Splatoon Wii U Review
Splatoon, Nintendo’s first foray into online competitive shooters, is one of the most joyful and imaginative takes on the genre. While pre-release there has been some hesitation due to Nintendo’s inexperience with shooters, and it does show in certain aspects. However there need not be any worry, Splatoon is the most pure fun game to come out this year.
In this game, you play as a “Squid kid”, someone who can transform from being a humanoid into a squid, who uses various guns to shoot ink. It’s a messy game for sure, where in multiplayer “Turf War” matches, the objective is to cover as much ground in ink as you possibly can. Defeating other enemies by shooting them (or as the game calls “Splatting”) is secondary to making a big mess on the ground.
With that in mind, Splatoon opens itself up to players of a lower skill level. Those who don’t have precision aiming skills need not worry, picking a gun with a fast rate of fire and spraying on the floor is a great way to play the game. Ideas like this show that Nintendo is very aware of multiplayer shooter conventions, and in some cases manages to cleverly subvert them.
Mobility is highly encouraged, transforming into a squid allows you to dive into ink and move at a much faster pace than normal, and controlling it is remarkably fluid. Camping is discouraged, as any space you may have claimed with your own ink could so easily be turned into the enemy’s, and ink from the other team causes damage. Any time spent camping is also time the enemy could spend inking the rest of the battlefield.
The low amount of accuracy required, and map design allow Splatoon to make for a well-rounded entry-level shooter. Maps are made to be completely symmetrical, meaning that no one side could ever be at a tactical advantage because of the location, it creates a guaranteed even playing field. Also it’s fairly simple to determine what needs to be done in a match just by looking at the map. If there’s already ink of your colour there, then go to another spot to claim more territory. There’s no need to consider advanced tactical maneuvers in order to win the matches, no need to communicate over voice chat to discuss them.
Yes, Splatoon has no voice chat but it’s not necessary, and if it was included it would be annoying. Does nobody remember getting onto Xbox Live to be greeted by teenagers and children shouting racist and ableist slurs at each other? I do and Nintendo is clearly aware of it as well. They make games that both adults and children are able to enjoy, and voice-chat would create an unsafe space for them both to play together.
All of this online action is scored by a bouncy ska-punk soundtrack that would fit well in the late 90s/early 00s. Aesthetically the whole game would fit in that era, the splashing of colours around the area evokes the style you used to see from Nickelodeon back then.
As much as the game can be smart, it can also be frustrating in a way that shows this game is a first attempt. There’s no option to quit out of matches or matchmaking, except for at the end of a match. The only way to leave mid-match is to switch off your Wii U, which is annoying when you just want to get out and swap your weapons. And you can’t swap weapons in matchmaking while waiting for another game.
There is also only one way to play with friends as well, and that’s to join them in other matches, instead of grouping up with them and then diving into the game. Matchmaking fills up fast, which is nice, but it makes this feature very difficult to work with.
Also online, only two maps are active at a time, rotating every four hours. Which is fine, but when they do change a news report comes up detailing the different maps, and it isn’t incredibly long, but it still wastes time and is unskippable. There is very little important information in the report, so there is no reason for it to be there. It also comes up every time you turn on the game.
A single-player campaign is also featured, and does not feel like an afterthought. It’s not so much about controlling territory, but plays out more like a platformer. It has its own gimmicks like sponges which expand the more ink they absorb, or gushers which shoot out a big load of ink. All of this is placed well, that combined with Splatoon’s satisfyingly speedy movement controls, allows for it to be great fun and flow rather well.
The level design in single-player comes across as more minimalist, and is similar to Super Mario Galaxy’s levels which were comprised of a few small blocks floating in mid-air. Combined with a quirky electronic musical score, and lasting around five hours, this is a nice addition that really rounds out the game well, even if it is a little hidden away.
Splatoon isn’t perfect, but despite the faults it’s a wonderful game, both online and offline. There’s some fantastic ideas here that can be built upon, but as it stands right now, it’s already superb. A little rough around the edges, but in the heat of the moment during a good multiplayer match, it’s a whale of a time.