More often than not big name review/gaming sites get a game about a week or so earlier than its release in order to properly play through the game to put up a review. What happens is that their review doesn’t take into account the “honeymoon” phase of videogames. You all know the “honeymoon” phase. It’s that time after the “OH NEW SHINEY” has worn off and you have gotten through bosses, main single-player levels, and secrets within that game. What you are left with it the important part, and that’s going to be the focus of this review. The game in question for today is Nitnendo’s new IP: Splatoon. Is this new extremely colorful third person shooter worth your time?
When you first load Splatoon you are greeted by Squid Sisters in a news update of sorts. The sisters tell you the different types of maps which are currently in rotation (something we’ll talk about later in this review), and have playful banter which is supposed to be funny but usually falls very short. A note here is that this scene is unescapable when you first load the game, and every six hours or so when the maps change rotation. This little scene, while slightly obnoxious, is designed to pull you into Inkopolis and does a pretty good job of submersing you in the game right from the get go.
What’s Inkopolis you ask? It’s the hub world where you can end up playing the single-player portion of the game, buy fresh gear for your Squid-Kid, or hop into multiplayer matches. The hub also is populated by previously battled with friends and foes that walk around and leave messages and pictures from Miiverse for you to see. While this is a novel concept seen in other games it provides something useful in the form of information at times. Over this past weekend when I was writing this review there was supposed to be a Splatfest Tournament which unfortunately did not happen. I had no idea why until I saw the hub populated with people giving info as to what was up, and that led me to check Nintendo’s twitter where the information was plastered direct from the source. Some might say that I would have found that information out anyways, but it was still very subversive to see it IN the game before I hit the internet for answers. Other inhabitants of Inkopolis are NPC’s that will sell you gear and talk about how “fresh” you look. The clothes that you buy actually serve a purpose in multiplayer in regards to active boosts to your character, so sometimes having the most ridiculous hat, boots, and shoes will make you a more effective squid on the battlefield. Not to mention you will LOOK FREAKING FRESH. Another “hidden” character will be able to be found if you do some searching around the hub, and he will get you gear that others have in your hub if you wish to have it. All you gotta do it click on that person, select what you want, and pay for it. It’s a good thing too because gear changes daily, and you might be out of luck getting that slick camo boonie cap if you don’t play for the day. Unfortunately, you can’t have the amiibo special gear as that remains locked unless you get amiibo’s. Other than what’s mentioned there isn’t much else to the hub, and I also have to mention that all the places listed can be insta-warped to by just using the WiiU’s gamepad. If you don’t feel like walking two feet then you can press a screen and be there lickety-split.
The offline portion of Splatoon is a fun but very short six hour or so single-player campaign for you learn mechanics and have a little fun. Being a completionist I collected all the scrolls which tell the back story of Splatoon on my first playthrough but quickly realized that I had effectively beaten single-player. FINISHED, FINITO, COMPLETE. There is not a single reason for me to come back at this point unless I want to enjoy another level again, but let’s be honest I won’t. While this is a bummer overall the game does a great job with what is there and makes it very fun to play through. Splatoon levels take a mechanic (say for instance giganto sponge-like surfaces), and builds a stage around it that’s challenging and well thought-out. The game walks you through the mechanics, but does it in such a way that it isn’t insulting and fun. The final boss fight is also one of the best that I’ve played in a long time and is actually challenging to beat without being so rage inducing that you want to throw your controller. I just honestly wish there was more here, or something to come back to again and again.
Now that the single-player has been effectively dismissed in less time that it took for you to drive somewhere to pick it up or get it delivered we come to the real meat of the game which is of course the multiplayer. Even at the time of this writing there are only two modes within Splatoon multiplayer and they are Ranked King of the Hill alongside of unranked level progression Turf War. We’ll talk about Turf War to start.
