Hands-On Preview: Splatoon – Bring the Paint

The Wii U’s library of titles has noticeably come under fire in the last several months, and while there are a number of quality titles already available on the system from Nintendo’s end (like the recently-released Mario Kart 8), and more to come (Super Smash Bros. for Wii U).

Alongside the usual stable of iconic series like Mario, Zelda, Pokemon, and the numerous pillars that Nintendo has relied on for decades, this year’s E3 showed that Nintendo is also looking to take a chance on some new IPs for both of its consoles, as Codename S.T.E.A.M., and now Splatoon, have both shown for 3DS and Wii U, respectively. Splatoon is a primarily multiplayer affair, and though it may not have the same sort of competitive edge that may grab the attention of Titanfall or Call of Duty players, it’s the sort of game that keenly shows the Wii U’s capabilities with plenty of great ideas, even if not necessarily all of them end up sticking.

Currently in development as a new first-party title from Nintendo, Splatoon forces two opposing sides of four players, each armed with colorful paint guns, that must race against a three-minute timer to spray as much of the arena with their respective color as they can in that time period. Adding to the colorful chaos are a number of rules and strategies that provide the gameplay with more added variables, rather than just a race to see how fast a player can spray: walls don’t count toward point totals, spraying farther allows for a wider radius of paint to be spread, and more.

With points added up based on the area covered in each team’s paint color, Splatoon is silly and simple fun, but well-designed with the Wii U in mind, and seems likely to light up many local multiplayer Wii U parties. Replacing the usual TPS arsenal of grenades, gun-mounted chainsaws, and machine guns are also a varied selection of weapons that make the paint-spraying chaos all the more engaging: limited ammunition weapons like the paint roller and bazooka let players let loose with paint more strategically, allowing them to cover larger areas that could make a huge different in a match.

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Splatoon fits right into the library of Wii U titles with its colorful, cheerful graphics and solid multiplayer offerings, with its only shortcoming being its slightly wonky controls that may be a bit of an adjustment to typical shooter players. Aiming a player’s paintgun is controlled between both the Wii U GamePad’s gyroscopic sensor and analog sticks: player movement is tied to the left stick, while vertical aiming is controller through the gyroscope, and horizontal aiming through the right stick. At first, the control layout was definitely a bit jarring, having to recalibrate my sense a bit by using both the analog sticks and GamePad to aim at the same time – a few matches in the adjustment was slightly more tolerable, but to call it intuitive is not ideal.

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Splatoon may not be the next Mario Kart or Super Smash Bros. to light up those late nights with the Wii U, but with a solid foundation of multiplayer fun and gameplay that is easy to jump into, it’s easy to see that grabbing your paintgun and splatting through a few rounds is fast, fun, and surprisingly competitive. It’s definitely a smaller effort, but in the midst of the console’s struggles since its release, it’s refreshing to see Splatoon bring some color to the Wii U library.

Splatoon releases for Wii U in 2015.

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