Note: The following review is SPOILER FREE!
For the past several years, Nintendo has been faulted by many gamers—not entirely unfairly—for stubbornly resisting change, refusing to have new IPs and for practically ignoring multiplayer in most of its games. Splatoon is Nintendo’s answer to those complaints, and for the most part, it works really well. But Splatoon’s multiplayer, while being a step in the right direction, isn’t perfect.
Who’s That Creepy Old Man?
Splatoon may have a multiplayer focus, but it is still a Nintendo game, so there is still a single-player campaign. Honestly, I wasn’t expecting much from the single-player, since originally the game wasn’t going to have it at all—which made it all the more surprising seeing how fun it was. The story is simple: you are Agent 3, and you are sent to fight the Octopi, the sworn enemy of the Inklings, who have stolen your power source: a giant fish. Most of the time, fighting the Octopi translates to 3D platforming, which gets surprisingly challenging as the game goes on. From time to time, you are also put on one of the multiplayer stages to fight against the Octopi themselves, which is a refreshing change of pace. But the true highlight of the single-player is the boss fights, which I can honestly say are some of my favorites in recent memory. Not only are they visually interesting, but they also are quite challenging. The last boss in particular has no less than five stages, and took me several tries to beat.
The gameplay of Splatoon is the defining feature of the game, and honestly makes some of the more irritating parts of the multiplayer more forgivable. In the main game mode, Turf War, your job is to cover as much of the map in your color ink as possible. Matches are tense and often difficult, but rarely overwhelming. The other game mode is the ranked matches, where the goal is to cover a specific area in your color ink for as long as possible. Unfortunately, that’s it. There are no other game modes at this time, and at release, only Turf War was available. There is 1v1 local multiplayer, but it leaves much to be desired. The local multiplayer has one player on the gamepad play against one player with a Wii remote using the TV, competing to see who can shoot down the most balloons. While serviceable, the local multiplayer pales in comparison to both the competitive multiplayer and the single-player, which is odd, since Nintendo stands as the uncontested champions of local multiplayer on consoles. In modern shooters, a mere two game modes in a game focused on competitive multiplayer is extremely limiting. Nintendo has claimed that it will be releasing free DLC in the form of more guns, maps and game modes in the coming months, so I can be more forgiving of this, but as it stands, Splatoon is in serious need of more content.
It is a testament to the fun of the core gameplay of Splatoon that even after playing the game for almost a month, I am still having fun with just two game modes. Splatoon also offers a fairly wide variety of weapons, that are generally well-balanced, depending on the map. Unfortunately, only two maps are available per game mode at any given time. This is made even worse by the lack of any private or custom game modes, which have become a standard in modern shooters. It seems that Nintendo’s years of ignoring multiplayer have had an effect, as Splatoon has the multiplayer style of a game that came out ten years ago, when multiplayer was a novel idea instead of a requirement.
Kid or Squid?
From a visual standpoint, Splatoon is filled to the brim with color, sometimes literally. Considering one of the core aspects of the game is to paint the map with your color ink, it should make sense that the colors pop out of the screen at every available opportunity. Nintendo has always had visually striking games, and this is no exception to that rule. The character design is on point as well, with clever and often funny character designs to fit the animal/human hybrids. My personal favorite character was based on a sea urchin, whose hair says it all. The game also has a fantastic soundtrack, with a very punk-chic vibe that had me humming the tunes hours after I was done playing. Splatoon has excellent sound design as well, with a wide variety of splatting and plopping sounds that add to the general ambiance.
Splatoon is a solid first entry for Nintendo into the competitive shooter genre, and is a ton of fun to play. While the game is somewhat lacking in content currently, it is forgivable since there is a huge amount of free DLC coming over the next several months, so players who haven’t picked it up yet might want to wait until they can have the full experience. The single-player campaign is also surprisingly entertaining, particularly the late-game boss fights. Overall, Splatoon lives up to the hype built around it as a new IP from Nintendo, and should only get better with time as more free content gets released.
Should ‘Splatoon’ get some ‘Smash Bros.’ love? Is the lack of content forgivable with free DLC? Tweet me @adam_mcconnell. And be sure to follow us @YouNerded.
*This review of Splatoon is based on a retail copy of the game played on a Wii U console.
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