Turf War is a 4v4 competitive online mode where drenching the map in your color ink is the name of the game. While kills are important they aren’t nearly as important as spreading ink all over the ground in order to get a win. Sometimes this concept is lost on a team that I’m on because I will have the highest coverage score while the rest of the team will have next to diddly squat as we pick up a loss. Painting a level is paramount to win, but even more is the fact that you can switch into your squid form when in your own color to reach higher ground by wall running (basically), speed through the level, and reload your own ink supply. At the end of a match Judd the Cat will give an overview of the map and tell you your coverage area with the largest coverage team winning the bout. The game itself only lasts three minutes which is amazing if you’re trying to get a lot of games in during a short period of time, and works ridiculously well for Splatoon’s design. You see three minutes is enough time to paint an entire map, but even if you’re getting your ass handed to you, it won’t last for long and is still enjoyable. While I would love to see other games benefit from this shortened play time design that Splatoon has come up with, it’s highly doubtful that they will.
The other mode as of the time of this writing is Ranked King of the Hill mode. While Turf War is designed to be a fun team splat game mode the same cannot be said for Ranked. Rank is kill or be killed while holding a main objective, and it can be pretty intense if your team doesn’t have the snuff to box out your enemy. Each team will start with 100 points per team, and each time a team controls one or two points collectively the 100 points will begin to count down. If the controlling team loses the point, and the enemy team is able to capture it before the previous team regains control an additional timer is placed on top of the remaining 100 points. This mechanic SUCKS. I mean that in a good way though because it allows you to not crush teams if you’re able to upset their capture for a little bit, and just adds more to the mode. Only thing is that it just sucks when it happens to you. I will have to say that this mode is way more try-hardy than Turf War, and can be a big turn off if you don’t want to play with all the MLG pros.
One might what you use to spread dat ink around, and the answer is in the form of guns (SHOCKING)! There are a variety of shotguns, rifles, SMGs, snipers, and (duh) paint brushes to spread the ink around with alongside of sub weapons (think grenades or something similar) to rein terror.
As a whole the multiplayer is fun, but there is a large set of problems that need to be addressed and just haven’t yet. The most glaring issue is the omission of voice chat in the game. I understand Nintendo’s stance on this because there are many times where I want to just scream at people who can’t get their shit together, and we lose a match because they are just the worst at videogames. Mind you this is somewhat geared towards a younger audience, so Nintendo possibly did the right thing to omit it so that 32 year-olds don’t scream at children over a video game featuring squid. All in all though the game could have had a feature to just turn it off completely so there’s that to think about. There is also the fact that you can’t exit a lobby once you’ve joined into it without playing a game. If you were to happen to press the button to join a game, you can’t back out at all. You’ll have to sit in the lobby and wait to play and finish a game before returning to the hub world. One could turn off the console to back out, but that’s counterproductive overall. Alongside of your inability to back out of a lobby, you have to exit back to the hub world to change settings and weapons that you want to use. Out of everything I’ve listed so far, this is by far the most annoying thing. I want to be able to change my gun mid-round like I can in Call of Duty or other MP games, but NOPE you’re straight stuck with it the whole round. This doesn’t sound like much of an issue until you’re stuck on a team with four rollers, and you get your shit stuffed in like a thanksgiving turkey. Finally, there is the fact that you are regulated to play the same two maps over the course of six hours no matter the mode you are playing. I grow tired of playing a map literally seven times in a row, and it doesn’t help that I can’t pick a map I want to play on because the game just randomly chooses it for me. The game needs to have a map select and have more maps right meow. These problems with the game stick out like a sore thumb and really hamper a great experience. THE FINAL VERDICT
Nintendo doesn’t release a lot of new IP’s very often but when it does it usually does it right. Even with some of the big glaring issues with this third-person shooter it is surprisingly fun and original. Nintendo has gone on record to say that a major update is coming for free in August, so there is that to look forward to alongside of Nintendo regularly unlocking more maps and guns on a sub-weekly basis. So, what to think after the “honeymoon” phase? I think if you have a WiiU this is definitely a purchase to have some quick fun in single-player, and some long term quick match fun with multiplayer. If you will excuse me, it’s time to get squidded on.