There was once a time when Nintendo was hesitant to embrace the realm of online gaming. Back during the GameCube era, the company initially wrote off online gaming as a fad. However, online gaming boomed and is now a driving force in the industry today. Though their preliminary views were inaccurate, Nintendo has shown to favor online gaming when it best fits their software. Mario Kart 8 and Super Smash Bros. for Wii U are both excellent Wii U online multiplayer games with healthy, active communities, and they are about to get company as Nintendo enters the online-shooter empire.
Welcome to Splatoon: a third-person online-focused shooter that is unlike anything you have played before. This colorful and charismatic shooter is one that can be enjoyed by gamers of all ages. There is an entertaining single-player campaign to explore, a local multiplayer mode, but the title’s true passion is online play. The online multiplayer is addictive and has a surprising amount of depth and strategy to discover. Splatoon is one of the freshest titles to see release from Nintendo in years, and it’s ink-credible.
The game opens with you customizing your Inkling – a humanoid character that can also transform into a squid. The entire concept of Splatoon revolves around the premise of switching between human and squid form. Each form has a unique set of skills for you to take advantage of. While in human form, you can shoot ink from your weapon of choice and dispense ink grenades and other projectile objects. Squid form allows you to swim stealthily through your team’s ink, which will in turn refill your ink tank, and quickly maneuver around a stage. Switching between the two forms is as simple as a touch of a button.
Online multiplayer is where Splatoon truly shines, and it is evident that Nintendo has crafted one of the best multiplayer online shooters of the generation. The multiplayer is fast-paced, fun, simple to play, and highly addicting. Furthermore, it requires skill, strategy, and is highly competitive. Splatoon multiplayer has you wanting to play one more round, and suddenly you realize you have been playing for a couple of hours. Though the game only offers two online modes right now – Turf War and Splat Zones – Nintendo promises that additional online modes will be made available in August. Even with just two game modes available at launch, these two modes will keep you entertained until August and well beyond.
Turf War is a four-on-four battle where each team tries to cover as much ground as possible in their color ink. With Turf War matches limited to 3-minutes, things are hectic. Teams are randomly created, and will differ battle to battle – even if the lobby of players never changes. This setup works well and gives each match a fresh feel as things are continually changing. Maps are also selected at random from a pool of options. At launch, the game will only feature five multiplayer maps, but they cycle every few hours. More maps will be released throughout the summer.
The focus of Turf War is to cover the stage in ink, but how you approach this task is entirely up to you. Some players may play aggressively and splat ink in small splotches in order to advance to the opposing team’s side of the map. Meanwhile, others may be meticulous and attempt to cover every square inch of the ground around them. Word of advice: don’t waste too much ink on coloring walls. Walls do not count towards ground covered and will not give your team any points. However, do color walls to reach higher platforms or to operate in tight corners.
Though splatting enemies isn’t the primary goal of Turf War, it is beneficial. Splatting your foes will cause them to pop and leave a considerable amount of your team’s colored ink in their wake. Finding the right balance of playing offense – inking the ground – and defense – splatting your enemies – that suits your personal style of play will take time to learn, but will help lead you to victory.
The second online game mode, and currently the only Ranked mode, offered by Splatoon is Splat Zones. This mode, which will be unlocked once enough players reach level 10, is a four-on-four battle mode with the goal being to claim and hold one or two sections in the center of the map. The task of Splat Zones is focused, and the matches are far more intense than what is found in Turf War. Splatting large quantities of ink on a Splat Zone will grant you control. To win you will need to hold one or both zones for a total of 100 seconds – if the match timer expires and there is no clear winner, the game will go into Overtime.
Splat Zone matches are extreme, and teams will swap control of zones with each other frequently. This game mode provides a rush of excitement, feelings of stress, and a sense of satisfaction upon winning – or a sigh of disbelief when losing. You will need to defend your zone/zones from the opposition, and the best way to do so is by splatting them. Do not approach Splat Zones like you would Turf War. Splat Zones is more about being aggressive, so equip yourself with weapons and gear that will complement such a tactic.
Splatoon doesn’t allow for voice chat. The lack of voice chat is disappointing as Splat Zones would have benefited from such a fundamental feature to coordinate better and organize a plan of attack with your teammates. It should be noted that while waiting in the lobby between matches you cannot change your weapon or gear. The only manner in which to change your weapon and gear is to exit the lobby and return to the menu.
Participating in online matches will earn you experience and money. The experience points you earn will increase your level, which goes up to level 20 at launch, and unlocks additional weapons and gear for purchase. Money can be spent on new weapons or different style headwear, shirts, and shoes for Inkling. The gear you buy for your Inkling will come equipped with a set of perks. Gear will have a primary perk and may have several secondary perks that you must unlock. Perks in the game range from quicker ink refills to higher defense.
Now that we have discussed the online portion of the game let’s move on to the single-player campaign and local-only multiplayer mode. Splatoon’s single-player is an enjoyable side-attraction from the game’s online focus. Your Inkling will tackle cleverly designed stages that will have your solving puzzles and battling Octolings – the foes of the campaign’s story. Each stage presents some interesting challenges, and the boss battles are highly imaginative. The single-player will take most around six to seven hours to complete. Be sure to search for the hidden Sunken Scrolls on each stage as they offer an attention-grabbing backstory.
You can get more out of the single-player by getting yourself the Splatoon amiibo. The amiibo unlock exclusive challenges that will earn you gear and weapons. The Splatoon amiibo Challenges are based on single-player campaign stages, but with a twist – like having to complete the stage using a particular type of weapon. Whereas the single-player is worth experiencing, the other local game mode – Battle Dojo – is lacking, and best serves as an introduction to the game’s controls, weapons, and general premise. We do wish the single-player campaign allowed for Off-TV Play as the GamePad is regulated to an overhead map, and doesn’t serve a greater function.
The GamePad is put to good use in Splatoon, however. During multiplayer, the GamePad screen shows an overhead view of the map and displays the flow of ink and ally movement in real-time. Furthermore, players can tap on an ally to super-jump to their location for quick travel. One thing the GamePad allows for is easy navigation and a simple, clean user-interface. Adjusting game options, reading up on details about the game’s many perks, or simply quick selecting between the shops and online lobby can all be done on the touch-screen.
Other minor things worth a mention: the game will default to motion-controls, however, you can swap to traditional dual-analog style controls as soon as you finish the introductory tutorial. We found dual-analog control to be better fit for us, but you may prefer motion-control. The music of the game is very refreshing and upbeat. Likewise, the characters found in the game are lively and humorous.
Splatoon is the best online game to come from Nintendo. It’s an innovative take on the third-person shooter genre, and a game that Wii U owners will have a blast with this summer. The multiplayer is pure fun, and the single-player is entertaining. It may be lacking in game modes and maps at launch, but new content will be coming soon. As it stands, there is a lot to love from this splatastic game and things can only get better.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some Splatoon to play.
- Competitive online multiplayer
- Addicting online multiplayer
- Lots of depth to character customization
- Smooth online performance
- No voice chat
- Inability to change weapon/equipment from online lobby
(Editor’s Note: A digital pre-launch code was provided by Nintendo for review purposes. Over 40hrs was spent with the game prior to reviewing.)