Gaming

Published on June 26th, 2015 | by Dougie Wythe

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Splatoon – WiiU Review

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Splatoon feels very reminiscent of a 90’s Nickelodeon kids show

During the run up to E3 2014, the Nintendo rumor mill began churning out the typical suspicions of what the company had hiding up their sleeves. Who would be in the upcoming Super Smash Brothers, news on the estranged Shin Magami Tensei x Fire Emblem or perhaps the first glimpse on an upcoming Legend of Zelda. Whilst some sat smugly as predictions unfolded before our eyes, no one could have predicted Splatoon. A third person squid themed online multiplayer shooter by Nintendo. I don’t blame you if you had to double take that sentence. The description itself is baffling and it’s not until you see the game in action that things begin to make a bit more sense. The obvious question is how well has Nintendo fared entering into a previously under experienced realm? For their first real attempt at an online shooter, it’s brave and ambitious; but from my experience, they still have much to learn and improve upon if we were ever to see a sequel . Yet, this could very well be another Nintendo cult classic that survives in small groups and is remembered in the same vein as Battalion Wars or WarioWare.

Upon starting the game, you’ll instantly notice that Splatoon feels very reminiscent of a 90’s Nickelodeon kids show. The bright colours, aim of making a mess and upbeat tunes all send me back to being a young kid watching Saturday morning tv. For me, this definitely gives a point in its favor. Even the hub-world of Inkopolis feels like it’s a set piece for an amazing game show. The user generated graffiti littering the walls, music blaring from a local shop and fellow Inklings strutting their stuff or hanging out with each other as you make your way around; these all make it feel lived in and as if  the city’s always existed.

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So many style choices to show off to the world

The first usual course of action is to try out the single player and get a grasp on the game to see what it has to offer. Unfortunately, the single player campaign is short. So short, it’s almost not even worth considering when buying the game. You’re gonna be spending most of your hours in online battles and only an evening getting through the single player and forgetting it. The only reason to go back is for the ‘Sunken Scroll’ collectibles or for those who bought the Splatoon Amiibos and want to get that special locked gear. Instantly, this raises an issue for me; Splatoon is the first game that treats its Amiibos (set of three, each costing £20) as physical DLC. Sure you get a nice and well detailed statue, but they unlock cool gear that is unobtainable without the pieces of plastic. You may think that the gear is trivial, but it changes up the gameplay. More specifically, in competitive multiplayer, (the one area I don’t want it to change) giving some players a distinct edge because they could afford these figurines. Whilst you could pin this down to Nintendo exploring their new technology on their new IP, it still worries me and leads me to believe there’s something more insidious behind future Amiibo supported titles.

As for each level in the single player, it feels more like a proof of concept more than anything else. A different idea on display in each of the 20 levels, but none of the gimmicks translate into the core concept of the game: the multiplayer. I’ll give Splatoon credit, the challenges and obstacles offer interesting interactions within the levels, give you new ways to utilise the Inklings abilities; to think on your feet with the current obstacle at hand. Yet they remained contained within each level, never to see the light of day on the battlefield or collaborated into a final level. So, if the single player is to be brushed off as being ‘eh’, but what about the heart of the game? The core of the multiplayer experience is to make more of a mess than your opponent. The matches are short and usually action packed, making you coordinate with teammates to ensure your team’s ink is everywhere. It’s just a shame there’s no voice chat to actually co-ordinate with your team mates. I understand why, Nintendo’s strict anti-bullying and abuse stances, but it’s still a shame for a lack of co-operation in each match. As for the experience, it’s fun but shallow. Sure, there are more modes, maps and weapons to be released, but my personal experience died out very quickly and it failed to keep me captivated.

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A bright yellow tornado of death. Only in Splatoon.

Yes, the game is primarily competitive, but at the end of the day it’s light-hearted, silly and easy to grasp. With a distinct primary objective of covering ground rather than killing the opposing team, it separates itself from the normal crowd. It may not draw in the Battlefield or Halo scene because of this, but it scratches a certain itch previously unknown. Perhaps its over simplified nature is something that will draw in many, but it’s pushed me away. I wanted more in-depth strategy and complex maps that tested my abilities as a player to best the opposition, like in the aforementioned multiplayer games. Not have to pray that my team was half competent in the hope that we stand a chance of putting up a fight. Whilst I am hoping to see some professional Splatoon tournaments (I can dream), I doubt it’ll pull in the more serious shooter crowd from what I’ve experienced. This is reinforced by the style it has embedded deeply down to the bones. The character models, clothing and weapons are all simplistic and highly stylised. The ink is bright and bold, giving the soaked map a distinct POP after each battle and all together, this completes the look of the game. As a consequence it looks amazing on the Wii U. Chances are it’s going to hide its age in the upcoming years because of this.

Every day the selection of four maps is rotated alongside the stocked items at the shops. So the two turf war maps where you had to cover as much floor with your ink colour as possible, could then become a ‘Splat Zones’ map, forcing you to mix up your strategy for that particular map. Admittedly, this keeps every day fresh and mixes up the gameplay on familiar maps, keeping players coming back for different experiences. Yet, this also creates a problem that shouldn’t exist. It often leads to me getting bored of today’s selection of maps after a few games and I’m expected to wait until the next rotation to play something different and repeat the process. The truth is, I forget about it and move onto something that doesn’t hold me back with day to day content. This pads out the gameplay in the hope that you’ll keep coming back, but it’s not something I ever found myself doing. Instead it meant I’d play a few games a day and then just stop. Not because I was done, but because I wanted a different map and experience, but it just wasn’t there to meet my demands.

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Inkopolis lights up in all its glory during special events.

So we got a Nintendo game that heavily revolves around multiplayer. Yet, Splatoon falls short on a key component for me; there just isn’t enough for me to sink my teeth into to make me return for more. Sure Nintendo may be sporadically releasing new weapons and a handful of maps but there’s still a very limited amount of content, meaning I was quickly done with the game.  I’m a fan of competitive and co-operative multiplayer alike and this is something I was excited about but I wanted more. What was offered just doesn’t do enough for me. For as much as I love the concept, the music, the style and how it plays; I’m just not hooked or fanatic about it. I know a lot of people that truly love the game, but I just don’t. Perhaps it’ll go down as a cult classic, or just forgotten in the Nintendo archives of “we were trying something out.” Here’s to a solid first attempt from Nintendo, and let’s hope they run with this idea and improve it over the years.

Dougie Wythe
Dougie Wythe

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