Splatoon Preview

Ink-filled fun for the whole family.

Nintendo is often knocked for relying on the same stable of franchises year after year. We've seen far too many games starring its overall-clad plumber or iconic sword-wielding hero of Hyrule, and despite how awesome some of these games may be, the level of over-saturation is starting to get a little ridiculous. Nintendo fans have been asking for a new IP for years now, and now they're finally getting one in the form of a team-based third-person shooter called Splatoon

Bucking genre trends, Splatoon isn't your typical mutiplayer shooter. Instead of encouraging the player to rack up as many kills as possible, the game pits two teams of four against each other, with the end goal being to cover as much of the environment with ink as possible in the allotted time. 

You see, players aren't in control of just some run-of-the-mill human, as Splatoon is populated by painfully cute cartoon-like creations who have the ability to turn into a squid at will and dive into the puddles of ink splattered across the map. There's a catch, however, as players can only dive into ink that is the color of their respective team. Each group of four is clothed in a specific color, and the ink that spews from their projectile weapon is the very same color. Simple in concept, no?

Yet, while on the surface Splatoon may appear to be a kiddie shooter with mechanics that only run skin-deep, there is plenty of depth here for the most dedicated of gamers to enjoy. Ink can be sprayed on virtually every surface, allowing players to tactically travel beneath these neon puddles of goo and up large walls, beneath chain-link fences, and even across ramps to bridge large gaps. Believe me when I tell you that Splatoon may be easy to dive into, but it's difficult to master.

The Nintendo-exclusive shooter also makes use of the Wii U's tablet controller, albeit to a rather limited degree. Players can consult the GamePad's screen to see how much of the map is covered in ink, where their teammates are, and even elect to jump to a nearby ally by tapping on his/her respective icon. Those who also enjoy that added bit of tactile immersion can opt to aim using the controller's gyro sensor. That said, I (and the majority of those playing alongside me) all switched to the more traditional dual-analog option.

It's worth noting that there's only one confirmed mode for multiplayer, and it's limited exclusively to 4v4 matches. The game will support online, but when I asked one of the Nintendo reps whether or not it would support voice chat, I wasn't given a definitive answer one way or the other. Those looking to play solo will be pleased to know there's single-player mode as well; however, it wasn't playable at this particular event.

Splatoon is set to launch this May, exclusively for Wii U. While it may not rival competitive shooters like Call of Duty and Battlefield, it's shaping up to be an engaging multiplayer-minded experience that not only fills a glaring void in Nintendo's genre-limited library, but also brings a fresh new franchise into the mix. That reason alone should have fans of the Big N intrigued.

For more PAX East 2015 coverage…