To the casual observer, Splatoon might seem as if it’s just Call of Duty for kids. However, its cutesy graphics belie the depth of gameplay and range of game modes on offer here. Can Splatoon do for shooters what Mario Kart did for racing games?
There’s certainly a lot to keep you busy. After the token customisation of your Inkling, you’ll soon find yourself in Inkopolis’s Main Plaza. From here, it’s just a short stroll to any of the many options the game has waiting for you. Given the huge amount of attention the online multiplayer element has received, it’s no surprise that it’s lobby is found in Inkopolis Tower, the massive building directly in front of you. From here, you can choose to play online with friends, or instead dive into an online battle.
The main mode, Turf War, sees you placed in a team of 4, competing against another, with the aim of covering more of the randomly chosen arena with ink than your rivals. It’s a lot of fun, and requires a different mindset to what you might be used to in a more ‘mature’ deathmatch environment. The ability to stealthily maneuver unseen when submerged in your team’s ink offers an experience as satisfying as anything Call of Duty and co have to offer.
Based on you and your team’s performance, at the end of each round you’ll be awarded with points, which level your character up. You’ll also be awarded with some money, which you can exchange for improved weapons. As you’d expect, the more powerful weapons become available for purchase as you unlock higher levels. You only need to be at level four to take advantage of the many clothing outlets in Inkopolis though and, whilst these might seem incidental, they actually all come with ability upgrades, so you can purchase the garments that not only reflect your fashion style, but your gameplay style too.
If you prefer to look your adversary in the eyes, local player versus player is also available in the city’s Battle Dojo. Sadly, this isn’t the full four-versus-four experience of online which many had been hoping for, but it offers a more than acceptable alternative. You’ll be challenging a friend to see who can destroy the most balloons within the time limit. The one-on-one nature of the battle actually changes your gameplay significantly once again. Whilst you both want to get to the balloons first, ignore your approaching foe and you’ll soon be splatted, losing some of your hard earned points in the process. First is not always best here.
With so much to do competitively, it would be easy to forget that there’s a whole single player campaign here too. Comparable in length to those you might find in Battlefield and the like, you’re tasked with rescuing the Great Zapfish, kidnapped by the evil Octarians. Under the tutelage of Captain Cuttlefish, you’ll advance through the solo game’s 27 stages. Nintendo have managed to inject a fresh new gameplay element into virtually every single stage, be that new uses for your weapon, additional enemies to battle, or additional gameplay elements that force you to re-think your approach. What could so easily have been an unnecessary long tutorial for multiplayer actually becomes a satisfying experience in its own right, and the final boss battle is one of the best we’ve played in a long, long time. There’s no overlap between your progress online and in the solo mission so you won’t have access to those high-end weapons you picked up elsewhere. Instead, you can improve your weapons here by collecting orange orbs known as ‘Power Eggs’ and exchanging them for upgrades.
There’s more than enough to keep you busy and, with many more levels, battle modes and weapons promised in the near future, it’s a game you’re going to keep coming back to. And, in answer to our original question: Yes – This game has breathed life into a genre that has been at risk of stagnation for several years. And all done with that trademark Nintendo charm.