Nintendo fans interested in some fun shooting action usually turned to the Metroid Prime series. However, when May rolls around, they'll have a more colorful alternative with Splatoon for the Wii U, a paint-soaked shooter that's sure to be a hit with both young players and first person enthusiasts.
The game is set up like a classic shooter, with teams of four battling each other in an enclosed arena. While obliterating opponents is a focal part of the game, there's a bigger objective in mind – to cover the stage with as much paint as possible.
This benefits the team in a couple of different ways. First, after the match ends, a judge tallies how much terrain was covered by the team's paint, whether it's on the floors or walls. Whoever has more of this area covered wins, despite the number of rivals they eliminated.
Second, and more importantly, having more paint splattered on a stage gives your soldier more room to move around. That's because they have the ability to transform into a squid, which not only lets them quickly get around a stage, but also refills their paint gun so they can get back to blasting. However, it only works on that team's specific paint color – once they run into their adversary's shade of paint, they'll transform back into a human and slow down.
There are a number of ways the area can be covered in paint. The traditional paint gun has several shots in it, which can be used to shoot areas both high and low. Once it's empty, transform into the squid and refill, and then go right back to work. In addition, the paint can also take out enemies, forcing them to start back at their respawn points.
Another effective technique is the paint bomb. Players will have access to just a few of these over the course of each turn, so it's best to use them wisely. That said, they're one of the more ingenious ways to cover a stage in paint. One hurl will turn an area into that color in a matter of seconds – and for good measure, take out any opponents in the area.
Finally, if a player levels up enough over the course of a match, they'll gain access to a bazooka paint gun. While only available for a limited amount of time, this thing is perfect for taking out large groups of opponents with a single shot, as well as covering walls with their chosen color. It's up to the player to figure out when to activate this ability, so it's best reserved for when they reach the middle of a map.
Other weapons will be available in the game as well, including a giant paint roller that allows you to bowl over enemies with ease, but it wasn't available in the build we tried. Look for more to be introduced in the months ahead.
The eight-person multiplayer is frantic but also a great deal of fun, as paint goes flying everywhere and players get judged on their performance at the end of the match, with their scores comparing with others. Nintendo already promised that Splatoon will receive ample online support on the Nintendo Network following the game’s launch, with up to eight players entering a match.
Splatoon's level design allows players to take advantage of different techniques. When in squid form, you can slip under walkways and bridges otherwise made inaccessible in human form by sliding underneath. This could allow a player to get the jump on his or her opponents, or reach a new area that needs to be covered in paint.
Team strategy plays a big part in Splatoon, as you don't want your squad to be too far behind. Fortunately, the game provides ample opportunity for different team tactics, as you'll learn new tricks in short order.
If you tackle the game solo, you'll be able to look forward to a campaign filled with nasty aliens covering the ground in as much paint as possible. We haven't had a chance to check out this part of the game, but as you can see from the trailer below, it looks promising.
Thus far, Splatoon provides a fresh take on what players have come to expect from shooters. We'll see where the paint flies when the game arrives for Wii U this May.