Splatoon: First Impressions

Splatoon: First Impressions

May 9, 2015 0 By Tim Finch

Splatoon Logo

Splatoon for the Wii U has been one of the most talked about games as of late. Nintendo has been one of the biggest drivers behind this, putting a lot of weight behind promoting the colorful shooter on Twitter and via Nintendo Direct. Given the recent news about Nintendo pulling in a profit for the first time in quite a while, I was a bit surprised to see them pushing a game like Splatoon so hard when staples like Super Smash Bros. and Mario Kart 8 (along with the amiibo craze) are the reasons why the Wii U has made a resurgence.

Sure, it’s not every day that you see a shooter that has a casual vibe about it, and Nintendo isn’t known historically for shooters. But perhaps the mass attention for Splatoon isn’t without reason. Many of the highest selling games and franchises in today’s gaming world are shooters, and while I’m not one to jump at the latest iteration of Call of Duty or Halo, the sales numbers cannot be ignored.

So on the surface Nintendo seems to be trying to nail down the “casual shooter” niche in a world where Titanfall and Destiny are the shooter norm. However, one of the keys to successful shooters these days in multiplayer, but already Splatoon has met with some scrutiny due to lack of voice chat during online sessions. Furthermore, local multiplayer appears to only support 1v1 play, which is a bit odd considering the fact that Mario Kart 8 can support 4-player races.

Splatoon Splat

Still, I’m not one to write off a game before I’ve even had a chance to see it in action. Thankfully, Nintendo allowed gamers just that with the Splatoon Global Testfire that took place this week, and I didn’t squander to opportunity to give it a try.

The premise of Splatoon‘s multiplayer is simple: cover the battlegrounds with your team’s colors all while preventing the opponents from covering the grounds with their colors. You’re given an array of weapons to use that range from paint-guns to giant rollers, and you’re also given some secondary weapons like grenades. But one of the neatest little tricks is the ability to swim though your paint as a squid. This not only allows you to travel faster, but to also reach areas that you normally couldn’t by jumping. It’s also the means through which you can replenish you’re depleted paint stores, adding a bit of strategy to the typical run-and-gun gameplay. Rather than seek cover to reload, you have to find an area with your colors and swim around until you’re locked and loaded.

While playing Splatoon, what struck me the most wasn’t the gameplay but rather the style. The bright, vibrant colors really draw you into the game. This shouldn’t be a surprise since the point of the game is to mark territory with colored paint, but it’s worth giving praise where it’s due in this case because I found myself being sucked in simply because of the style and artwork. If my opponents were blue, I locked into every bit the bright blue color and dashed my way there to take as much ground as I could. I found it refreshing that the main objective was the find colored grounds rather than a person to shoot.

That’s not to say that you’re completely safe when playing Splatoon. You can and should take down an opponent when given the chance. Stepping on and being hit by opposing colors does damage, and this is where the paint guns are most effective. I should know, because I mainly played with the giant roller which, while effective in covering larger areas in paint, were not as great as offensive weapons. I had my fair share of deaths at the hands of paint guns, as did my teammates when I was on a team with 3 rollers and 1 gunner. This was where the strategy of Splatoon showed; balancing a team with gunners and rollers is essential to victory. This may be a problem given the lack of voice chat with your team, but it’s too early to tell.

As for the gameplay, it took me some time to get used to the controls. This is mainly due to the motion sensor controls for where your player looks up or down. At times it seemed too sensitive, and at others it seemed not sensitive enough. Mostly, it led to me looking at my feet or at the sky when I didn’t expect it, causing a slight panic. However, it should be noted that this can be turned off for a more traditional shooter feel, therefore it shouldn’t be taken as a negative.

Apart from the motion sensor controls, everything else worked smooth. Shooting and moving your characters were a breeze, using secondary weapons was easy enough, and most of your actions are controlled by the sticks and the LZ/RZ buttons. The only oddity is that jumping is controlled by the X button rather than the more ergonomically-placed A button, but your fingers should adapt just like mine did.

Splatoon Platoon

Overall, I had fun with Splatoon during the Global Testfire. It was a great test drive, but it still remains to be seen if this can turn into a long-term success that people will enjoy for hours on end. Given the market that Nintendo seems to be targeting, I have reservations about the whole “casual shooter” vibe. I for one see the potential for this being more for hardcore shooters than casuals. Underneath the cartoon-y looks and upbeat grunge-style rock music lies a game that can chew you up and spit you out if you aren’t prepared or experienced. Perhaps this is a good thing for a game that many may think is too “kiddy” for them, but I don’t see many shooter fans taking the leap on Splatoon.

Personally, I don’t see myself dropping $60 on a game that is propped up by the multiplayer experience, especially if local is limited and voice chat is missing. I also suspect that the single-player mode will fall victim to the same trappings as other shooters (i.e. – short and unfulfilling), which is a big deal to people like me who like some solo action from time-to-time. Regardless of what I think, Nintendo is pushing Splatoon hard, and we’ll soon see if all the hype is real when it goes on sale May 29th.

So what are your thoughts on Splatoon? Do you think it’ll be a successful shooter that’ll keep the high times going for Nintendo? What were your takeaways from the Global Testfire? Let us know in the comments below.

[Images via Nintendo]