Review Price £38.95
Coming exclusively to Wii U
Splatoon release date: May 28
May 2015 Preview
If nothing else, Splatoon proves Nintendo’s ability to stamp its own mark on any genre, restyling the online shooter as a hyperkinetic, colour-splattering blaster that’s smart, accessible and – most of all – fun. We’ve been playing it on- and offline over the last few days, and it already looks set to be another must-have for the Wii U.
This is a four-on-four team-based shooter with a difference, that difference being that you play as a half-squid, half-human ‘Inkling’ and that, instead of trying to kill the opposition, you’re trying to splatter the map with brightly-coloured ink. Sure, you can score points by blasting members of the other team, but victory lies with the team that’s covered more of the map in viscous goo. Here, painting the town red (or orange, green, pink, yellow or blue) is the only way to make sure your team comes out on top.
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To make things more interesting, your inkling has two forms. As a squid, they can dive beneath the surface of your team’s coloured ink, recharge your ink levels and move at speed. As a human, you can wield your current weapon set and cover surfaces and enemies with ink. To begin with, you’ll start with a basic splatter-gun, but level up, earn some wonga, and you can buy more arms and equipment from the local dealer.
The main weapons range from splatter-gun variants with different rates of fire, splatter areas and damage values to charged sniper splatguns and rollers that paint wide stripes of ink across the floor, and can be used to squish unwary inklings. Each is accompanied by a different secondary weapon, usually a bomb, mine or grenade, plus a bonus heavy weapon you can activate once charged.
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The more time you put into Splatoon, the more you realise how important both aspects are. Squid-form is great for fast traversal, getting you from A to B quickly and safely, and enabling you to pull off fantastic strings of wall-runs, jumps and slides. Mesh surfaces can be swam right through while in squid form. I’m not kidding when I say that Splatoon has the best traversal since Titanfall.
Unless you spend time in squid form, submerged in the right coloured ink, you’ll run out of ink to spray around. However, human form is where the actual shooting (or "rollering") happens, and you need to splatter the paint, or rely on others doing so, to get around. Ink of the other colour halts, weakens and eventually kills you, so having a steady stream of ink to flow around in is a good idea.
From such simple mechanics, other things emerge. Splatoon is built for teamwork. One player with a roller can create paths for his squad-mates to follow, while splatters on vertical surfaces can help a friend reach higher ground. Explosive weapons and heavy weapons can cover large areas quickly, transforming matches in an instant and making it harder for your foe to move around.
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Splatoon is certainly accessible, even though the controls are actually more sophisticated than in some third-person shooters. While the Wii U Pad’s touchpad is used for menus and an in-game map, the pad’s motion controls are used to fine-tune aiming – something which takes a little getting used to. However, for all its simple rules and cutesy, colourful visuals, it’s surprisingly tactical. Play smart and as a team, control key points and don’t panic when you face an oncoming roller, and you have a greater chance of winning. Lone wolf it or get bogged down in battling, not splattering, and you’ll face more of an uphill struggle.
On top of online play – with normal and ranked battles – Splatoon throws in a simple two-player versus mode, with one player on the pad vs one on the TV, and a single-player campaign. At first, the latter looks set to be a disappointment; a glorified challenge mode pitching your inkling against a bunch of octopoid invaders. Give it time, however, and Nintendo starts adding new complexities, with the kind of jumps, moving platforms, transit wires and launch-pads you’d expect to see in a platform game, not a shooter. The enemy types grow more interesting too, requiring different strategies to get rid of them, while the boss battles show Nintendo’s characteristic flair. We haven’t played enough to work out if this is more than a side-dish to the online action, but we’ve enjoyed what we’ve seen so far.
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Now to the visuals. Nintendo got a lot of stick for the Wii U’s specification – dated even when the system launched – but Splatoon shows how little such things can matter. It’s clean, bright and beautifully lit, while the ink effects are out of this world. This is comfortably one of the best-looking games on the console.
We still have some concerns that can only be resolved with further play. We’re not 100% convinced that the weapons are evenly balanced, and the fact that it’s the more experienced players who get the best seems to give them an unnecessary edge. We’re also not sure whether there are enough maps and modes – or that the maps are different enough – to keep the action from growing repetitive long-term. There’s a risk that Splatoon could be a flash in the pan, albeit a fantastic flash while it lasts.
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Yet we suspect it’s not a massive risk. We still have plenty to explore, and Nintendo is promising more content during the summer after launch. Prepare to splat or be splattered is our advice: Splatoon looks set to be a winner.
In play, Splatoon feels as fresh and innovative as it did when it was first announced. Like so many Nintendo greats, what appears simple, family-friendly fare turns out to be smarter than you’d think, the different game mechanics building into something richer and more exciting. There’s a risk that it might lack long-term appeal, but right now Nintendo’s new IP is an ink-splattered superstar in the making.
E3 2014 Preview - June 2014
In the colourful, ink-splatted world of Splatoon, you play as a half-squid, half-human known as an Inkling. Both halves of the Inklings have unique advantages, but in order to succeed you’ll need to combine their powers.
Splatoon sees two teams of four compete for dominance of one map. You’ll need to splat ink using the human half’s ink gun on as much of the map’s floor as you possibly can. The more ground you can cover with your team’s ink colour the better, as when the time is up the team with the most map coverage wins.
If you spot an enemy team member, you can take them out by splatting them with your ink, gaining you and your team valuable points in the match.
This may sound easy enough, but your ink runs out and this is where the squid half comes in. By diving into ink pools as the squid you can refuel your ink gun and swim under gates and other low obstacles to access new areas of the map that need to be inked.
We found ourselves using the squid to swim through coloured pools and under the metal gates at the side of the map. By doing this, we not only topped up our fuel reserves, but came at the enemy from a less direct angle.
Bear in mind, though, that when you move around you can only step on your team’s coloured ink. Touching the enemies’ ink will rapidly decrease your health. So the idea is to block the opposing team into their base with your ink, meaning they are limited to one area of the map.
The controls are very simple and very easy to grasp, even when you’re thrown straight into a match. Inking up walls doesn’t contribute to your overall score, but it can give you a great place to hide as a squid and give you speedy access to the enemies’ base.
You can move around using the analogue sticks on the Wii U GamePad, but tilting the device lets you look around the map for enemies and new place deserving of your team’s ink.
What’s great is that the GamePad shows the map at all time, with coloured ink spreading across it in real time as both teams lay into it with their guns. If you happen to die, you can tap the location of one of your teammates to spawn right next to them and get straight back into battle.
One of our particular favourite features is the special move. Once charged, you can unleash a large ink blast to take out enemies in one shot, which is very handy if you happen to be overrun, or just simply to make sure the opposing team are confined to a small area.
Nintendo has the innate ability to make anything look colourful and charming, even without the graphical capabilities of its latest console rivals. Splatoon doesn’t disappoint.
You will have to work as a team, though. Finding yourself singled out makes you an incredibly easy target for the opposition and you’ll quickly realise that if you take on the enemies as a foursome, you’re a much more formidable force.
Plus, when you’re working as a team it’s much more fun to scatter the enemies and take them out, while splatting their home base to victory.
Nintendo’s new IP is a breath of fresh air for the struggling Wii U and should appeal to gamers of all ages. So far we’ve only had access to one, small map so far, we’d love to see how Splatoon’s ink translates to a larger terrain.
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