Fresh, Fun, Pure Nintendo – Splatoon Review

Fresh, Fun, Pure Nintendo – Splatoon Review

Nintendo isn’t exactly known for creating all new properties. Often relying on their classic cast of characters, Nintendo like to experiment with new games and genres, but always front their games with the likes of Mario and Link. Splatoon marks a break through moment for Nintendo, and indeed the Wii U, as their first completely original release in some time.

Splatoon is typically Nintendo in tone, yet a whole new adventure for the industry veterans. At it’s core, Splatoon is third-person shooter that tips the industry standard on it’s head. Only Nintendo could take a concept known for it’s focus on kills and turn it into a exercise of innocent fun. The real success of Splatoon is not what is, but what it does.

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The 4 v 4 team based action on offer is far from the expected standard fair. Teams battle it out to cover the map in their respective teams ink colours with various weapons and gadgets. While other games focus on racking up kills, Splatoon frolics around encouraging players indulge in the simple act of mass vandalism. Complete with a interactive player city hub, Splatoon feels extremely old school, but with all of the modern flare.

If there’s one thing that could have killed off Spaltoon early on it would be the controls. Motion controls still carry a stigma to theme, even more so when it’s a vital element to the gameplay. The way in which the Wii U’s motion controls are utilized is such a smart, subtle, and none-intrusive manner that it easy to forget they’re even there. Player directional movement is dictated with the Wii U pad’s analogue sticks, while the aiming is exclusively controlled via motion controls. Initially, aiming is fiddly, but quickly becomes second nature. The camera can be re-centered with a simple push of a button, a hugely important feature that oils the motion controls resulting in the whole scheme feeling like a genuine victory for the Wii U’s pad.

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Splatoon’s lack of class roles is a true deviation from the modern standard, but it’s a deviation that suits the game perfectly. Players, after creating their ‘kid’, can purchase clothing and weapons that affect how they play. The play style of each weapon is where Splatoon’s true depth can be found. The distinct difference between the tools on offer is what keeps each session feeling fresh, even more so with certain maps encouraging the use of mixture of weapons. They all have their trades off, they all have their advantages and counters, for a ‘kids’ game Splatoon has a true hidden depth.

Players can further customization their play style by purchasing items of clothing, all of which come with various perks. Each item is rated in terms of it’s quality on a four star scale. For every star the items posses, there’s a perk to unlock. The perks range from the likes of damage increases, speed boosts and reduced spawn times. Saving up the coin in order to buy both weapons and clothing forms the spine of the replay value. Battling through a number of games, earning the coins, buying the items, leveling the items, it’s a constant cycle that rewards.

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With a number of big budget ‘Triple A’ games trying to redefine online shooters, it’s bizarre that Nintendo’s first attempt is so simple, yet so successful. The primary goal of Splatoon is to cover each map in your teams coloured ink. This is achieved by spraying said ink all over the environment, or by ‘splatting’ opposition team members (it feels wrong to call them enemies). The ink it’s self is not merely a means to victory, it’s also a unique method of transport and strategic resource.

Splatoon’s main selling point is the way in which players can switch between a humanoid kid into a squid, allowing them to dive into the ink splattered around the environment. While it may sound like a cheesy gimmick, it’s actually a slick mechanic that opens up a tactical edge to player movement. It’s a genuinely smart feature that Splatoon makes perfect use of, enhancing the core gameplay tenfold. Firing ink up the wall, turning into a squid, and swimming up the wall to reach a advantage point produces undeniable giddy moments.

Splatoon-4Nintendo’s lack of experience with team based competitive shooters does show in places. The recently added ‘Ranked Mode’ features a game mode similar to King of the Hill in which player battle to control a point on the map. Some of the weapons and gadgets become far more useful than others, resulting in the game being all about who has the most rollers or sprinklers. Given players can’t change their loadout mid game, there’s a certain element of luck attached to Ranked mode that detracts from the sense of ‘free flowing’ fun. The mode it’s self is fair, but is inconsistent depending on the map it’s hosted on.

Splatoon’s most surprising feature is it’s short, but sweet, single player experience. Beneath the player city hub, the five single player zones can be found. Each zone offers a number of challenges along with a final boss battle. The challenges mostly consist of using the Squid/Ink mechanic in various clever fashions. It may only be a brief distraction, but the single player portion is genuinely enjoyable, even if it does result in a longing for more. By the time the single player comes to a close, new items are unlocked and fun time is had, it begs the question of what else could be achieved if Nintendo spent more time on the singe player aspect.

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All the hallmarks of Nintendo can be seen and heard in Splatoon’s visuals and soundtrack. The bright environments, the beautifully adorable character models, the oddly engaging music, it’s all typically Nintendo. The Wii U isn’t known for it’s power, but it’s more than capable of looking beautiful, and when the ink is flying, and the squids are leaping, it’s hard not to enjoy the visual splendor on display.

Nintendo’s bold has paid off, they’ve created a wonderfully solid game with plenty of room to grow. The staggered release of DLC is good idea, allowing players to come to terms with how Splatoon works and plays. The simple nature of Splatoon is what separates it from other games in the same space. The core gameplay elements, the impressive player ink/squid mechanic, the sheer joy on offer, it all result in Splatoon being such an appealing experience. The only true sour note is the fact the Amiibos unlock high end gear and more single player challenges, which is annoying given the current state of Amiibo availability. It’s not a huge problem, but it’s still a niggling annoyance.

 

Bold, bright, fresh, enjoyable, Splatoon proves you can teach a old dog new tricks.

 

8/10

 

 

 

Sean Halliday


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