When Nintendo announced Splatoon, a third-person shooter for the Wii U, at their Digital Event during E3, I have to admit that I wasn’t really sure what to make of it. On the one hand, the gameplay trailer looked like all sorts of mayhem, but it also looked like something straight out of a Nickelodeon catalog. Fortunately, after getting my hands on it at Nintendo’s booth, I can honestly say that it’s surprisingly fun and potentially a sleeper hit for Nintendo.
Splatoon at its core is an ink-based shooter that features 4v4 matches, where the goal is to cover the map with as much of your team’s ink color before time runs out. The team that has essentially vandalized the map with their color wins. It’s kind of a funny premise if you think about it and it’s basically a turf war presented with a light-hearted design. There is a bit more depth however, than simply spraying paint all over the place. Strategy can get pretty complicated, as you also have the ability to submerge yourself into your own ink like a squid, and move around, jump and surprise your opponents. In one instance of the first round of our demo, I found myself a bit far from the action, but a quick submersion allowed me to crawl up walls and move at a faster pace, before I ultimately found members of the other team. What made it more satisfying was that another team member also popped out at the same time as me and we ambushed an unsuspecting player.
Outside of painting the town red, so to speak, you can defeat opponents by splattering them with ink, which takes them out of the match for a few moments before being able to respawn. You are also equipped with ink grenades and can use a power-up that gets you an ink launcher. What you have to keep in mind however, is that ultimately your win-loss record comes down to spraying ink all over the map, so those who get a little to trigger happy against opponents, will waste valuable time, as I found out on my first go-around.
During our two-round match, I realized just how hectic things could get as there were plenty of firefights and working as a team is key. When you run out of ink, you can dive into the ink as the squid and you’ll begin to refill your tank, so that adds another good reason for submerging yourself. As far as aiming you can use the GamePad’s gyroscope controls to look up and down (as well as aiming obviously), while the left analog stick is used for moving forward and backward and the right analog stick lets you look left and right. But there are multiple control options for those who prefer something more traditional.
The game supports local and online multiplayer though we don’t know if there will be any sort of online leaderboards to speak of or how the online lobbies or matchmaking will work.
Still I will say that after our two rounds, I wanted to keep playing. The game may look simple and kiddy, but it’s anything but. Splatoon is serious stuff and you’ll need to bring your A-game and strategies into play if you aim to be successful. Set for a 2015 release, we can’t wait to see and play more of this quirky shooter in the months to come.