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Probably the most surprising and unexpected offering from Nintendo at this year's E3 show features four on four online multiplayer in a wild paintball game against the other team and the clock. Also, everyone is a squid. Splatoon, developed and published by Nintendo in 2015, doesn't feature Mario or Luigi, Link or Zelda, Samus, Donkey Kong, or anyone from a previous IP. It is unique, it is fresh, and it is a squidload of fun.
Splatoon casts players in the role of Inklings, humanoids with the ability to transform into squids at will. As humans, Inklings have an array of artillery available to shoot their team's colored ink across the map in an attempt to control and maintain as much territory as possible. As squids, however, Inklings have the ability to reload their guns as well as swim through their own color at rapid speeds, going up walls and ramps. Both of these forms have their disadvantages though—swim into an opponent's color and Inklings not only slow down, they take damage. They also can't fire their weapons as squid; only as humans can they attack which also leaves them vulnerable to the opposing team's ink attacks. Strategy and communication between teammates comes into play more than the average Nintendo game.
The game relies on sensory overload. The pristine map, clean and free of ink, looks like a snapshot of urban art to begin with; after a minute of match play it looks like the “after” picture from the Super Sloppy Double Dare obstacle course. Splatoon also utilizes the Gamepad in unique ways, with gyroscopic functionality for aiming (in addition to the left analog stick) and touch functionality for a launch from spawn to a team mate in trouble.
Truth be told, Splatoon must be experienced. Tactics blend with silliness and the two breed competition, keenly noticeable as grown men strategized, swore, and cheered their victory over a bunch of paintballing cephalopods. Nintendo brought a slew of powerhouses this year to E3, but no one saw Splatoon coming and everyone should be on the lookout now.