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Review: Splatoon

In an industry filled with realistic and bloody shooters, Nintendo releases its own colorful shooter. Splatoon looks rather innocent but behind the cute look, houses a brilliant competitive shooter. It’s time to get dirty, Splatoon style!

Splatoon

Splatoon is a very important game for Nintendo since its one of the only big summer games on Wii U this year. This means the marketing team went crazy with marketing but it also means we got high expectations. The world could already get their first taste of Splatoon during the Global Testfire demo but now it’s time for the real game.

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Splatoon is about Inklinks, a combination of human and squid. These Inklings are very fashion-minded and want to be as cool as possible. Since they all got an obsession with paint, they decide to fight each other with colorful paint. The more you win, the ‘cooler’ you’ll be. It’s an original take on the shooter genre but is it any fun?

Painting on your own

Splatoon is created as a multiplayer game but that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun on your own. The game features a singleplayer mode where you need to defeat Octolings. These enemies stole the energy of the Inklings and it’s your task to take it back! The singleplayer isn’t that long, it will take around twenty-five levels to complete but it’s a great experience nevertheless.

The campaign is a combination of classic Mario platform action and an obstacle course. You’ll need to run and jump to reach the end. There’re a lot of checkpoints on the road so you’ll never lose a lot of progress if you fall down. Aside of precise jumping, the game also features some enemies. These are creatively designed and all look amazing. Different enemies also mean different strategies to take them down.

 

A great start for something new

 

In singleplayer you’ll also need to paint the ground and walls in order to proceed. Typical for Inkling is the ability to transform into a Squid. This Squid can swim in the paint and can climb on (painted) walls. Transforming between a Squid to advance and human to shoot is a very interesting mechanism and works like a charm.

Most fun of the singleplayer experience are the boss fights. After completing a certain amount of levels, you’ll have to face the boss. Although non are hard to defeat, they all are incredibly designed. Fighting these creative bosses is by far the most fun if you play on your own.

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Great multiplayer

The inclusion of the singleplayer is fun but the game is all about the multiplayer. You can see the singleplayer as a test run to get used to the mechanics and multiplayer as the true challenge. The big star of the online scene is the ‘Turf Wars’ mode. In this mode you play as four Inklings versus four other Inklings. The goal of the game is to color as much ground as possible. This means you don’t need to shoot as many enemies as possible, no, you need to cover as much ground as possible. This is a great new mechanic to ensure that even inexperienced gamers can still gain points in the matches.

All matches are intense, chaotic and fast. Turf Wars is played in around three minutes and that means you really need to step up your pace! Both your team and the other will move as fast as possible to cover as much ground as possible. When you run into an enemy, you can also take him/her down with a well-aimed shot. This combination of third person shooter and ground covering, works incredibly well. Since the matches are rather short, you’ll always want to do ‘one more’. This is the true power of Splatoon. Behind the cute looks you’ll find a very competitive and addictive third person shooter.

Level up

Splatoon also took some ideas from other successful shooters; the ability to gain experience points is the best example. After each round, you’ll gain experience to increase your level. The higher your level, the better your weapons and equipment. Not only can u change the way you look with new clothes, those clothes will also give you some small advantages. Clothing can also be leveled. It might sound like something you can ignore but it really isn’t. Getting new gear is crucial for better performance on the field.

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Aside of clothing you can also unlock and buy new weapons once you reach the required level. Most weapons are variations on the Sniper, Shotgun and Assault rifle but you also have more original ones such as a giant roller. Every weapon has its strengths and weaknesses and we must say the balance is just about right. A smaller weapon can always take down a better weapon, if used in the right way. Gaining experience isn’t that hard and happens at the right pace. It’s great to see that the developer really found the right balance in leveling and weapons. There’s no ‘super weapon’ that everybody uses. This also results in more variation in battles.

More modes and maps please

The only downside to the multiplayer is that there isn’t a lot to do… yet. Aside of the Turf Wars, you can only unlock one more mode called ‘Splat Zones’. This is the Splatoon version of ‘King of the Hill’. It works great but we’re hoping on more original modes as (free) DLC later on.

The local multiplayer could also have been a lot better. In this mode one player takes control over the GamePad while the other plays on the television, using a more classic controller. It’s a shame that local multiplayer doesn’t offer more than one versus one battles.

The lack of content can also be found in the playable maps. At this points, there just aren’t enough maps to keep things interesting. Sure, you’re not battling on the maps for long, but since it’s often the same one, you’ll get bored of seeing it rather fast. Nintendo already said we’ll get more maps and weapons in the future but we hope this will happen fast. Splatoon really needs more content to remain interesting for a long time to come.

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The controls

We would also like to point out that the controls in Splatoon aren’t traditional at all. You’re obligated to play the game with the GamePad and its gyro sensors. This means you’ll aim by moving your GamePad. This works in the singleplayer but not that much in the multiplayer. Since multiplayer matches are incredibly fast, you need fast controls. Aiming with the GamePad is a bit slow and even inaccurate at some points. Classic controller support is high on out whish list.

Don’t get us wrong; Nintendo did a great job on GamePad integration. The GamePad always shows a mini-map, so you always know who is winning and where you’ll find the action. The gyro sensors also work but aren’t always fast enough. If this bothers you too much, you’re able to switch those off and go for dual-stick controls. It’s not really how the game was created but it works great!

Gorgeous design 

To conclude we can say that Splatoon looks great on Wii U. The contrasting colors really splash off your screen. It’s a very colorful and bright game. It reminds us of a modern Jet Set Radio game mixed with urban skating. Everything about the design feels fresh and cool at the same time. The design of the Inklings, Octolings, weapons and maps truly is brilliant. You might spot some flaws in the design but all in all it’s easy to say that this is one of the best-looking Wii U games at the moment.

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Conclusion:

Sure, Splatoon isn’t as good as Mario Kart or Smash but as a first entry, in a hopefully new franchise, it’s very good. The basic gameplay is very fluent and innovating to keep you motivated while playing. It’s a shame the singleplayer experience isn’t as big or dramatic as we’re used to but it’s not bad. Multiplayer is great but needs some extra maps and weapons to really shine. We’re sure Nintendo will solve this problem with DLC in the near future. As for now, it’s safe to conclude that this could be the start of a fantastic new Nintendo franchise.

8/10

Got interested in games since I could read. Started with Nintendo but evolved into an all-round gamer. I love all kind of games; triple A games to Indie. If the vibe is right, I'll enjoy playing it.