The company, in particular the chap behind the Mario and Legend of Zelda franchises, Shigeru Miyamoto, has expressed a desire to develop a shooting game in the past. Nintendo, being Nintendo, wouldn't step into the genre with something that would fall by the wayside when sitting next to the likes of Activision's ever-popular Call of Duty series, so the team devised a unique concept of turf wars, Splatoon.

Screenshot for Splatoon (Hands-On) on Wii U

The final game will have a number of different modes depending on the number of players, with Nintendo confirming that solo and two player options will be available, but the main highlight of the preview session was to show off the intense four-on-four combat feature. Essentially the group of eight are divided into two teams who each start off on corresponding sides of a narrow urban-designed map. The aim of the game is to simply splatter enough paint along the grounds of the entire level within the time limit, fending off rivals as they attempt to break through with dollops of ink. The team with the most ink splurged on the floor at the end of the session takes the winning point.

The core premise sounds fairly standard, but the inventiveness comes into play through the use of squid-humanoid characters known as Inklings. The main bulk of a session will see players running about in human form, but the added strategy comes through the ability to morph into a squid at the press of a shoulder trigger, allowing players to hide within their own-coloured ink, climbing up walls and sifting through grates with ease. The squid form is also required to top-up ink reserves, acting as ammo refills, and whilst it may sound as if it could be a distraction within the heat of the battle, it brings a much refreshing change to the aging franchise.

Screenshot for Splatoon (Hands-On) on Wii U

However, when swimming or stepping onto the other team's ink, self-inflicted damage is dealt, or when being pelted down by the other team in direct fire. If all health is depleted, players respawn at their base, but interestingly have the option to pick a fellow team-mate to quickly warp to, maintaining the flow of the game even after losing a point.

What sets Splatoon apart is that just how it isn't purely about pummelling rivals with bullets, and that there's an overall strategy involved, whether hiding in discreet ink-blobs in the walls or zipping along trails to sneak into the other team's base undetected. However, those who do spot a squid merging with pools of paint can still get the upperhand by throwing a grenade to fish players out, leaving them near helpless before being sent back to the start.

Screenshot for Splatoon (Hands-On) on Wii U

The demo involved each player on a separate Wii U console, each with a GamePad in hand, which houses a handy map of the entire stage, highlighting in real-time the amount of paint and the different team colours across the landscape. Need a last minute attempt at burying the other team with a load of ink? The map is very much essential for the experience; something that's not used all too often, but crucial for when it counts. The controller layout itself uses the analogue stick for movement, the right analogue for looking around or using the built-in gyro/motion controls to aim instead. The latter scheme, personally, felt easier and more intuitive to use, with only slight movements needed to look around, rather than full arm twists and yoga poses. The triggers are used to shoot and morph into squid form, whilst there's also a dedicated jump and grenade feature.
There's a natural touch for shooter-enthusiasts, and an easy-enough setup for those who may be new to this sort of title. Whilst relying on tried-and-tested controls, Splatoon feels just right for the GamePad setup, with the motion element and real-time map functionality bringing the experience together and justifying the hardware that bit more.

The game, at first glance, is effortlessly quirky, and distinctly Nintendo with a charming art direction, bright and bustling visuals. Thematically it looks a fair bit like the style Nintendo have adopted since Nintendo Land, driven by warm lighting and striking shadow work. It's a game that does look as if it will be aimed at younger players through its cartoon charm, but there is plenty on offer for all ages. Animation is smooth and almost Disney-esque in some ways, slick and without any lag from within the four matches that were played. Musically in the demo there wasn't much to go by, but the level soundtrack was essentially the main theme, an edge rock-inspired guitar riff with plenty of oomph to get players in the fighting mood.

Screenshot for Splatoon (Hands-On) on Wii U

Final Thoughts

Overall Splatoon offers a refreshing take on the shooter franchise, shaking up proceedings with the squid mechanic and relying on covering the world with ink, rather than trying to rally in as many "kills" as possible. Only a small snippet was shown in the E3 demo, leaving plenty of potential for Splatoon to become a solid and standout contender within the genre.

Developer

Nintendo

Publisher

Nintendo

Genre

Action

Players

4

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10 (4 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

Comments

I really think the name won't do it any favours. Sounds FAR too childish. Doesn't matter how good it turns out, the name could hold it back on the sales front.

Adam Riley [ Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited ]
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter

I can't wait for this game! My most anticipated game coming out of E3.

I really want to purchase this game

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