As one of the more unexpected announcements from Nintendo at this year’s E3, Splatoon looked to be a unique take on the multiplayer third person shooter genre by mixing some of Nintendo’s dedication to making games fun in with a spin on standard third person arena shooter mechanics. Playing as one of 8 ‘inklings’ in teams of 4 (all with the ability to change from humanoid to squid forms), The main goal of each match is to cover more territory of the stage than your opponents by coating the floors with ink using your specially equipped ink-guns. Other than simply shooting ink at the floors and walls, you’re still able to directly shoot opponents you come across but, capturing as much territory as possible is more beneficial to the team effort. While this may sound straightforward at first, there are several features to allow for deeper game play strategies.
Controlling the Inklings is mostly what you’d expect from a third person shooter. You move with the left analog stick, and shoot with the triggers; however, in the default configuration, instead of looking solely with the right analog stick, it’s only used to look horizontally, and you’ll need to use the motion controls on the gamepad to look up and down to aim your ink-gun. This can be a bit finicky at first, but I found myself getting the hang of using both the right analog and gamepad gyroscope to look and aim after a couple matches. If this method of control isn’t your cup of tea, you have the option to change to both look axis being controlled solely by the right analog stick if that’s what you’d prefer.
So, you’re in a closed arena level, with each teams’ base on either side and several paths and routes going throughout. Managing where you encounter the opposition on the map will affect your ability to prevent them taking more of the available territory or taking over the area that you’ve already covered with your team’s colours.
It you’re unlucky and come across an opposing team member with good aim and an even faster trigger finger, you’ll find yourself ‘splattered’ by the opponent and end up back at your base, leaving the opposition to take over the area you may have been protecting.
Once respawned, you can instantly get back into the action by blasting off to the current location of any of your comrades on the field by simply tapping on the team member’s icon on the real time level map displayed on the gamepad screen (which is used to display an up to date overview of how much of the level is coveted in each team’s ink). This is one of the ways Splatoon emphasises the need to traverse the map as quickly as possible in order to aid your teammates and get to areas to control more territory. Another method you can use to get around is by turning into a squid and swimming through the ink that you and your team have laid on the level, which can be used to create a quick path from one area of the field to the other. strategically placing paths of ink on floors and ramps can let you get around quickly and also slows down the enemy if they attempt to run through your team’s ink.
Additional ink weaponry is also available for you to utilise in battle, such as an ink paint roller, which lets you place large tracks of paint on the ground to conver more territory, and a special ink cannon weapon which you can use for a few seconds once your team has covered a suitable amount of territory with ink. The ink cannon is especially useful if multiple enemies are nearby since it fires giant pillars of ink as fast as you can hit the trigger, which can easily clear out an enemy or two can claim the surrounding area for your side.
Simply running out into the field and shooting with no coordination won’t be of much use, so team work is a must if you actually want to have a good time while playing. At the press event, several press attendees (myself included) were set against the staff in a heated 4 v 4 match for fun (and bragging rights, of course). Right at the beginning, we began to devise our plan of attack, with one person hanging back at the base to protect and cover the surrounding area in ink and help build the meter to unlock the super weapon, one person forging ahead and laying an ink path through the level, and the remaining team members using the ink path to quickly catch up and also take care of controlling the available territory they encounter on the way. After two close matches, both sides claimed one win each resulting in a draw. It was great playing a team based game like this in the same room so that we could easily talk between ourselves about upcoming enemies spotted and heading towards team members, or what areas of the field we should focus on.
With a release date of sometime next year, we still have a while to wait until we can get into some full scale matches with the retail version of the game. Even though we’ve only seen a small part of what the game has to offer, we’re definitely looking forward to seeing more of it in the coming months.