They did it. Nintendo has released a predominantly online multiplayer shooter. In a genre rotten with over the top smack talk and oft decried for gun violence, Nintendo seemingly managed to keep up their guise of family appropriate fun. But that we even find ourselves here with this game, with Splatoon, is staggering to say the least.

you have one job:  slather everything with your ink

you have one job: slather everything with ink

For the most part, Splatoon functions so wonderfully well because it isn’t a shooter the way you think about shooters. Sure, your stalwart squid brandishes one of a variety of armaments, and these can be used to dole out the harshness. But when jerks aren’t getting in your way the primary function of these tools is to get your exuberantly coloured ink all over the everything. Splatoon’s arsenal isn’t nearly as concerned with doing damage as it is with making a brilliantly colourful mess in the best way. The way Nintendo have framed the competition is pitch perfect and incredibly in step with their design philosophies, giving everyone a way to contribute meaningfully.

Turf. It isn’t just for gangs, golf courses or seafood restaurants anymore. Now it’ s also for children. Gangs of seafood themed children. The regular online mode Splatoon offers, called Turf War, is a breakneck contest to cover as much area of the map with their teams ink as possible. The teams are divided up with four to a side, and the match only lasts three minutes, the perfect length to keep things from degenerating into a tedious battle of attrition. The ink fueled frenzy has a frantic pace, various ink-themed items popping off all over the place. Ink blasters, oversized ink rollers, long range ink launchers and the inkzooka are just a few of the tools that you’ll be up against in the ink trenches.

Your weapon of choice, which ultimately equate to classes, is absolutely critical. They all function fairly differently with splatter guns being good all around ink dispensers and splatterers, while my trusty ink-roller is ideal at getting ink on the ground. The long range ink launchers are better suited to making a mess of the enemy. While the primary goal is always to get your ink onto as much area as possible, keeping the enemy team spawning at their base can be key to rallying and causing major game winning upsets.

When the matchmaking throws the teams together there isn’t nary a consideration for the composition of loadouts. Eight individuals are selected and jammed into a lobby together and assigned to a team by the game in short order. Interestingly enough, it never ends up with things being one sided or unfair. From teams comprised entirely of rollers to me rollin’ solo, victory and defeat often came down to clutch plays and skillful inking. Things are balanced so well that pretty much any composition of weapons can land you a win, with nary the feelings of not contributing due to using the improper weapon to be had.

This might be one of the ways in which Splatoon feels like the sort of multiplayer jam Nintendo would come up with. The way teams are formulated and even the clever weapon balancing means new players can feel like they’re making a difference, even against veteran splatterers. Squid kids level up and earn cash based on their performance per round. The amount of ground you splattered the map with is crunched and that number is given to you in experience and money. It didn’t take long to get my tentacles under me and begin to wrap my human brain around Splatoon. I haven’t been one for console shooters with a multiplayer focus since the couch bound days of Timesplitters 2 largely because of my own skill cap. But in Splatoon, even during matches when my team was being given a proper thrashing, there were many opportunities to completely turn the tide and steal the win. The matches where victory was narrowly snatched from the inky jaws of defeat were some of my most enjoyable online experiences in recent memory.

the orange in particular reminded me of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese commercials from the mid 90s where everything was made of cheese.

The orange in particular reminded me of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese commercials from the mid 90s in which everything was made of cheese.

The pace that Splatoon sets is fantastic. Running, jumping, gliding and splattering through the maps, there is an ever present need to remain in motion. There are several contributors to the frenetic speed, but the zippy squid form is one of the main ones. Assuming the form of the squid enables players to glide through the appropriately coloured ink on the ground and many walls. It also allows players to be crafty, concealing their position in the ink lest they zoom around and create an ink-wake. Swapping between forms is easily achieved with the press of the left shoulder button and it feels incredibly snappy and satisfying. The maps offer a straightforward enough design where it shouldn’t be hard for anyone to navigate them, but they’re easily deep enough to allow for some unique and dynamic strategies.

The simple premise and easily grasped mechanics lend themselves well to a game that offers no way to communicate with other inklings outside of Miiverse shenanigans. There’s no voice chat and the only sort of text chat baked into the game are two preset emotes: C’mon and Booyah. I never really found the lack of voice chat was a detriment to either my team’s ability or my overall enjoyment of Splatoon. It’s easy to see where you need to drop your ink and where you teammates have already been. The Wii U Game Pad further facilitates an experience without chat, being able to see where inkling buddies have been snuffed out and a real time overview of the entire map.

