By Sean Willis
Nintendo’s new Wii U game Splatoon certainly tries some new things, but even with all new things, is a multiplayer game about inking everything really going to hit the mark? I had a chance to try out the game during the Global Test Fire event they held earlier and managed to catch a full three hours of game play.
My first impressions and game play details after the jump.
During the Global Test Fire event held on May 9th this year to the public we were allotted only three one-hour sessions, but it was the first time the public could try the game out without hunting down an official demo booth somewhere. Nintendo offered a downloadable demo, however it was only playable when the servers were open. It wasn’t hard to get into a match at all, which had me surprised as I figured such a game would be bogged down to nothing. It’s no Pokemon (after all it is a new IP), but Nintendo fans have broken servers down in the past, especially during events. Before all that I was shot into a character creator…well, sorta as all I could pick was a gender and an eye color, lots of clones online for sure. Tutorial was pretty basic and I had to get use to the gyro controls.
In detail the controls are not your typical FPS controls, as the right stick only moved the camera slowly to the sides and the gyro scope motion control is used for the bulk of all aiming and looking around. Left stick controls your inkling’s (that’s what you play as, squid people or kids rather) movements forward, back and strafing left and right. ZR button fires the weapon to paint paintable surroundings, ZL lets you turn into a squid to swim in ink, X button is used for jumping, Y for camera reset (you need this a lot) and pushing in the Right Stick lets you use your special move, which the tutorial didn’t explain. While the controls might seem a bit odd they did work well once I got used to them and it wasn’t too hard to get accurate shots or quickly correct my aim with a gentle twitch if the right stick didn’t hold up. Some players might find it troublesome or tiring, however, so I hope the full version or future updates add more control options.
Only turf wars was playable during the event and more types are expected in the full version. Overall two teams of four are given a random team color and the goal of painting most of the walls and ground of the arena until time runs out. Attacking other players from the opposite team does not count into your score in anyway and is only used to stop them from painting your claim. This forces players to keep working on painting the most and get even the smallest percentage of area claimed before the time runs out. Makes it fair yet very frantic.
After the tutorial I was taken into the character select and weapon select. While the full version of the game should let you make your own custom setup, we did have enough to really get a feel for general combat styles. Starting with the point man Rambo style setup you get an UZI (or Splattershot Junior as its called), a timed bomb and a shield for the special move which makes the player invincible for a short while. This style was my favorite run and gun style, and it’s great for quickly painting small areas and fighting opponents providing you can get close enough. The shield special move used after a bar charges up from painting is quite useful for rushing even a group of opponents. Not quite over powered as it’s gone quick, but when you have someone trying to flatten you with a Splat Roller its a quick game changer until it wears off.
Splatter shot is a more standard longer range weapon but includes proximity grenades or, erm, ink balloons? These explode right away and can be good for taking out opponents quick. The gun is great on painting walls and overall a good balanced weapon for new players. The Special just gives you infinite proximity bombs which is great for crowd control but you can leave yourself open if you go nuts during the limited time you have to throw them.
Splat Charger was the lesser used weapon during the event, but maybe it was just hard to understand. It is pretty much the sniper rifle of the game, but instead of a single long distance shot it will instead paint the ground in a line, though still does a good bit of damage to other players. Very hard to paint with due to how slow it is but great for assisting team mates providing you can find some high ground. Timed bombs are given and the special move is exactly like the Splattershot gunner style, but instead timed bombs which allows the player to setup quick traps for an incoming crowd of opponents.
Splat Roller is pretty much just a giant paint roller and seemed to be the favorite of players during the event. Almost everyone was using them and many times I’d run into teams all equipped with one. I’ll admit they are fun as they cover the most area with ink but then do leave you open for gun fire. You can tap the fire button to throw and splatter pain about to defend yourself but essentially this is your tank style. The bomb given is like the timed bomb but can stick to walls and is the only real way you can paint walls with this setup. Special move is the loud speaker that blasts across the map and pretty much takes out everyone inside the blast zone, making it the strongest weapon in the game so far. It doesn’t do as much in the way of painting though mostly an offensive weapon.
While loading the map and waiting for players for my first match, there happened to be a little mini game with a squid on the Wii U pad I didn’t even notice at first. A rather nice touch while waiting for matches though the wait didn’t last long surprisingly. Thankfully my game progress was saved exactly where it left off, and was actually a fun squid style take at Doodle Jump style games. The overall gameplay can feel quite frantic and energetic as my team quickly painted everything in site, including our own base which seems to be an important first thing to do in a match, don’t wanna waste an inch of space. Combat wasn’t always easy to defend against but sticking with teammates really felt like it paid off, both in painting our surroundings and attacking opponents. Especially if you have a slower weapon as it’s nice to have back up.
The squid jump launching function not only gives you a good view of the map and sorta idea of the score, but can also be used at any time not just after re-spawning. This allows players to give up a little time to group up if you can anticipate your opponents ahead of time. Making what might feel like a one on one stand off end up changing without a moments notice. Forces players to consider their options as you can’t simply gang up on one player or even focus on a single player. Team weapons also don’t hurt so flinging bombs around is thankfully a safe venture. I still liked to hide from my own bombs, gamer habit.
I quickly found myself focused on covering each inch of the map to get even the slightest percentage to get a win, but the map could get quickly painted over again by the other team at the last minute if you aren’t careful. There might not be any communication minus two emotes, “C’Mon!” and “Booyah” which didn’t offer any tactical advantage whatsoever, but with the Wii U pad screen I didn’t feel the need for it and really didn’t miss out on any annoying player chatter. My friend playing during the event as well told me she didn’t mind this either with all the alternative communication systems we have outside of the Wii U; indeed, we used Skype to communicate the whole time. The game maps seem to be carefully balanced and symmetrical so communications don’t seem to be all too needed. Though it would certainly help when playing with friends just to coordinate strategies during the ever changing balance of the score. Playing online by yourself is doable, as we are given enough information on hand during matches so not really a big deal in the end I think.
Overall the gameplay is rather different, I haven’t seen too many games like this, especially in multiplayer. Painting the floor and walls has a rebellious feel like Jet Grind Radio but the team focus and quick matches give it a good competitive feel. Kinda like team matches in smash bros, you can always rely on your team mates to help you out if they aren’t busy. It is a good mix though I worry about it eventually getting old. I’ve heard they plan to keep updating and adding content in game modes and I hope maps too.
The charm is strong with this one and its hard to not feel excited with it, the bright clothing items, the bright colors all over the place, miiverse signs posted all over (this will likely have player posts appearing on them in the full game) and alternative music which seems to have singing from squids, or well, what I think squids sound like if they could sing. As far as multiplayer goes I had a lot of fun with this game, and I recommend giving it a try at the very least. For the price of a full $60 game though it can be a bit of an investment, so make sure you have a friend who gets a copy too as it is a lot more fun to play with someone you can actually talk to. If they priced it as a thirty dollar download I’d call it a must have for all Wii U owners. I just hope they can keep content coming and the player base doesn’t stay too small due to the higher price. Full single player campaign though but we’ll have to wait for the full version before I can try that.
As of this writing another Global Test Fire event is available on the 23rd tomorrow, and I plan to play again so be sure to download the demo and give it a run. They have time information on their site, so go check that out and get your squid painting team combat on. Least until the game is released at the end of May.