Knowing full well that Splatoon would be one of the hotter tickets at the Nintendo booth — and all of PAX East 2015, for that matter — I made a point of getting in line early so I could get my hands on the upcoming Wii U shooter. And although I’m not a big multiplayer shooter fan myself, I was completely taken in by the game’s delightful personality and creative take on shooters!
The basic premise of Splatoon is a face off between two teams of four squid-like “Inklings” with the goal of covering as much of the arena in your team’s color ink. And the more ground you cover, the more special weapons you’ll get access to. Plus, since you have the ability to submerge into your own color and travel quickly around the arena, making sure your color is everywhere is a real help during battle. Plus, submerging into your color also refills your ink tank… something I would very often forget to do.
The demo featured a quick tutorial to teach you the basics of the controls, and then two rounds of battle. I’m proud to say that not only did our team win both matches, but I was actually the MVP of the first match, having covered the most ground! Although I actually think that I did so well because while everyone else seemed more interested in attacking each other, I took the time to run around undisturbed and paint up the ground in our team’s particular shade of purple.
Having that be the main goal of the game helps make Splatoon a fun variation on the multiplayer shooter. Simply going after the other team isn’t enough. You have to be a little more strategic. And I also found it interesting that it’s kind of a single-player multiplayer game, if that makes any sense. The four of us were all standing next to each other, but we never spoke to each other except to congratulate each other in victory (and smack-talk the other team). Nintendo has always been careful with implementing communication in their online games, so this could be a smart move. While painting your way through the arena, you can easily save a teammate you see is under fire, but I found myself mostly on my own painting as much as possible. There wasn’t a lot of strategizing amongst team members.
The game is full of personality, with the adorable character designs and bright, neon colors. And I look forward to personalizing my own Inkling with all the options to make mine distinguishable amongst all of my friends online. My only real complaint (other than only being able to play two rounds) was the controls were slightly hinky. You moved around with the left stick, but you used a combination of the right stick to look left and right and the gyroscope controls of the Wii U GamePad to shoot. The final game will have multiple control options, which will help, because I wasn’t crazy about the gyroscope controls. There’s also a map on the GamePad screen, but I have to admit that with the chaotic fun going on in front of me on the TV, I never looked at the GamePad once.
I’m also a wee bit concerned about how much fun the game will be when you’re not online playing against seven other people. Nintendo says there will be single-player challenges like cover this much area in this much time or hit this many balloons. At least even if the single-player games aren’t as much fun as the multiplayer, it should help you hone your skills for online matches!
As expected, Splatoon had one of the longest lines at PAX East this year, so it looks like Nintendo might have another hit on their hands. Which would be nice because it’s a brand new ISP, and also a surprise, because who would’ve expected such a great multiplayer shooter from Nintendo? We’ll find out for sure when the game releases this May!