Well, after weeks and weeks of being hyped up by Nintendo, it’s finally here. Splatoon is finally out for the Wii U, and with it, we finally get an answer to the question we’ve all been asking: “Are we a kid or are we a squid?” (The answer is a hearty “both!”)
Splatoon is fun, cute, and colorful, but I did find myself wondering as I forked over my money whether or not it was worth the $60. Let’s find out.
Story & Plot
The story mode of Splatoon is introduced when a suspicious-looking, old squid named Captain Cuttlefish pops out of a sewer and beckons the player over to him, telling them they have to follow him into Octo Valley, an underground facility built by the sworn nemesis of the Inklings, the Octarians. Literally none of that was a metaphor, that’s what happens.
So if you applied your real life common sense into this situation, you would probably never follow the old barnacle down the sewer and you never would’ve gotten to play the story mode. Also, he probably would’ve been arrested. Luckily, this a video game, so logic and consequences don’t exist – so we follow Capt. Cuttlefish down and our adventure begins.
All in all, story mode is pretty fun. You jump (or squirm) from stage to stage, where the goal is to rescue the Zapfishes, used to power Inkopolis and previously stolen by the Octarians, using your ability to transform from a kid to a squid to a kid again. Your enemies shoot ink at you and you have to shoot your own back, making the world around you a bright and colorful canvas for you to destroy decorate.
Each new level introduces new ways to use your ink that lets you advance and is integrated well into the boss battles.
This game feels a lot like Super Mario Sunshine meets Paintball, or maybe what Super Mario Sunshine would’ve been like from the perspective of Baby Bowser, leaving all that goop around (Spoilers(?) for Super Mario Sunshine.)
Multiplayer, the way I see it, comes threefold in Splatoon. You have the Battle Dojo, which is a local 2-player vs. match where you have to shoot the most balloons while at the same time watching your back for your opponent. Then, you have Turf War, which allows you to connect with other online Inklings and combine into two teams with four players each, and the goal is to cover more of the map with your color ink than the opposing team.
All the fun of paintball without ever leaving the house.
These games are fun and competitive, there are fun power-ups that give you an advantage and give the game a Mario Kart-ish feel.
The Battle Dojo also makes good use out of the Wii U Game Pad, where the person uses that screen while their opponent uses the TV screen, making it really hard to screen look and making what weapon you use a secret from the other player.
Ranked battles are also another cool feature that was released a little bit after the game’s release. You get matched up with other online players and defend your turf from inky demise. After the match is over, you get a grade, and that grade determines who you’ll be teamed up with next.
Then there’s what may very well be the best feature of the game, which is the Plaza, an open-world type of format that allows players to show each other what they’ve posted on MiiVerse about the game. And it is good.
Memes. Memes as far as the eye can see and almost all of them are Spongebob references. Squidward is finally the star.
The best part is that sometimes, the game will post the MiiVerse posts randomly around the game as graffiti, so you could get to see squid puns at literally any time. Huzzah.
This game was definitely designed to be played on the Wii U Game Pad. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, its exclusive use on Story Mode allows players to keep track of potential enemies on the map on the screen while shooting at said enemies on the TV screen. This is sometimes a little hard to manage in a fast-paced game like this, but it’s not completely useless.
There are ways to level up and train your character, and there’s incentive to do so. At Level 4, you are able to start shopping at the store in the Plaza that allows you to customize your squid-kid with cool swag, and soon there will be an unlockable mode for Level 10 players and above so they can play cool multiplayer games online.
The controls are simple enough, one button to shoot your ink, another to transform into a squid, which allows you to fly under the radar in the ink for surprise attacks.
When you start up the game, the game will automatically give you hints about multiplayer, like what the best strategies are and other quirky things about the game through a news broadcast brought to you by the Squid Sisters, Callie and Marie (puns!), which is useful and presented to you in a cute way.
One complaint I do have about Splatoon’s gameplay is the finicky camera system. The camera’s angle is controlled by the Game Pad, and tilting it up and down will do the same to your perspective, which can be a little confusing when you’re the type of gamer that likes to move around when you’re playing. It gives you the option of using the Y button to reset your camera angle if it gets too wonky, but sometimes there are points when you feel like if the game allows you to reset the camera, it should do it itself.
Graphics & Audio
Visually, this game is beautiful. The worlds are colorful and bright and only become more so when you shoot ink and make it so. Your character changes colors randomly and periodically, so you don’t have to worry about looking at one color for too long.
The lines are clean and smooth and the movement of the characters make sense, the only shortcoming is the aforementioned camera system, which sometimes messes with your perspective and makes you lost.
The soundtrack to the game is bubbly and fun, which is important since there’s no voice-acting.
This game is fun to play, single- or multiplayer, but I think the multiplayer mode will be what attracts the most repeat offenders. The use of online match-ups keeps the game interesting and fun, and the promise of the new mode promises the possibility of new content such as maps and weapons as time goes on.
Game creator Hisahi Nogami said about the staggered stream of releasing their content, “We want users to enjoy each and every single piece of content we’ve prepared, so rather than provide a lot at once, we’re going to be adding them a little at a time.”
Definitely something to look forward to and a reason to keep coming back.
All in all, Splatoon is a really visually appealing, fun game. Fun to play by yourself, fun to play with friends, and the integration of the MiiVerse community makes it feel like you’re not really playing it alone even in Story Mode.
If you’re the type of person who loves a game where how competitive you are is up to you and loves to have a few friends over for some good, old fashioned multiplayer fun, then you should definitely give this game a try.
But I must admit, this game does feel a lot like paintball. The abilities the player has as a squid-kid does give it an interesting angle in terms of hiding and ambushing, but the blockades you can hide behind and things like that just make it feel a lot like a paintball game with some cool stuff mixed it.
Now all of that’s still fun, but $60 feels like just a little much for this game, considering you’re not getting all of the content at once and the game seems a little unfinished without those things added in. It’s a game with a simple concept so the idea of releasing new updates with new maps and weapons seems good on paper, but not so good when there’s so few maps at the game’s release.
Still, I’m excited for the new content that will be coming out and hope users can get the full experience Nogami wanted us to have.