Splatoon, a brand new IP from Nintendo designed for the Wii U, made a splat last week, putting a family-friendly spin on third-person shooter gameplay. Swapping out machine guns for paint blasters, players take aim and make their mark by drenching blank canvas arenas with vibrant trails, puddles, and splashes of neon ink.
Reminiscent of a toned-down, juvenile version of the Sega classic Jet Set Radio, Splatoon blasts players into a California-chill world of crazy color, empty skate parks, and abandoned warehouses. With three different modes of play, including an eight-player online battle, Splatoon features a psychedelic display of non-violent excitement for gamers young and old.
Players play as Inklings, which are customizable squid-human boy and girl characters that reside in the fish-out-of-water world of Inkopolis. Once players land in the main plaza, they get to choose between three gameplay options:
In this four-versus-four online gaming mode, players connect through the Wii U network to team up and cover the most surface area in their ink color. With such a simple concept, the gameplay is surprisingly engaging. Players can choose from seven weapons to start, each one with its own strengths and weaknesses, such as the Aerospray MG, which allows you to shoot a continuous stream of ink, but doesn’t have a great range. Once you’ve got your ink blaster ready to go, you’ve got three minutes to work with your teammates to drench as much of the arena in your ink as possible. If you run out, simply turn into a squid with a quick press of the left trigger button and swim in your own ink to replenish your colorful stores. Turning into a squid also allows you to move through the levels faster by swimming in your own ink, defying gravity and swimming up walls, and even making it past obstacles by swimming under gates and grates.
If you stumble upon a member of the opposing team, you can knock him out with an Ink Bomb or cover him with ink from your blaster. Rather than “dying,” the player simply turns into a puddle of ink and is brought back to the starting point of the game, resulting in harmless, non-violent fun for kids, despite the presence of a blaster.
Players can clearly see their ink-staining progress with the Gamepad, which shows a map of the ink-splashed arena, though you won’t know exactly how much turf you covered until the percentages are revealed at the end.
The three-minute heats allow for quick gameplay without much time investment. Though kids are playing online, there is no voice chat function, keeping them safe and secure.
And, in this game, style is everything. Fashion crimes are real, and you won’t get weapon upgrades without some cool threads. How do you make sure you are jelly fresh? Rack up some online playtime and level up. From hats to shoes to shirts, players can customize their looks completely, and these clothes do way more than just look good—they act as weapons of their own with special tricks for players to unlock.
Easily the most highly marketed play mode for Splatoon, Turf Wars has the same type of gameplay and excitement as more serious multiplayer online games without any of the excessive gore.
For person-to-person group play, the offline one-versus-one game mode is perfect for practicing your skills and testing out new gear with a buddy. One person plays on the Gamepad, while the other uses a Wii Motion Plus or Pro controller. Once players choose an arena, they have three minutes to pop as many balloons as they can by shooting them with ink. However, players also must cover as much ground as possible to move through the arena faster. During the last minute of play, balloon values double, so even if one player is far ahead up to this point, it’s still any squid’s game. If another player knocks you out with his or her ink or you wade in the opposing color for too long, you’ll lose credit for popped balloons.
Splatoon features a single-player mode that feels a bit like Mario Galaxy. Players move through different platform-based worlds, battling a different style of Octarian each time, in an effort to rescue the captured Zapfish, the power sources of Inkopolis. From ink-absorbing sponge-like creatures to giant Octarians who are all about that bass, each platform presents players with increasingly difficult puzzles and challenges to overcome. Each level ends with a three-hit boss battle, with which anyone who has ever played any Mario game will be familiar. If you are an experienced gamer, the hero campaign only takes about six hours to beat, but there’s tons of other content to keep things interesting.
Splatoon perfectly fits into the Nintendo universe of safe, non-violent content for kids that gamers can still geek out over. The creativity of this colorful new fantasy world has obvious staying power, with serious expansion potential in the form of DLCs, amiibo, and sequels. Completely unique and sincerely engaging, Splatoon offers third-person shooter gameplay of a whole new color.