One of the most fun games I've ever played marred by stupid, stupid design choices
3rd June 2015
Splatoon is, quite possibly, the most Nintendo game Nintendo have ever made. It's a combination of both their best and their worst traits, and it all culminates in the most unique shooter that I have ever played.
Let's start with the good - as is the case with pretty much every Nintendo game, the core gameplay is fluid, polished, and most importantly, a hell of a lot of fun. There's something very satisfying about painting a skate park with an enormous paint roller and then squashing people who get in your way, and all of the weapons have their own benefits and quirks that make them worth trying out at least once. So many online shooters make it frustrating for new players because all the higher level players have the better weapons, but in Splatoon they're much more balanced, largely due to the variety of specials and subweapons each weapon has available. Even the starter weapon has some viability, so you don't feel unfairly punished by the game just for being new.
And once you're into it, by jove it is hard to stop! At 3 minutes, the Turf War matches are a perfect length to just dive in and have a quick couple of rounds, but then before you know it it's 1am and you have work the next day. The "Just one more go" factor is strong.
Miiverse is handled better in this game than any other to date. In addition to seeing murals people have drawn around the battle arenas, the plaza feels like what the Wii U menu plaza should be like - you can wander around and see what each individual character has posted, and when you "Yeah!" a post, it doesn't pause the game for 20 seconds as it sends it, it just does it in the background - like, you know, it logically should always do.
And then, Nintendo do what they always do - get pissed and haphazardly throw together an online system that decides whether or not it wants to work based on the position of Halley's Comet relative to Alpha Centurai and throws back randomly generated error codes that ultimately mean "Shit, something went wrong. Dunno what. Try again now, it'll work this time, we promise." If you're connected, the server tends to work fine, but on more than one occasion I've been disconnected with 10 seconds to go with around 800p to my name, and lost those valuable points. Salt doesn't even begin to describe it. There's also no voice chat, which I personally couldn't care less about - in fact I welcome not being sworn at by edgy 13-year-olds - but the edgy 13-year-olds on the Internet are up in arms about it. And it probably should be an option, at the very least, for a team-based shooter. And why do I have to quit out of the lobby to change which weapon I'm using? It's a minor detail but one that can be very frustrating when you don't like your weapon, but you do like the people you're playing with.
Even worse is the lack of a proper offline multiplayer mode. This is something that Nintendo normally do so well; so many parties have had Smash, Mario Kart, Wii Sports, Nintendoland and many more at their heart that it seems silly that Splatoon can't join their ranks. The Battle Dojo is disappointing, to say the least - but not as disappointing as the fact that this is the only time you can use the gamepad for Off-TV Play, which is one of my favourite Wii U features.
Almost every review has also focused on the lack of content, which is definitely an issue. The single player mode, while fun, feels like it was tacked on as an afterthought and plays second string to the online. Although Turf War is fun enough to keep the game going on its own, two modes and six stages aren't (and what's the deal with only being able to play two stages per mode at a time!?!? All I want is to be able to choose from ALL stages when I go into a match. Why not have the same voting system that MK8 has?) and it's easy to see why some people may find it difficult to justify the £35 price tag. It's also odd because nearly all this content was shown at E3 last year, so it makes you wonder what they've spent the last year doing - surely there weren't THAT many bugs to fix?
All those things said, though, Nintendo are listening. They've clearly got a plan to gradually release more modes and stages - perhaps to keep interest lasting as long as possible. Splatoon is an incredible game with a lot of appeal but Nintendo need to work hard if they want it to thrive as a community. Also, #inklingforsmash.