However much fun Splatoon is out of the box, it’s difficult to not see it as an incomplete package in some ways. Day one Splatoon only included five maps, rotated in couples on a routine basis. At the moment the only place to fiddle with loadouts is the hub world you get jammed into with other incredibly fake, but entirely real people before initiating the matchmaking. And once you’re in matchmaking, there’s nothing you can do except continue playing or drop back to the social space. Joining up with friends is a sort of obtuse process that relies on joining a friends who’s already in a game. But custom games and private lobby support are nowhere to be seen at launch. Up until a few days ago when ranked play was unlocked for players level 10 and above, the only option for modes was Turf War.

The single player will put your squiddly abilities to the test.

The single player portion will put your squidly abilities to the test.

I think Nintendo went about revealing all Splatoon has to offer properly. While it wasn’t on the disc proper, Nintendo instead put it out in a slightly different way than they ordinarily would. But then most of their releases are predominantly online focused or require a community to remain successful. By slowly trickling out content like maps, weapons and modes for Splatoon in the form of free updates, Nintendo ensures that players have ample time to experience and explore all of the new stuff thoroughly. And by keeping up a frequent update schedule Nintendo has positioned Splatoon to maintain freshness for some time.

Online multiplayer isn’t the only component to Splatoon and indeed there is a single player module, and it’s pretty darn good. The single player followed similar game design conventions exhibited by Super Mario games, where levels will introduce concepts and bring a unique feel and challenge to each stage with an intelligent progression. Essentially a gauntlet of challenges using the trusty splatter gun, the campaign presents bite sized, yet craftily crafted missions and boss encounters. They leverage the inkling abilities like maneuvering the squid form and using ink to overcome a variety of obstacles. There are even mock-multiplayer battles against AI bots. The final boss in particular was a real highlight and it would rank high on a personal “favourite bosses” list. Completing it nets some sweet gear, so it’s almost worth playing through it on those grounds alone.

The gear aspect of Splatoon is particularly interesting. It’s a bizarre mixture of Animal Crossing and Team Fortress 2 and I can see a lot of people really being into customizing their inkling to look rad. Along with the weapon loadouts, players can adorn their squid kids with various gear. Hats sold by an adorably anxious sea anemone and her surly clown fish compadre. Sick kicks (read: shoes) can be purchased from Crusty Sean, who I am not entirely convinced isn’t slathered in tempura batter, at Shrimp Kicks and a jellyfish with a nifty scarf will sell you shirts. Each piece has one to three stars with one star gear having fewer perks than three star duds. Perks range from reducing spawn times to helping negate the effect of walking in the enemies ink. The random nature of perks doesn’t always compliment the character customization aspect, but I’ve heard at level 20 players can reroll their favourite pieces to get a chance at different perks, so there’s that.

Nintendo totally delivered on what it tried to do with Splatoon, and the content on the disc is hugely engrossing, despite being sparse. One mode and five multiplayer maps should run their course in a matter of hours. But it’s Splatoon’s jubilant gameplay that carries it and adds freshness and levity to what should feel stale in short order. Between the breakneck speed at which the game is played, the robustness of the matchmaking suite and the simple fun of playing it make it difficult to put down.

Fred Durst hasn't been this relevant in years.

Fred Durst hasn’t been this relevant in years.

Almost more than anything else, Splatoon is a game for everyone. It’s the sort of game that pretty much anyone willing sit down with a Game Pad could play. Beyond just the premise and art being particularly inviting, the game is just fun to play. The aesthetic and vibe give me a strong feeling of Jet Grind Radio-lite with it’s over the top nature; even if you don’t like it, you got to admit Splatoon’s got style. A fun, positive vibe permeates all of Splatoon, the matches, the weird faux-online hub, the gear, characters, everything. I shudder to imagine the sort of curmudgeonly beast who doesn’t at least smile when they see Splatoon in front of them.

Splatoon might be the most Nintendo thing Nintendo has put out since debuting Pikmin on the GameCube. It’s proves they can still step outside of their usual comfort zone and come up with a bona fide amusing experience. Splatoon is also proof that creative experimentation within established genres can lead to exciting experiences. As it stands, I look forwards to all the content Splatoon has forthcoming and have absolutely zero reservations recommending this game to anyone who also happens to own a Wii U.

Splatoon Review
Like the other standouts of Nintendo's repertoire, Splatoon is a memorable experience.
  • This games got style!
  • great twist on the genre
  • accessible to everyone
  • there's not enough of the single player
8.5Overall Score
Reader Rating: (1 Vote)
9.5

About The Author

Evan T
Editorial/Reviews Writer

Evan is a super serious, real life production assistant, video editor, and current review and editorial writer for Gamer Assault Weekly. A failed knife salesman and former member of a prestigious World of Warcraft guild, renowned for his voice and childlike enthusiasm for video games. Has never broken a bone. Hates possums. Mumble-sings.