A novel shooter with a light touch and a blistering pace
Game review: Splatoon
Platform: Wii U
IF the capacity to surprise that is Nintendo’s trademark has been conspicuously absent in recent months, the company has more than made up for it with the release of Splatoon. The Japanese developer is not known for its forays in the multiplayer shooter genre, a territory so bloated with identikit titles and overly familiar militaristic and science fiction themes. So when it does, you can expect something a little bit different.
A visual delight full of fizzing techicolour, Splatoon sees Nintendo stepping outside of its comfort zone, yet retaining its customary style and charm. At heart, it is a sprawling game of paintball as it should be played, where marking your territory is just as important as daubing opposing players, in this case squid like creatures capable of firing out reams of ink. It sounds offbeat, and it is - in the best possible way. This is a shooter for people who loathe shooters.
Painting, not killing, is the dominant means of gauging prowess
In a genre where kill counts are the dominant means of gauging prowess, Splatoon turns things on its head, defining success by how much of the game world is smeared in the colours of your team. It is a simple concept which, when executed, lends the short, frantic matchups a constantly shifting dynamic, balanced between a prudent defensive approach where you hang back and defend an area and all out assaults. Deciding which way to play is hampered somewhat by the Wii U’s lack of voice chat, but the matches are so fast changing and unpredictable that planning an approach can feel pointless.
By transforming into a squid, your character is able to navigate an arena at speed, scaling walls and other structures. It is a fun mechanic that mixes up the pace of encounters. Add to this an outlandish array of special abilities and weapons - interestingly, players also create their own characters instead of relying on a set roster - and it makes a mockery of those titles content to arm with you a gun and a clutch of grenades.
The campaign is just as entertaining and good training for the multiplayer action
While multiplayer is the best way to play, Splatoon’s single player campaign mode is just as inviting. In time honoured Nintendo fashion, each stage introduces a new theme or concept and builds gradually, allowing you to learn different skills and weapons in the process. It might lack the immediacy of playing with others, but if nothing else, it is a fine way to get to grips with the game’s esoteric ideas.
The entire game has a lightness of touch that feels unusual yet is wholly welcome. Nintendo’s journey into the shooter genre is an unexpected one, but it has come up trumps and hopefully it will support Splatoon with new game modes in the months ahead. Expect this to be the first in a long and successful new franchise.
TIPS AND TRICKS:
Having one ink roller on your team while the rest focus on combat is a great way to cover large areas with paint quickly and effectively.
Offensive strategies are all very well, but be sure to cover your own base area and protect it for the duration of a match, otherwise your hard work will be undone.
Going stealth when you are playing is a squid is a good way of avoiding enemy fire and sneaking up to ink opposing strongholds.