Squids! Girls! No it’s not some weird Japanese anime. It’s Splatoon , Nintendo’s new take on a first person shooter. We got a chance to try this casual shooter at E3, and it’s a lot deeper than you might think.
There are two goals in Splatoon . First of all, you want to shoot the other team, just like any other shooter, but second of all, you also want to vomit your own color of ink all around the battlefield. This sounds a little odd, but actually it’s genius. You see, casual gamers generally have a hard time understanding the mechanics of a pro-level FPS. Usually all they do is spray and pray and they don’t get punished for it. However, since the goal is to spread your ink everywhere, spraying and praying is rewarded in Splatoon !
The key mechanic here is the ability to change between girls holding guns and squids. Squids can zoom along stages at high speeds, but only if they are swimming in their own color of ink. If you have absolutely saturated the walls and floors with ink, then you can get from one side of a map to the other in a matter of seconds. Squids can also hide underneath their own color of ink, lying in wait for other players to pass by.
However, Squids can’t really spread ink… which is kind of counter-intuitive. Instead, you have to turn into a girl and fire your rapid fire ink gun to do so. This means that you can easily ambush other players in squid form, if they don’t see you coming. Unfortunately, girls move very slowly, even through their own ink. So you’ll need to utilize your squid form to get into the think of battle quickly.
The elegance of these mechanics is shown when you encounter another team’s ink. You can’t swim through their ink or even walk through it. Encountering it at all slows you to a crawl, making you almost immobile. Of course, the right thing to do is to switch to girl mode and start firing in order to forge your way forward. However, it’s not nearly as simple as that.
You see, smart players can set up ambushes using areas where their ink ends and your ink begins. When a player comes up on the border, they will naturally try to switch to girl mode and start spreading their ink into your territory. However, you and your team can hide in squid mode at the border, popping up to rain down terror on your opponent as soon as they try to cross over. Of course, expecting this, a resourceful player will try to go around, spreading ink around the border from behind in order to catch the hiding squids helpless. Then again, if the opposing team expects that, they will use the lack of resistance at the border to push further into your territory. It’s this fantastic strategic tug of war that is way deeper than you would imagine for a casual FPS.
However, the game’s biggest strengths are also its biggest downfalls. Its biggest strength is that it’s simple and easy to get into. It appears as if there aren’t many guns. In fact the trailer showed only one, a rapid fire paint gun. You simply point and tilt the Wiimote to aim and pull the trigger to fire. You can also use the gamepad as well. Simple right?
Well yes, but unfortunately this also means the game might get stale quickly. The ONLY depth the game has is in its ink spreading mechanics. Granted, this means you can do a lot of cool things like climb up walls that you have inked yourself. But once you understand the map layout and learn a few new tricks, every confrontation is going to play out the same. Just point your reticle at the other guy and fire.
I think this game could be served well with a bit of weapon variety. Ink shotguns could be great up close and would be good at spreading inaccurate but wide patterns of ink. Ink sniper rifles would be horrible at spreading ink, but great at taking out enemies from long distances. Ink SMGs might be really bad at taking down opponents but can vomit ink faster than any other gun. Heck, I’d even like to see ink grenades that can ink a HUGE area at once but are easy to avoid. Imagine the depth this would give you, both in mobility and attack options. It doesn’t have to be as deep as Call of Duty , but some weapon variety would be nice. It would also be nice if we could control it using traditional dual analog sticks, rather than motion controls.
As it stands, Splatoon is a cute little squad shooter that, honestly, I would play quite a bit, especially with friends at a party setting. It’s innovative, fast paced and fun. I just worry that the novelty will wear off quickly, if this is all the game has to offer. Then again, it’s not likely to come out until 2015, so Nintendo has plenty of time to add to the game.