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Splatoon Review


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On 12/13/2015 at 12:00 PM by Matt McLennan

You are a kid, and now a squid.
RECOMMENDATION:

One of the most original online third person shooters I’ve played and one of the Wii U’s best titles. Recommended for all age groups and skill levels.

You’re a kid, and now a squid. I can’t get that out of my head, but this simple phrase is one piece of the whole pie that makes Splatoon so great. Nintendo’s internal EAD team has tackled third person shooter elements in their other series like Zelda and Kid Icarus, but doing a full third person shooter with a multiplayer focus is a different beast entirely. This new IP from Miyamoto’s magic toy box is not only one of the most original shooters out on the market today, with its creative visual style and deceptively simple gameplay, but it's also one of the best multiplayer titles on Wii U right now.

Splatoon is at its core a third person shooter with an online focus, but the twist is that your playable character is a humanoid squid called an Inkling. Inklings shoot colored ink from a variety of weapons you can choose from; and each weapon has a super attack. There are advantages and disadvantages to every weapon on the battle field, which adds a nice strategic element to the game. In order to refill your ink (ammo), you have to swim in it while in squid form. While different battles modes are being introduced as free updates to Splatoon, the main draw is the four-on-four multiplayer battles where the team that covers the most terrain with their color ink wins the victory. Every online battle I’ve played has been a different experience each time, and winning battles gives you in-game money and experience points to unlock new weapons. Also impeccable to your victory is your character’s outfit. From shoes to hats, each article of clothing gives your character an ability buff, from a faster ink tank recharge to making yourself stealthier in battle.

While multiplayer is the big draw, Splatoon also offers a single player mode with twenty-six levels with six boss fights and an easy to follow story: you must save a giant electric fish from underground dwelling Octarians whose homes are on the verge of losing electricity outright. While single player mode is almost like a giant tutorial for the main bread and butter, the levels are intelligently designed to help you learn how to defend yourself and traverse the environments, with a lot of swimming up ink-splattered walls. Collecting fish eggs will allow you to power up your weapon and tank recharge, along with any sub weapons. However, during my time in single player I didn’t find the sub-weapons all that useful. I had more fun using my main weapon. Also, you don’t want to miss out on finding the ancient scrolls - they help fill out the lore of Splatoon’s world and are quite amusing to read.

An experience this enjoyable would be hampered if the controls didn’t work. Thankfully, the mechanics in Splatoon work well. On the gamepad, you only use the shoulder buttons, analog sticks, and one face button to jump. Character movement and actions like shooting with a splat gun or attacking with a ground brush is instantaneous with no delay, and moving in squid form through ink up walls is wonderful and fun. When it comes to aiming, you can toggle the gyro feature on the game pad on or off depending on your preference and experience. For my numerous playthroughs, I found the gyro aiming with the analog stick camera turning helped me play the game better, and you can use the Y button to center the camera if needed. The only touch screen controls are in the main hub area for quick access to shops, single player mode, or the multiplayer lobby. During a multiplayer match, touching a team-mate icon on the map will send you flying to their position if you died in battle.

While Splatoon is a great game, it isn't quite perfect. I had a few issues with the controls. Truth be told, I am not a fan of most console shooters in comparison to playing the same type of game on a PC with a keyboard. Jumping initially took a little practice for me to feel comfortable, as you must use the X Button to jump, but younger gamers with smaller hands might take a while to get used to it, as single player mode has some sections that require jumping from one place to the next over a bottomless pit. Another gripe is that you can’t change the sensitivity of the gyro aiming itself to make it faster or slower to your preference. Lastly, the game has no voice chat, which wasn't an egregious issue for me thanks to having the ability to Skype with friends on my PC. But nonetheless, if you were hoping to talk to other team-mates via an in-game chat feature, you'll be sorely disappointed.

From a visual standpoint, Splatoon is a delight through and through. Your playable avatar character can be made a boy or girl inkling with different skin tones and eye color, and your character’s looks will change based on the clothing they are wearing. In-game characters and environments have a modern cartoon urban feel to it, and they are very identifiable and easy to recognize. The game runs at a smooth frame rate and I hardly noticed any hiccups in online battles.

The music and sound design in Splatoon is a real treat; every single music track has a nice beat to accompany the action and never becomes over-bearing or annoying to hear again and again. The same is true of the sound effects; the game does a good job making splat noises for shooting ink onto surfaces and for other things like dying or the inkling speech noises your character makes, making it stand out even more.

Splatoon is easily my favorite game of the year so far. Nintendo EAD has taken on a formula they've never touched before and managed to turn it on its head. The simple but addicting gameplay, fantastic visuals and audio, and the ability to perform custom build-outs for your character make this one a real treat. The majority of gamers out there will have a wonderful time with this game and I fully recommend it to anyone interested in a lighthearted third-person shooter.

Review Policy

In our reviews, we'll try not to bore you with minutiae of a game. Instead, we'll outline what makes the game good or bad, and focus on telling you whether or not it is worth your time as opposed to what button makes you jump.

We use a five-star rating system with intervals of .5. Below is an outline of what each score generally means:


All games that receive this score are standout games in their genre. All players should seek a way to play this game. While the score doesn't equate to perfection, it's the best any game could conceivably do.


These are above-average games that most players should consider purchasing. Nearly everyone will enjoy the game and given the proper audience, some may even love these games.


This is our middle-of-the-road ranking. Titles that receive three stars may not make a strong impression on the reviewer in either direction. These games may have some faults and some strong points but they average out to be a modest title that is at least worthy of rental for most.


Games that are awarded two stars are below average titles. Good ideas may be present, but execution is poor and many issues hinder the experience.


Though functional, a game that receives this score has major issues. There are little to no redeeming qualities and should be avoided by nearly all players.


A game that gets this score is fundamentally broken and should be avoided by everyone.


 

Comments

Nick DiMola Director

12/14/2015 at 08:10 AM

I've enjoyed my time with Splatoon, but I do have 2 gripes:

1) Why is there no pointer support with the Wii Remote/Nunchuk? Seems like a serious oversight, since this would be infinitely better than the gyro controls on the GamePad.

2) Why do I need to basically quit the game to change my load out? After I see what my teammates have, I think I should at least be able to change my weapon. If my whole team has paint rollers and so do I, we're going to get trampled by the opposing team if they have a nice mix of weaponry.

I think both can be addressed easily, but I have my doubts about either changing. Regardless, I think that Nintendo's done a nice job with the game and they've really supported it well. I do feel like it was priced too high at release and those who've gotten in at $30-$40 hit the sweet spot.

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