Splatoon Wii U Review
Publisher: Nintendo Developer: Nintendo Genre: Action
Players: 1-8 Age Rating: 7+ Other console/handheld formats: N/A
If Splatoon is anything, it’s an absolute breath of fresh air. Created by the company responsible for the likes of Mario, Zelda and Metroid, although crafted by a team made up of relatively new blood, this is a game that takes the multiplayer shooter and turns it on its head. Splatoon is Nintendo at their creative best, and it’s most welcome to see them coming up with a brand new concept once again.
As a 4-vs-4 team based shooter, when you come face to face with opponents, it’s possible to take them out with weaponry, but Splatoon’s Turf War mode, the game’s only unranked mode, is largely about making a mess, and making more mess than your opponent does. Taking control of a teenage Inkling character and armed with various weapons, your job is to splatter the map with thick and messy ink, and cover as much of it as possible with your own colour. Coming into contact with the ink of the opposition won’t harm you, although it does slow you down and you aren’t able to swim (more on this later) in it either. Simply put, the Turf War mode is like a domination mode, but also wholly unique to what many of us are used to in such games.
Matches in Splatoon can swing in the favour of one team to the next very quickly, making them fun and exciting, and the game has a colourful cartoon look, simple mechanics that aren’t necessarily about killing to win, and a welcoming flavour that makes it more intuitive and appealing than many other shooters. Nintendo’s magical and childlike touch is obvious here, and the game really is a far cry from the many grey war-based shooters out there.
With Turf War matches lasting for three minutes, they’re fun and chaotic as teams fight for the majority of the map. The GamePad has been put to good use in the game, with the screen showing you an overhead view of the map as well as both you and the opposing team’s ink coverage and the current location of all your team mates. Using the GamePad, it’s also possible to super jump to the location of a team mate at any time by merely touching them, which is handy if you want to get somewhere quickly, perhaps to help a team mate cover up a large area in ink that was otherwise uncontested or that your opponent has already covered, and so on.
Another manner to get around quickly in Splatoon is via your squid form. As mentioned earlier, this form allows you to swim in your own ink, making your character faster, and in some cases, also allows you to hide yourself from opponents just as long as they don’t splash the area you are swimming in with their own ink. Having a dip also allows you to swim up walls and under fences, and when you require an ink refill for your weaponry, going under will also grant you this, so squid form is definitely a multipurpose game mechanic. It’s also another masterful thing that helps set Splatoon apart from other multiplayer shooters.
Upon release, the game was a rather slight package, but at the time of writing a number of free maps, weapons and modes have been added. In terms of ranked game modes, Splat Zones have you covering a certain section of the map with ink, and Tower Control has you standing on a tower, which pushes it closer to the enemy base, with the winner being the one to get the tower to the designated location or as close as possible in the given time limit. Finally, the Rain Maker mode is like Capture the Flag, but has you fighting over a powerful weapon. Maps have also now been bolstered from five to sixteen, which makes for a more appealing package in comparison to the slimmer launch package. With the free updates now apparently at an end, I do still think that the game could have benefited from a few more options though.
Many of the weapons in Splatoon are basically variations on popular weapons, shooting out coloured ink as opposed to lethal bullets. You have those that fire out a high rate of ink like a machine gun or a chain gun, others that are more about slower considered shots in the same manner as a rifle, while others are giant paint rollers and basic brushes and buckets of ink. There’s also sub weapons in the game, which includes such things as grenades, mines, barriers, instant super jump locations, and more, and these are determined by the main weapon that you are carrying. There are a fair number of weapons, which are unlocked for purchase through levelling up, and you are able to test each weapon out as well as its sub weapons to help you decide which are the ones for you before you actually buy them. Even though the game lacks voice chat, with all its weapons, equipment, perks and mechanics, it’s still a multiplayer game that is rich in strategic depth.
The more ink you fire without dying, the more a special meter will rise. When the meter is full, you are given full ink capacity, and you are then also able to unleash a special weapon. Your special weapon is determined by your main weapon, and includes everything from a protective bubble, using a barrage of sub weapons without having to use your ink supply, one reveals enemy positions, another launches a tornado of ink at any location you desire by using the GamePad screen, and so on. The duration that your special attack lasts differs based on what it is, lasting from as little as two seconds right up until 9 seconds, and these special weapons are rewarding and, if used sensibly, can help shift the momentum in your direction.
You can also equip your inkling with various gear. Headwear, shoes and clothing are sold in three separate shops, and buying and wearing such gear isn’t only there to alter your character cosmetically either. The different headwear, shoes and clothing have abilities attached to them, which includes everything from making you swim faster in squid form, causing your attacks to be stronger, and so on. The more you wear a piece of gear, the closer you will be to unlocking its different perks. The game certainly gives you plenty of room for experimentation with its various weapons and equipment abilities.
When it comes to more negative issues, I have already mentioned that the game could have done with slightly more variation, but Splatoon also has maps and modes that rotate every four hours, which is a rather flawed way of doing things. The game doesn’t allow you to search for modes and maps that you like, so you are stuck with what is given to you at the time you are playing. If you don’t have too much time on your hands, and maps and modes come up that you dislike whenever you do play, then you have every right to find this system annoying. Another niggle is that ranked matches may take too long to unlock for some, as you have to be reach level 10 before you are even able to play them, which means that the unranked Turf War mode might be the only mode that you are playing for awhile. It’s a good job that the mode is the highlight of the multiplayer, then.
The game does also have a local multiplayer mode, although it’s definitely the weakest portion of the game. The Battle Dojo mode is only for two players, which is fairly disappointing, and has one playing using the GamePad and the other using a Wii U Pro Controller, Classic Controller, or Classic Controller Pro, and making use of the TV screen. The mode is basic and has you popping balloons, with the first to 30 points, or the player with the most points when the three minute timer runs out, being the winner. As for other rules, killing your opponent causes them to lose half their points, and each burst balloon is worth 2 points in the last 30 seconds of the match. It’s an enjoyable enough mode, but it does still pale in comparison to the rest of the game.
Despite its focus on multiplayer, I was surprised to learn that Splatoon has a rather substantial single player mode. Lasting around four to five hours, single player doesn’t feel like it has been forced into the game in any way, and as you progress, the mode frequently gives you surprises and new ways in which you can make use of the ink. Levels become more complex, although the difficulty level doesn’t climb too high and remains very lenient for the most part. There’s also a varied selection of enemies and some very well designed bosses as well as collectables to find in each level, which all means that the single player is well worth a play. If there is ever to be a Splatoon sequel, I do hope that Nintendo will expand upon the single player mode, as an even more substantial mode would definitely be welcome in a sequel.
Splatoon has plenty of the Nintendo magic that helped make the Japanese giant famous in the first place. Whether playing in multiplayer or single player, it is a game that is both fun and inventive, and when it comes to the multiplayer in particular, I feel that such a fresh game was needed for the team based shooter. With its flawed map and mode rotation system, and the fact that it could have done with a little more variation, the game does have its imperfections, but Splatoon is still a brilliant and very welcome release that has universal appeal, and it’s a game that shakes up the multiplayer shooter in surprising and remarkable ways. This is one of the Wii U’s finest and most creative games.