Yeah, yeah, I understand Splatoon came out a week ago, but I got my paycheck today and I had amiibo to buy, so here I am, late to the party. If you have been playing Splatoon since launch day, than you probably already know what I have to say, but all the same, here are my impressions of Splatoon after splattering Inkopolis for a few hours.
I first started with the campaign, typical of what I do in games with online multiplayer, familiarize myself with the mechanics before attempting the competitive scene. I unfortunately found the campaign to be incredibly bland and not a ton of fun. The mechanics of Splatoon are simple, paint everything, so playing through roughly 30 levels of levels with small variation becomes incredibly repetitive and I have only made it to the second of five worlds. Nintendo is known for squeezing out every possible use of a mechanic, and they continue that pattern in Splatoon with the use of ideas like fan-powered platforms and mach battles with evil squid children. Nintendo’s ability to vary their level design helps the campaign, but, ultimately, it isn’t enough and I feel single player is lost on me.
I have only battled two bosses, but my suspicion is that Splatoon will suffer from the same issue that the ‘Super Mario 3D’ series does, that the bosses are largely similar, with only a few differences between them. So far, both bosses I have fought consist of scaling a tower-like beast to splatter a focal point with colorful ink located at the top of the boss. One of the bosses was a giant stamp that chased after my squid boy and the second was a pillar-like octopus that had points around it’s exterior that needed to be shot before you could ascend in progressively challenging ways. Nintendo has started a trend of giving their players the same boss battle 8 times in one game with small differences between them. To me, repeating the boss battles rather than giving players unique set pieces is lazy design and I hope they kick that bad habit soon.
The one thing Splatoon’s campaign does have going for itself are the journal entries findable in, from what I can tell, each level. If a player brings these entries to Sheldon in the weapon shop, he can craft new loadouts for the player to purchase and use in the multiplayer. Because you cannot customize your loadout, this means you could now use the Splattershot Jr. with the burst bombs instead of the splat bombs, for example. The premise is neat and I think a smart concept that Nintendo used to balance Splatoon’s metagame, but I feel restricted with my choices and the journal entries don’t loosen those restrictions or make me feel the power I want when splattering other players with the equipment I have chosen. The completionist in me wants to find all of the entries and thusly unlock all the different loadout combinations, and I likely will, but with the campaign being such a drag, I find myself dreading this monumental task rather than looking at it like an achievement I can take pride in.
Thankfully, the campaign is only a small part of the total package that is Splatoon. So small, in fact, that campaign levels are hidden below the plaza, while the multiplayer, the real meat of the game, is housed in a large tower prominently featured in the center of Inkopolis. Thankfully so, because Turf War, the main multiplayer mode, is an absolute blast. I originally thought that 3 minutes would be too short for matches, but it works perfectly. Every second feels important and possibly game changing, so there is no reason not to be trigger happy every moment you can. That has been the basis of my strategy and so far I feel like I’m doing well. The map designs are built to compliment the kid to squid to kid dynamic and traversal feels incredibly fluent. Sneaking up on an enemy as a squid and then splattering them as a kid followed by quickly undoing all the inking they had just done is satisfying in a way I have never felt before in an online multiplayer game. There is a real insult to injury dynamic at the root of multiplayer that makes every kill more satisfying while every death feels detrimental to your team’s cause.
For all that the multiplayer gets right in it’s gameplay, Nintendo is still new with online multiplayer in all of their games, and it shows in the matchmaking. I waited two and a half minutes to be put into a lobby, but considering that matches are only three minutes long, I was led to believe there is no prioritization of pre-game lobbies over a lobby in game. Instead, my hypothesis is when you start looking for a match, the servers assign you a lobby, no matter the state of play, and leave you with the consequences of the decision. Out of the roughly 5 matches I think I have played thus far, I only encountered this issue once, but I see that system becoming daunting real quick if my conjecture ends up being correct.
Oh, and the patch that allows me to breeze through the Squid Sisters’ news report can’t come soon enough.
Currently, I am split on Splatoon but I feel good about it, and am anxious to finish this article so I can dive into more multiplayer. You can expect a full review-like write up when I have made a decent amount of progress. Comment below with your thoughts on Splatoon and feel free to follow my messy journey on Twitter.