Splatoon (Wii U) Review

By Jorge Ba-oh 28.05.2015 3

Review for Splatoon on Wii U

Over the years, there are certain genres that have found an affinity on Nintendo consoles, a comfort zone of fun and familiarity - racing games, platformers, puzzlers and the odd fighting game or two. One of the more popular arenas that Nintendo haven't explored as much are shooting games. Yes, the Japanese game maker did coin one of the earlier arcade experiences with Duck Hunt, but Nintendo haven't yet attempted multiplayer shooting within a market that's saturated by hostile combat, war games and gritty first-person shooting.

For Nintendo, simply emulating others would have perhaps been a risky move, but how could the company plop their own stamp on blasting friends with guns? Blood and bullets may have been a bit too alien for the typically boisterous game-maker, so enter Splatoon; a wild and unique concept that revolves around human-like squid with ink guns.

With Splatoon being a brand new concept, can it sit comfortably alongside the likes of Mario Kart 8 and Super Smash Bros. for Wii U for online multiplayer madness?

Instead of simply giving realistic weapons to armour-clad humans and drenching the living room with tried-and-tested war propaganda, the team decided on establishing their own world. Splatoon takes place within a futuristic landscape known as Inkopolis; a city hub where the game's protagonists - Inklings - live. These creatures can be described as a mix of both human and squid - complete with clothes and accessories - but with the nifty ability to transform into a squid form at will. It's all about looking rather dapper for the Inklings, plus a strong culture that revolves around frantic multiplayer shootouts.

Instead of shoving the Inklings into an arena and blasting one another into bits of bullet ridden sushi, the game uses a paintball-esque approach, where players are equipped with coloured ink guns. In "Turf Wars", the online multiplayer portion, the main aim isn't to tally-up a head count, but instead to cover the ground with as much of a team's coloured ink as possible. The group of four with the most ink sprayed wins the match.

The twist comes in how the Inklings move about - they are able to literally swim through their own coloured juices in squid form, providing a way of moving about quickly, and also a means of defying gravity to climb walls and trickle through inaccessible grating. The idea adds a more strategic approach to the mix, with a chance to slither around almost undetected or giving room for a quick getaway if being stormed by bloodthirsty opponents.


 

There's a refreshing feel about the concept that may seem downright bizarre at first; as was encountered in the Cubed3 Splatoon E3 preview last year, but there's a rhythm and pace that makes Splatoon stand out from the crowd - where there's a need to dip into the ink for a brief moment in Squid form to recharge ink/health. It's downright bonkers, and certainly rewards those who put in time to get to grips with just how Splatoon works.

The concept does take some getting used to, in terms of control and using the sprayed ink as part of the overall strategy. Fortunately, Nintendo slipped in a brief tutorial at the very start that explores the basics - swimming, jumping, throwing bombs, topping up ink and splattering over the enemy's turf. Before leaping headstrong into the boundless world of online, it's recommended to give the single player mode a whirl to gain more training and to learn a handful of nifty tricks and tips.

Screenshot for Splatoon on Wii U

Tucked away neatly beneath the city, lies the single mode challenge of the game - as players embark on a quest to retrieve a bunch of stolen Zapfish, creatures that make up the power source for the Inklings' world. Without them, well, it's an unfortunate game-over for the paint-loving community. Not everyone in the Splatoon world is really too bothered about the lack of Zapfish as they pace about and ponder their next dose of ink warfare, except one rather knowledgeable chap - Cap 'n'Cuttlefish, a hero who saved the day against the evil Octarian race many years ago. The elderly hero invites players to become a new agent, donning a Hero Suit to explore the Octarian underground base - Octo Valley - and retrieve the Zapfish over a series of challenging platforming levels as part of the single player "Hero Mode".

It feels like a blend of classic 3D platforming - the likes of Mario Galaxy and Mario Sunshine in particular, with the more quirky appeal of past Nintendo 64 games from Rare like Banjo-Kazooie and Jet Force Gemini, to an extent. The main aim isn't to blitz levels with ink, but instead to learn the ropes through tough, isolated challenges, stringing concepts together to slug it out to the end and save the city from disaster. The designs of the levels are where Nintendo shines brightest, with pockets of truly challenging and well-executed sequences. Players will soar through rising steams of paint, clamber onboard a giant cube boss and pummel a horde of helicopter octopi with bazookas. Initially the first few levels introduce a fair learning curve, but as game progresses, it's ramped up to some truly thought provoking moments, bringing together all the skills learnt to forge the ideal squid warrior.

Beyond the solo antics, there is a bustling overworld hub to explore, and Nintendo have gone customisation crazy as characters can be kitted out with the latest Inkling garb. Beyond gender, eye and skin colours, the entire look can be tweaked to stand out from the crowd - including a nifty weapons upgrade.

The selection of tools in the game is a particular highlight, and can offer a completely different experience within the same arena. By default, Inklings are armed with a relatively weak Splattershot, with a low range. From then on, upgrades and additional weapons mix up proceedings - from the quick burst Aerospray to the longer range Splatterscope. Want to blitz a large area? The Splat Roller is effective at tearing through the land with ease. It'll certainly be intriguing to see if Nintendo decides to expand the main weapons roster going forward.

