Roughly a week ago, Nintendo did what they called a “Global Test Fire” for their upcoming game Splatoon. They were three short hours that would allow gamers (who downloaded the demo and had the availability to do it) the chance to test out the game, its controls, and see what players thought. I was lucky enough to get onto one of those test fires, and after playing it I can happily say that Splatoon Rocks!
So here, I’m going to give you my personal take on how well Splatoon played, make some notes you may not have known, as well as reveal what could improve as time goes on.
Of Squids and Ink
Right from the get go, you realize that Splatoon is different. The splash screen (that they had for the test fire) is bright and has an Inkling covered with ink to show that this is going to get messy in the best way possible.
As soon as you started, you were able to make your own Inkling, much like in Pokemon (or the recent Fire Emblem). Players got to choose whether to be a boy or girl Inkling, then you are able to customize them. It was basic, but the intent was there, and as we found out via the Splatoon Direct, players will be able to customize the Inklings even more as you level up and gain currency.
But enough of that, onto the gameplay. After customizing your Inkling, you were allowed to choose which weapon you would have for the Test Fire. I chose the basic Shooter, a short range weapon that allows you to spray your immediate area with ink in short bursts. I’m always a fan of the basic weapons because when I win, I can say “I won with the most basic weapon!”
Anyway, the moment we entered the game it was on, and it was great how they introduced it all. Instead of going to multiplayer and having you learn on the fly, the Test Fire provided a short tutorial. This really helped, as it only took a few minutes, yet by the end I had a good knowledge of what I could or couldn’t do.
Finally, I was able to enter the online Turf War, and it was so much fun. As we were told, Turf Wars are simple matches where your team of four Inklings (you and three other players) try and cover as much of the area as you can in your color ink before time runs out. Simple, right? Well, Splatoon proved to me that it’s easier said than done.
I personally took a very tactical approach to this goal. While my other teammates rushed off to get the outlying areas, I stayed close to base and made sure I inked as much of it as I could, then slowly moved on. As I got further out though, the real war was on. I constantly had to keep my head on a swivel, as I needed to not only tag the area, but keep an eye out for enemy Inklings. They can come out of nowhere!
The pace at which these matches happen is near insane, but in the best way possible. Because of the Squid mechanic, where you can travel through your own colored ink as a squid, you’ll be able to traverse the area at your leisure, sneak up on people, then blast them when they’re not suspecting it. I was constantly bombarded by enemy Inklings, and at times my only escape (or at times their only escape) was through their Squid form. That simple mechanic honestly changed the game.
This brings me to the ink mechanic itself. You don’t have unlimited ink, and the only way to recharge is through swimming in your Squid form. It’s an interesting way to make players use their Squid form, but it never feels forced. In fact, if you’re smart, you’ll be able to tactically make use of it in a way that perfectly suits your strategy.
Another fun mechanic is the Hyper Jump, where after you die you can tag one of your teammates and immediately blast off to where they are to assist them in battle or help tag the area. Again, it’s the simplicity that makes this so much fun. You don’t need to use it, and at times you may not have to use it. However, if you do need to, you won’t have to worry about rushing across a battlefield, you can just tag and fly, Squid Style!
By the time the three minutes are you up, you’ll think it had only been one. I found myself at the end of every match quickly looking at the Gamepad screen to see if my team had won. Some of the matches were close, sometimes too close to call. Some were not, but that’s the nature of these things. Every time I couldn’t wait to go back in.
Sadly, my time came to an end, and it left me sad because I really wanted to do another round…and then another after that.
Notes and Improvements
One of the reasons I wanted to wait to do this was so that I could hear other peoples thoughts, and gain some more insight as I’m sure I missed some cool stuff or small details, as I’m sure others have as well.
For example, despite the premise, not everything in the arena is able to be inked. There are some walls, structures, and other things that won’t allow you to ink them. Why does this matter? Well, the quicker you realize what you can and can’t ink, the more you can focus on what you can. I had matches where a few percentage points of ink were the difference between winning and losing, and a few seconds not spraying non-inkable objects may just be the deciding factor.
Also, initially, you can move the camera by moving around the Gamepad via its Gyro Sensor. This can be distracting at times, and it can take a while to get used to. However, some gamers (who apparently actually went to the menu screen during the down time) found out you can turn off this function and go straight to the use of the analog sticks. This will no doubt make many a gamer grateful.
That camera movement was honestly my biggest thing in regards to improvements. A smaller thing I noticed was that I think the Inklings are a little slow on their own. Then again, they are faster in their Squid form, so maybe that was the point. However, there is no doubt the biggest “improvement” many gamers have noted that they wanted is the use of Voice Chat in the game.
Personally, I’m of two minds on this. On one hand, if you had a group of friends, friends you knew, had their Friend Code, and planned with them to be together so you could all battle on the same team, Voice Chat would be good for that. Because you know who you’re talking to, you can make a plan of attack while you wait, and then when the game is on, you can call out requests for help or attack. This is a good use of Voice Chat.
That said, to have Voice Chat automatically when playing with random people across the world? Not so much. For two reasons: One, you don’t know them, you don’t know what they’ll say, what they’ll do, or whether they’ll even listen to you. There’s no guarantee for that. Worse, and don’t think this doesn’t happen, there are a lot of foul-mouthed people out there. People who abuse Voice Chat and insult other gamers instead of just enjoying the game. Yes, the audience may be a little better since this is a Nintendo game, but competition is competition. And two, since we’re playing with people from all over the world, you may not know what they’re saying.
You might say, “You can just turn the Voice Chat off if you don’t want to hear them.” That’s true to an extent. Some people may not realize you can turn it off. Furthermore, if you do, and a teammate is trying to contact you in-game because they left it on, that will cause a lot of frustration. It’s honestly better to limit it to just friends then just give it out freely. There is less potential for disaster that way.
In the end though, I really enjoyed Splatoon. It’s fun, innovative, clever, beautiful, and not afraid to have fun. That Test Fire was just the beginning! I only got to play on a few of the many stages we’ll be able to access. We didn’t get to touch the single-player campaign, or begin to fully customize our gear and weapons.
Splatoon has plenty of potential, and based on what I saw and played? It’s living up to it big time. The game launches for the Nintendo Wii U on May 28.