The real sushi of Splatoon lies in its main online mode called Turf War, which is a 4v4 online battle mode where your main goal is to make a bigger mess than the other team, by taking control of a humanoid squid called a squidling and splattering ink all over the field. The goal of the game isn’t to shoot other players, but to instead, shoot the map. The team that covers the most ground by the end of a 3-minute match is declared the winner by a cat named Judd, who may even try to mess with you a bit. I’m not squiding! I love the way the ink looks as it spreads around the map. It has a very goopy texture to it, and it makes it all the more fun to make a mess.
As a squidling, you can transform from a human to a squid with the push of a button. As a squid, you may not be able to shoot ink, but you are able to move twice as fast in your own color ink, as well as swim up walls, and slip through tight squeezes. While shooting, and spreading ink around the map, it’s very easy to run out of ammunition. You constantly regain ink over time, but you regain ink much faster by swimming in it, as long as it’s yours. If you get caught in enemy ink you’ll be slowed down and become an easy target for enemy squids. The idea is to ink a path that you and your teammates can swim along and regain ink by dipping in and out of your own ink as you traverse across the map. Transforming from human to squid takes some getting used to, but it becomes second nature, not to mention it’s fun to boot!
While I have mostly been having a blast online, there are a few things that have really bogged down my experience. For starters, I have experienced several incidents of lag and server issues, which have booted teammates and I from several matches. While it isn’t a constant problem, it’s still a bummer, and seems to be an ongoing problem with first party Nintendo games. One major issue I have is the lack of voice chat while playing online. In a game that’s all about making split second decisions to cover the most turf, it’s nice to know where you and your teammates are so that you can cover the most ground. You can always look down at the gamepad and see where they are, but it would be nice to be able to talk to them without having to take my eyes off the screen and getting splatted by an enemy for doing so.
The game launched with five maps with only two maps being available at a time, which are switched out every four hours. The game also launched with only one online mode which seems like very little content for a full price game, although, Nintendo has announced that they will be launching free maps, weapons, and modes every couple weeks, leading up to a big update in August. Just a few days after launch, Nintendo has already added another weapon, map, and mode. While it’s great to get free content, it seems like everything they are releasing was already finished prior to the release of the game, and they are holding back content for the mere purpose of getting people to hold onto their game, instead of trading it in. If this is the case, I would have much rather gotten all the game’s content up front.
After playing each match online, your character will gain experience and level up and also earn some coins depending on how well you performed in a match. You can spend these coins on weapons and gear at several shops in Inkopolis, which is Splatoon’s main hub world. Weapons can be bought from a military crab named Sheldon who runs a shop called Ammo Knights. As you level up, more weapons become unlocked, and there are plenty of them. Splatoon has all the typical weapons you would see in your standard shooter, but they are all designed to look like squirt guns and ink brushes, which is a really cool concept. Each weapon is really well balanced, having an advantage and disadvantage over other weapons, and there are a ton of them to unlock, with each gun having multiple variants, with different sub weapons and special weapons attached to each primary weapon.
Besides the weapons, there are three types of gear that you can equip your character with, which include, hats, shirts, and shoes. Each of the three types of gear can be found separately at the three different clothing shops around Inkopolis, and the gear that you see in the shops changes daily, and is unique to each player. The higher the level you are, the higher class gear you will find in shops. Each piece of gear also comes with perks that add benefits such as making weapons more powerful, being able to swim faster, throwing sub weapons farther, and even some rare perks like becoming invisible in your own ink. The number of perks on a weapon depends on the rank of each piece of gear, but you can also add and re-roll perks, by trading a sea slug to a character named Spike in the alleyway after hitting level 20, creating even more opportunities for unique play styles.
Splatoon also included a few offline modes, such as Battle Dojo, and Hero mode. Battle Dojo is an offline 1v1 multiplayer mode, where you and a friend traverse the map and try to shoot as many balloons as possible. Hero mode is a single player story mode, where you are recruited as an agent by Cap’n Cuttlefish and are tasked with the mission to recover the Zapfish (Inkopolis’s main source of power), which have been stolen by the Octarian army. The story campaign is short, but meaty. There are 27 stages which each have their own creative mechanic and idea that are reminiscent of Super Mario Galaxy with the way levels are constructed and the way you blast off to reach different sections of the level. The main campaign is not only fun to play through, but also helps you come to better grips with the controls and character movement. The Octarian enemies are really well designed, and act in a really funny manner, which made me sometimes stop and chuckle. There are five bosses in the game, with the last one being one of the most creative bosses I have ever seen, and was surprisingly difficult to take down, which is a rare sight for a Nintendo game. There are also Sunken Sea Scrolls hidden in every level, which unravels the game’s back-story and lore. Surprisingly, some of the messages have very deep and philosophical thoughts that are something that I would have never imagined would have been apart of this game. You can tell the developers are very passionate people who put these messages there to make you stop and think. Even some of the hidden character lore is very surprising, and sometimes even sad, which drove me to find all the hidden scrolls to unearth the game’s back-story.
While Splatoon is some of the most fun I have had all year and my experience has been mostly a joyful one, I think it would be best to wait until August to pick this game up. By that time, it will be a completely different experience, adding all sorts of new weapons, maps and modes. Splatoon has been an Ink-redibly fun experience so far, and I can’t wait to see how the game evolves over time.
+ Adds a Fresh new coat of ink to a gritty genre
+ Turf War is Ink-redibly fun
+ Story mode kelped me coming back for more
+ Last boss isn’t squiding around.
– No voice chat
– Online problems
– Holding back content
Splatoon is a colorful shooter the whole family can enjoy, but a huge chunk of the game is still missing and won’t be available until August.
Jason Betthauser is the Senior Producer at The Game Bolt. He enjoys playing through classic games on cold, snowy, Minnesota days, especially if that game is Super Metroid. Follow him on Twitter.