The highly energetic nature to Splatoon’s gameplay is a welcomed uniqueness to the shooter genre. The bright colors to the characters and their paint-based attacks allows for a fun aesthetic to the game. Being able to use the paint not only as a weapon but for increased mobility adds a nice layer of strategy to get used to. This is slightly diminished by the extremely small level options and lackluster story. The gameplay alone is strong, very fast paced, and being able to swim around and unleash silly attacks is a good deal of fun.
Splatoon is Tokyo, Japan mixed with Nickelodeon cartoons, to end up with a vibe similar to Jet Set Radio. You play as an Inkling (some humanoid-squid-like person) that is armed with a paint gun as you run around this punk-rock world. Your goal is to coat the arenas you fight on with as much of your color as possible. Hitting enemies with this paint can hurt/stun/kill them and you have a great deal of different art-based weapons to choose from. Best of all is that you have the ability to turn into a fully fledged squid and swim through your color of the playfield. It is with these unique and silly features that make Splatoon memorable and standout as a shooter.
The online multiplayer will team you up with three others against another group of four as you coat as much of the arena in paint as you can. This offers a nice twist on the standard shooter formula. You can fight off the opponent with the usual weapons but your main goal is this territory control. Choosing whether to focus on diminishing their fire power while trying to take over unprotected areas is where the real, fun strategizing comes in to play. This is emphasized by the verticality of each level. Many areas will allow the walls to be painted in order for you to swim up to higher ground. Being able to move along your color on the floor, wall, through fences, etc. causes the game’s pace to be quite high and exciting. Finding the best vantage points and darting around the map both horizontally and vertically allow for an added deal of fun to your standard deathmatch.
A big part of any shooter is the equipment at your disposal and Splatoon meets this with its usual twist. Everything is paint-based but many of your standard guns are still present, such as a rocket launcher, sniper, machine gun, etc. Paint rollers specifically are a nice addition since they can take over a lot of territory very quickly and function as a close range weapon. Every character will also have a secondary bomb to use that vary in whether they attach to walls, stun the opponent, track movement, and more. Characters can also customize their appearance with different clothing to see more benefits to their health, movement, ammo, etc. There’s a good amount of depth to your loadouts and the paint related twists allow for some interesting concepts.
The multiplayer is the highpoint in this game but it does come with some annoying setbacks. The main issue is that you can only play two different stages each day. When starting up the game you will be forced - every single time - to go through some dialogue that explains which levels are available. These change each day but it’s not always both of them switching out. This means that if you play two days in a row you might only see three different stages. Even if you were lucky enough to play on four different stages that is still a low number of options. Playing in ranked battles (this option opens up when your multiplayer rank reaches ten) will open up an additional two stages each day but a lot of these will show up in the standard playlists that you already spent a while with. There isn’t a huge selection of online levels in the first place and this odd segregation of them makes it seem like the developers were trying to hide this fact. Even though the gameplay is fun, you will quickly run into some repetition with the arenas.
The other issue with the online is that you cannot host your own lobbies. Without being able to set up a room, you are unable to invite friends into the game with you. Your only option for playing with people you know is to join a selected friend’s game if they have already found a lobby and there’s room left. This is obviously not that easy and a big let down.
The short, three hour campaign is the other main mode here. These do a great job of teaching you how to traverse the world while being able to tackle different obstacles. The enemy designs are weird and diverse and the boss fights are a real treat. There is a story associated here but it is so loosely told that the campaign feels a little dry and almost like a series of challenge rooms. One interesting aspect is the overworld that you navigate in order to select the next level. Each world is set up like a jungle gym for you to jump around and explore in; literally searching for the next stage’s hidden entrance. I actually had a good deal of fun just scaling these structures while hunting. The campaign is a nice inclusion but is easily not the draw to Splatoon.
Splatoon is a really fun game that doesn’t have enough diversity in its best mode. The online multiplayer is where you will spend most of your time but having such a small number of level options is a huge let down. It makes up for this in the twists that the paint-based weapons provide. The color and overall aesthetic to the game is fun and silly and the gameplay’s pace matches this. This is a unique shooter that offers a change in how to strategize when playing the usual deathmatch. You will have a fun time with Splatoon if you can get past bit of repetition.