You’ve got red on you.
Splatoon reminds me of a warm blanket. It is colorful, non-threatening, and just comforting to be around. Like any Nintendo franchise, it meets the standards set forth by everyone’s favorite game company. However, Splatoon is also unlike anything they have ever created. It is a shooter at heart, and a surprisingly great one at that. The paint mechanic is brilliant, but there are a few things holding back an otherwise flawless execution.
At its core, Splatoon is an online multiplayer game. It dropped me right into a hub world that suggestively points to the online component immediately. Hidden away in a sewer grate though is the single player campaign.
Platforms: Wii U
Price I’d Pay: $39.99
Multiplayer: Online and Local
I actually really enjoyed this portion. Levels are broken out into smaller sections, each ending with a massive boss fight that uses the paint mechanic cleverly enough to keep it interesting. I loved that the levels featured several vertical challenges, as well as introducing new enemies regularly. There is also a level-up system baked into it that is both clever, and a bit grind happy. I spent hours increasing my paint supply and flow power by minimal increments. Still, replaying levels is fun, and again the mechanic just works well enough to keep it interesting.
Online play is definitely the focus though. In fact the single player portion is hidden at the outset, and instead the main menu funnels players into playing online immediately. Online matches in our build of the game ran extremely smooth. I also want to note that the version we played was not on retail servers, and of course being pre-launch we did not have a chance to play with the plethora of Wii U owners in the wild. Turf War remains my favorite match type, as the focus remains not on taking out other players, but instead covering the map in as much of my team’s paint as possible.
When my teammates were engaged it was great. The lack of voice chat does hinder the experience though; as a team-based game it is hard to communicate strategies without being able to hear my teammates. I also found a lot of players simply standing around, or going for kills. These are the games that become not enjoyable. I do hope the final release showcases more teamwork, but again it is complicated without proper voice chat.
Offline offers up some multiplayer options as well, but they are extremely limited. Local play is limited to two players in an entirely different mode designed for the player count. It is not nearly as fun, and it feels like a missed opportunity for those with kids to have a four-player split screen turf war match. Maybe they add it later, but at the outset, local play is not something that stands out as exceptional.
The controls were the biggest hurdle for me to get over. Controlling with the motion on the gamepad was simply not an option. The tutorial forces it, and it was a chore for me to get through. Once I could switch it, I did, but it didn’t come without its own set of issues. The vertical movement is much faster than the horizontal movement, again forcing me to acclimate to its design. I wish there was a setting to turn down the speed, but alas the game seems to try and force motion controls on the user. Also worth noting is that player one is always required to use the gamepad, no pro controller support, which is also a huge bummer.
From a visual standpoint it looks as great as expected. Nintendo has a way of making their first-party games really pop. The color palette is fantastic, and the paint effects simply ooze off the screen. Frame rate remains solid and the online play is surprisingly smooth. I am not the biggest fan of the character design, but once I started earning new gear it was less of an issue.
Speaking of gear, who loves amiibos? Well there are three total sets for Splatoon, with each one granting new challenges and gear for the characters. The bad part? Like every other amiibo launched recently they are impossible to find. So unless I wanted to pay outlandish online prices, that content remains locked. Also $13 for an outfit is getting into Dead or Alive ridiculous costume prices.
Splatoon is a novel title that is a blast to play. My biggest concern is longevity. With certain modes and features locked behind players reaching a certain level, I wonder how long its legs truly are. I want it to catch on, but with the paltry Wii U user base, and a quirky new IP at the helm, my fears are that no one will care about Splatoon in a month’s time.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.