As I played “Splatoon” this weekend, I found myself yelling at the stupidity of my teammates. Why would they all teleport to me when it’s the rest of the map that needs attention? I sat in my chair, flustered, as the clock counted down and the map was covered with little of our team’s pink ink. We were going to lose, and I couldn’t stand it. Then, I wondered – why am I getting so worked up over something I didn’t even buy yet?
Nintendo gave the public a small taste of “Splatoon” this weekend with a global stress test – an online demo to test Nintendo’s servers for the game. Across the world, players got three hour-long chances to try out “Splatoon” on their personal Wii U’s. I managed to dedicate two sessions to the game, but I wish I had made the third.
“Splatoon” revealed itself as a very bright, colorful, and strategic game that could appeal to players of all ages. While the demo features little customization in the way of weapons (with only four load-outs available), it makes a welcome gesture by allowing the player to choose their gender, race and eye color. Customization will be more available when the game is released, but Nintendo has already shown that they’re serious about appealing to as many demographics as possible. “Splatoon” has been marketed heavily online, and it feels like Nintendo intends to make “Splatoon” one of its key pillars in propping up the Wii U user base.
When the demo is booted up, “Splatoon” makes the player go through a tutorial. Here, Nintendo chose to start off the player with the Wii U GamePad’s gyro sensor control scheme. The gyro sensor feels clumsy at first. I gave it a chance in multiplayer matches, and it revealed itself as a superior option to the dual-stick control scheme that most third-person shooters use. With it, the player can swivel the camera quickly and precisely, while the dual-stick option was relatively slow. I found myself going back to the dual-stick method because it was more comfortable, but I’m confident that players will pick up the gyro control scheme if they’re serious about winning.
The control scheme was very important for the game because of the number of movement options a player had during a match. Maneuvering between squid and human form is incredibly important in order to secure kills and navigate the map. At the same time, the player has to be able to control the camera. A common tactic is to go in to squid form, jump out and transform into a human, throw a grenade or shoot a player, and go back into squid form. It will be interesting to see, once the game is released, how precisely players will be able to switch between these forms.
The squid and human forms help inform the strategy of “Splatoon”, and specifically the Turf War mode. Instead of a death match-style game mode, the demo features a territorial control mode, where the objective is to have the most ink on the map by the time the 3-minute timer runs out. This mode encourages a player to move as fast as possible throughout the map, and the squid form does just that. The form also allows the player to move around stealthily – it’s difficult for opponents to see players in squid form, so the form presents an amazing option to get away from a firefight.
“Splatoon” also encourages fast movement through global teleportation. The game map is featured on the Wii U GamePad, and with it players can press another player’s icon to teleport to them at any point. This is a high-risk and high-reward maneuver, and it increases the strategic depth of “Splatoon” significantly. Players are completely vulnerable when they teleport, but teleportation helps secure key parts of the map if the team works together well.
If only the team could talk to each other, then they could work together well. Nintendo is eschewing voice chat in “Splatoon”, and I feel the game will suffer as a result. While I doubt other players would have enjoyed my expletive-ridden speech in the middle of a match, the option for voice chat is still an important one when it comes to online team games. “Splatoon” may suffer in replay-ability if strategy suffers as well.
“Splatoon” still maintained itself as an incredibly fun game throughout the stress test, despite its minor flaws. It’s not obvious if any weapons are imbalanced or not, though the highlight of my time was when I was on a team with four splat rollers that completely demolished the other team. It is obvious, however, that the two maps that were playable (Saltspray Rig and Walleye Warehouse), as well as the four weapons that were available, are all very solid and fun. I’m looking forward to the full release at the end of May.