Multiplayer is where the game excels, and is the core part of the Splatoon appeal. Nintendo opened up the doors to the online experience for those who had early copies of the game, so there were various public Splatoon players to face online when sampling the delights of Turf War across the globe.

Screenshot for Splatoon on Wii U

The aim? Two teams of four face each other, ink guns in hand, to cover as much coloured ink across enclosed arenas as possible in just three minutes. It may sound like a simple premise, but Turf War provides a satisfying dollop of strategy, skill and a sprinkle of luck to get by, where every second counts - rather than tallying up a kill-streak. The game also shuffles between levels every few hours, offering the potential for completely different strategies each time players connect to the public matches.

The arenas themselves are as well thought out as the solo stages, more enclosed, but each trying to offer a unique selling point. "Walleye Warehouse" is a particular highlight, with crates that can only be accessed through splat-jumping, whilst "Blackbelly Skatepark" decorates the arena with a unique curvature and an opportunity to put the walls to good use. More Splatoon stages will become available post launch, Nintendo confirmed in a Splatoon Direct presentation earlier this year.


 

The battles are action packed, frantic and intense from start to finish. What may well look like an easy victory could falter with just thirty seconds remaining. One of the potential drawbacks of the mode so far seems to be an inconsistency in balancing between weapons, through certain abilities like the "Killer Wail" and "Ink Strike" - these form part of a reserved set called "Special Weapon", which needs to be charged up by building a meter. During some matches, these proved to offer a significant advantage over other Special Weapons - potentially warping the odds to one team's favour.

Nintendo are also planning on releasing a "Ranked Battle" mode in Splatoon, which contains numerous additional feature - including "Splat Zone" and "Tower Control" once a majority of players reach Level 10. Progressing through levels seems to be a fairly quick affair from what we've played so far, with only a handful of casual matches really required to quickly become acquainted.

Connecting to others seems a fairly quick and painless experience, but does require a full set of eight players to start the match - including friend matches. At launch, expect to matches to form fairly quickly, but it remains to be seen whether the player rate could be sustained, or whether Nintendo could add modes where less players are required. During the battles themselves, there didn't appear to be any noticeable lag, with Inklings darting about like squid in ink.

Screenshot for Splatoon on Wii U

Nintendo haven't skimped out on local multiplayer, with a "Battle Dojo" feature that offers a different take on a 1 vs 1 match. One player takes the helm on the GamePad through off-TV play, whilst another uses a Wii U Pro Controller/Classic Controller Pro on the TV. The aim: scavenge through one of the Turf War stages for balloons that are shown beside a column of light. First to thirty or the most points after three minutes wins the match.

With only two players playing at one time, and a fairly weak objective, it leaves a sparse space to fill - there's no particular benefit to splatting ink about. One noticeable omission from Splatoon would have to be the lack of four-player local modes, nor the ability to head online with a friend in a similar setup to "Battle Dojo."

Nintendo are primed to launch a major Splatoon update to the game post-launch, so this may well answer some questions when it comes to multiplayer, but as a launch package, the local component is severely lacking. It's a difficult aspect to the game to overlook given Nintendo's renowned touch when it comes to satisfying living-room rumbles with the likes of Mario Kart or Super Smash Bros.

Gameplay aside, Splatoon looks and runs smoothly on Wii U. The development team have seemed to hone in on the general, colourful art direction that Nintendo have start to introduce since Nintendoland and Super Mario 3D World. It's vivid, bright and has the ickle touches that cement the visual style with that extra Nintendo touch. The musical direction would perhaps be more of a matter of preference, dipping between traditional Nintendo cutesy to what sounds like a bizarre take on what could well be "Inking Screamo."

Screenshot for Splatoon on Wii U

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

Nintendo have taken a risk with a new and original concept, particularly within a difficult market to crack. Effortlessly charming, compelling and a solid start to what may well become one of the company's regular franchises. There are niggles with the game's control and lack of offline content, but there is certainly plenty of potential for Splatoon going forward, particularly through download content. Whether a shooting fan or not, Splatoon offers a refreshing, intriguing multiplayer experience that deserves a go or two, or three, or four…

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 (5 Votes)

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

Comments

An interesting fact: I and some friends discusses this area a couple of years ago about when Nintendo would release a shooter. I joked and said that when they do, it will most likely have the players as mushrooms or squids or something stupid like that and that the players would most likely shoot colour on each other or something silly....

.....yeah.... Nintendo never stops surprising... xD

The difference between illusion and reality is vague to the one who suffers from the former and questionable for the one suffering form the later.

Sounds like pretty much what I expected.

but Nintendo haven't yet attempted multiplayer shooting within a market that's saturated by hostile combat, war games and gritty first-person shooting.

I don't know how accurate this statement is.  NST (Nintendo Software Technology Corporation) developed Metroid Prime Hunters for the DS which was a multiplayer FPS.  While it wasn't a new IP like Splatoon, it was an internally developed game by Nintendo.

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