I know, you’re all still trying to process that title, but that’s really what the game’s all about, for the most part. You’re a humanoid Inkling and your job is to cover the floor of the arena with your coloured ink, all while taking out the enemies as they attempt to do the same thing.
The twist with all this pain splattering is that you can turn into a squid and dive into the ink of your colour with a tap of a shoulder button, recharging your supplies and hiding away from the enemies at the same time. You can use this to your advantage, painting and then climbing walls, swimming through a fence, or even jumping across the map to meet your friends.
Yes, friends. Splatoon is an online-only, 4 vs. 4 shooter with a distinct Nintendo style, which is apparent from the get go. There’s a case to be made for saying that motion controls have been shoehorned in, but they’re thankfully optional and actually work quite well in this case, replacing vertical aiming and allowing you to be more liberal with your ink splashing.
After all, that’s what it’s all about – you’ll want to cover as much of the land in your messy ink as possible. The walls and ramps don’t count, though; it’s all about the floorspace, and to win the game you and your team will want to cover the largest percentage of the ground in your respective colour. Colour combinations include purple vs green, orange vs blue and cyan vs pink, and in this build, team colours seemed to be randomised each game.
To cover the ground, you’ll have a few weapons and techniques. The first one is the most simple, and comes in the form of an automatic ink gun, which fires splats of ink anywhere within range. Then you’ve got an ink grenade and you will even be able to get an ink twister launcher once you’ve caused enough carnage, which heads off in a direction and leaves a large line of ink in its wake.
The weapons kill your enemies too, of course, but not in a particularly gruesome way. Death will cause them to explode into your coloured ink, with their little squid soul floating up into the heavens. It’s not purely about killing other players then, but that definitely helps in the territorial warfare, and if you die, you’ll be leaving the other team with an advantage. When you respawn, you can quickly tap a teammate on the Gamepad screen to fire yourself across the map to rejoin them.
It’s all very well balanced, even if there are only a couple of weapons available in this version of the game, but it’s definitely a promising start, and the squid mechanics definitely add a fresh, new layer to proceedings. It can be a tactical advantage, or simply a fast way to get around, as you dive from puddle to puddle, or pop out and catch an enemy unaware of your presence.
What the current build may lack in substance, it makes up for in style. Ink is colourful and shines brilliantly, while the character design – and even the transformations themselves – look sublime. Paint tornados and grenades are quite impressive, and the visuals seem spot-on for what the game is.
Splatoon is extremely satisfying to play, and manages to remove a lot of the rage associated with online shooters due to the style and the fact that no matter what you’re doing – even if you’re missing enemies when firing – you’re helping your team to win the fight. Other modes would be welcomed, as purely territorial warfare of this kind could become stale, but for this early showing, Splatoon is an extremely original take on a market saturated (or should that be desaturated?) by drab military shooters.