Were you lucky enough to get into the ink soaked action this weekend and play the Splatoon Global Testfire demo? It wouldn’t surprise me if you weren’t, because Nintendo didn’t give a huge warning on when it would be available, and for that matter depending on your current living situation you’re timeframe to play was only an hour long at at specific intervals. Assuming you did get to play, then hopefully you had a wonderful time like I did! Admittedly, I’ve been pumped for Splatoon since it was announced at last year’s E3, so the game had a lot to live up to in the short hour I had with it. Thankfully, Nintendo delivered.
Since the Testfire was just a demo, there were a few features that were accessible (or at least I think/hope they were): Only one game mode available called Turf War, four weapons were selectable, and at least two maps were present. Though limited, it was still a fun experience with the game that makes me want to see everything else the game has to and will offer!
Let’s start with the guns. There are four present in this demo: The Splattershot Jr. which is basically a pistol, the Splattershot which serves as the SMG, the Splat Roller which is essentially a giant paint roller good for smearing your team’s color on the field but nothing else, and the Splat Charger which is like the game’s sniper rifle. Each offers a completely different approach to gameplay, and not just in the traditional sense of defeating your opponent. The Splat Roller, for example, is a wonderful tool for coloring the course but lacks any offense, but I still found when I was in a game with no one using the Splat Roller we usually lost. Worth noting, each gun comes with a secondary attack like grenades or a limited shield which can be used after filling up a paint meter by attacking and splattering the course. They offer enough variety coupled with the guns to make each loadout feel like a different experience. All of them are really fun, but I actually never got the hang of the Splat Charger, which is funny to me because I generally gravitate toward any game’s sniper rifle but found this one to be a bit clunky and hard to get the hang of.
Speaking of difficulties, the game’s initial control setup requires you to move with the left analog stick on the Wii U Gamepad, turn with the right analog stick, and tilt the Gamepad itself to aim. Needless to say it’s not very intuitive for a shooter and took a hell of a long time getting used too. About 45 minutes into the 60 minute demo I found out you can actually turn this feature off (which I immediately did). After that the game felt more like a traditional twin stick shooter. I’m actually not sure if the game will support any other controllers at launch. There isn’t anything I can see that requires you to stick with the Gamepad, so one could possibly use the Wii Remote and Nunchuck combo or the Pro controller in the full release.
Regardless of your weaponry one thing is certain: teamwork is the key to victory. As you’re splattering ink all over the course eventually you’ll run out and have to recharge your gun by turning into a squid and swimming through your own team’s colored ink already shot on the battlefield. Having to do this every few seconds requires you to stick with your team for maximum offensive potential. For example, in one game I tailed behind a player using the Splattershot while I was using the Splat Roller: he cleaned house with his more offensively powerful gun and I literally rolled over the competition when he went down, all the while coloring the field for our own team’s victory! It was seamless and showcased how Splatoon will shine as a multiplayer game!
There’s been a big whoop-dee-doo about the game’s lack of voice chat, and while I think it’s an unnecessary omission, I didn’t experience any huge issue without being able to communicate to the team. It’s relatively easy to find a strategy and go with it. A quick look at the map on the Gamepad and you can clearly see where your teammates are as well as where the opponent has left the most paint. Likely, your team will be heading there. Personally I tried to team up with another player whenever I found them: it was easier to splat my enemies and much more fun to work as a team! Perhaps this issue will be more apparent in a different gamemode. In Turf War (the only game type available in the demo) we only had to cover the map in our color, which doesn’t really require planning with a team, but if there’s a Capture the Flag game type in the final release I could see the lack of communication being problematic. Time will tell.
One of the biggest surprise I had with Splatoon was the sound. Right from the start screen I loved the music. The main title is infectious! The catchy music extends to the main game, as the battle music for each stage is a mix of cheery fun and competitive ballads. It was frantic, fun, and memorable. There was a somewhat constant plop-plop-plop-plop noise coming from your gun constantly firing paint. Yeah, it can be annoying, but when paired with the cartoony visuals I found it very fitting. And the visuals are downright wonderful. Even when covered in paint, the maps and players of Splatoon look amazing. Nintendo has never been one to be shy about color, and seeing as this game is literally about color it should come as no surprise the game looks great.
I definitely had fun with the game, but there were some features missing that I really wanted to see. I knew there wouldn’t be any amiibo support in the demo, but I’m curious as to how these guys will work in the main game. And I also know this is a multiplayer game, but there are supposed to be single player missions as well, and I wonder how those will play out. Will they be AI controller multiplayer maps with specific mission goals, or will they be single player only missions of skill? The guns were varied and fun but I want to see more options. Out of everything I hope there are more guns in the full game. Beyond that, I hope they are just as fun to play around with as these four!
Splatoon is different than other shooters, and that’s what makes it fun. It feels fresh, even though you’re essentially doing the same thing you’ve done in the past decade or so of shooters. It’s like Gears of War, but with a Nintendo outfit. The genre is in desperate need of something new, and while I don’t think Splatoon will dethrone Call of Duty or Halo, it’ll give Nintendo consoles a shooter to proudly call their own.
My time with the Splatoon Global Testfire was well spent. I really felt like I got a lot of what the game will be about, and I really enjoyed what I had. I’m hoping the full game is just as impressive as the demo. With the intent of post-launch content and hopefully a strong online multiplayer following, Splatoon could really go a long way on the Wii U. Unfortunately it won’t support local multiplayer (MAJOR bummer!) so it’ll be pushed to the side for Mario Kart 8 and Smash when friends are over, but on those regular old nights I’ll be blasting my way through waves of Inklings and enjoying every minute of it!