E3 2014: Hands-on: Splatoon

Wednesday, June 11th, 2014

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E3 2014: Splatoon Logo | oprainfall

Ladies and gentlemen: Splatoon. This is a game about little boys and girls who blast away the world (and each other) with paintball guns and can turn into squids at their leisure. …What?

It was something that came out of nowhere during Nintendo’s Digital Event during E3 2014. It’s an entirely new property on Wii U, it goes online, and it’s extremely competitive and addicting. Of course I wanted to see more.

This one doesn’t get my usual exposition. Every once and a while, Nintendo throws something at you you’ve never seen from them before. I’ll just go from start to finish, and that should answer that all-important How was it? question. Without further ado:

Nintendo’s setup for this game at E3 2014 was definitely suited to its multiplayer capabilities…which is, to say, that eight of us were playing on the same server via eight televisions. I was alone, but…my three teammates and I bonded for a little while.

The game began with a tutorial: pop the balloons with your paintball gun. Easy enough if you’ve ever played any kind of three-dimensional shooter. Whether it’s Fur Fighters or the original Metal Gear Solid–dual triggers make me happy. Move with one control-stick, focus upon precise aim with the other. Except the tutorial for Splatoon sacrificed the right-aiming trigger for…motion controls. Don’t worry…I switched the motion controls off as soon as I could, which was thankfully right as the battle began. It’s as simple as touching an icon on the Gamepad.

The controls, beyond the shooting I’ve already detailed, are simple and intuitive. Pressing down on the right analog stick when a certain gauge is full lets you perform a super-attack of sorts. Infinite shots that splatter across the screen like a shotgun shell versus the typical paintball blast. Definitely takes care of annoying foes in your way handily. You can dive under the paint you’ve splattered in front of you in squid form with a simple button push. Hide, refill your ink so you can go back to shooting stuff, climb walls (or go through them)–all with a simple button press. Also: you can lob paint grenades. They take up a lot of your ink (70% if I’m not mistaken), so it’s something you can only do sparingly–but still… Paint grenades.

And the final cool thing you can do in Splatoon regarding controls: the Gamepad is a map. You can jump to another player’s location (in or out of the fray) with a simple tap on the touch screen to where a teammate is. You’re sprung away from where you were instantly. Made for truly exciting combat, jumping to and fro on a whim.

E3 2014: Nintendo - Splatoon | oprainfall E3 2014: Nintendo - Splatoon | oprainfall
E3 2014: Nintendo - Splatoon | oprainfall E3 2014: Nintendo - Splatoon | oprainfall

The object of the game? It’s not a death match–it’s a turf war. Your goal is to shoot as much of the ground as possible to turn it all into the color of your team. The opposing team can shoot your paint…and you…to make things come down to the wire almost every single time as the two teams come together in a brutal fight to the finish. If the world is a canvas…man, this is the game to turn that canvas into a battlefield. There’s not much I can say about how our match(es) went, other than the fact that there was a genuine smile on my face the whole time. It’s kind of reminiscent of de Blob, but it’s got a way more competitive edge. I got far more enjoyment out of Splatoon than I thought I would. Being able to duck and cover (or cut off your foes by blasting paint on the ground when they try) is definitely a unique twist. There’s more than just that to make the experience special. I can’t wait to hear more.

Splatoon is coming to Nintendo Wii U in 2015. We’ll ink in more information as it comes.