I was lucky enough to play Splatoon at the EB Expo this weekend, and even luckier to line up and play it again. And again. And a few more times. You make your own luck right? As an avid Mario Kart racer I still can’t answer that. Anyway, after 6 rounds I still wanted more but figured that was enough to get a good idea of the game, after all there were other games to try at the Splatoon Expo. The bottom line is it’s amazing, but this is the first paragraph so I’ll say a bit more.
There were 8 Wii U’s setup for Splatoon action, all somehow connected and ready to go for a 4 vs 4 battle. It started with a tutorial making sure you know how to aim by popping balloons, and using each command to simply get around. It didn’t matter if you passed the tutorial or not, it was set by a timer and everyone’s game automatically started at the same time. So if you weren’t paying attention, too bad. Alright, I’ll summarise them since I’m feeling nice. The following paragraph is dedicated to the one guy who rage-quit and walked away because he couldn’t figure out the controls.
You move with the left stick, and aiming can be done not just with the gyro and right stick, but both at the same time. ZR is shoot, R throws an ink grenade, ZL lets you dive into ink as a squid and the A button was jump. Y also centered the camera but I didn’t use it too much, with the right stick doing a good enough job for anyone who has controlled a camera before. The GamePad showed an aerial map of the entire level, dots where each player is, and was appropriately coloured to show where each teams ink had been layed down.
The goal was simply to spray as much of the level as we could with our own colour. This means there’s always something to do, and from the get-go siren every player exploded into action shooting all over the place. There’s a real intense sense of purpose at the start when the entire level is white and your ink guns are fully loaded. My body was truly ready to make a mess. While it’s easy to stand in your own base and cover everything, the game rewards aggression because you obviously gain twice as much by covering the other teams ink. This provides a good reason to learn the map and find some creative ways to advance faster. You can also kill each other which doesn’t give a huge amount of points, but definitely helps your graffiti ambitions when they have to respawn back at base and you get more spraying time to yourself.
With modern console shooters accepting stiff analog stick aiming as the norm, the movement in Splatoon is a breath of fresh ink. It’s liberating to not held back by tense, minute adjustments of the thumb and see the controllers tilt translate on the screen so swiftly. The GamePad’s gyro allows a natural precision that is very easy to pick up, not just for me but most people I saw playing it. Similar to Wind Waker HD, you can move the right stick for big sweeping movements, and refine your aim at a target with the gyro at lightning speed. The freedom of movement extends beyond the controls as you have two different ways of getting around. While running over some ink, pressing ZL will turn you into a squid and squid life has some pretty sweet benefits. It will increase your travel speed (normal running is a bit slow), fill up your ink meter, and allow you to slide under gates and access paths you normally couldn’t. If you love Super Mario Sunshine like me you’ve no doubt enjoyed the sensation of spraying water on the ground and sliding on it with Mario’s belly. I can excitedly confirm that has become a core gameplay element in Splatoon.
I’m already mega impressed with Splatoon but feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface of this pretty battlefield. The teams were randomised so the guy next to me was usually on the other team and we all just did our best to spray what we could without much strategy. I feel like this game will open up a new world of strategic communication and create a whole new level of multiplayer depth online, it’s an exciting prospect. I should also note the graphics are amazing, way better than I expected from screenshots. It has more of a dreamy Mario feel than you’d expect from an industrial battlefield, and with colours flying everywhere you barely have time to take it all in. Splatoon is definitely going to make a big splash and I can’t wait to play more.