If I were to help paint a friend's house, but they insisted on following me around covering over my work with a different colour, I wouldn't be too amused. But as the premise for a game however, it's allowed Nintendo to tap into the online multiplayer shooter genre with aplomb.
The best mode of Splatoon sees players split into one of two teams of four who then spend the next three minutes battling it out to cover the platform and pathway crammed levels in more ink than their opponents. In addition to relentlessly splattering ink as hastily as possible, either onto a blank canvas or over the previous work of the opposition, it's possible to attack the enemy and slow down their efforts. It's frantic, occasionally infuriating, but ultimately great fun.
There’s also single player mode, which is good for training but a bit repetitive and unable to match the online play. A two-player mode allows for a battle with a friend in the room and there are plans to create the platform for private eight-player matches with invited friends.
But where Splatoon excels is in the online multiplayer mode with its addictive to-and-fro gameplay. Controlling the 'squids', players move around by running or dipping in and out of the ink that covers the levels. Swimming in the brightly coloured mess that you and your team have made allows for faster movement and a recharge of your weapon, as well as helping you hide from enemies and travel up walls. But try swimming in the ink of the opponents and movement is hampered.
When hit by the enemy you're sent back to the beginning after a slight delay that really halts your ink splattering efforts. When re-spawning you can also see where your team members are by looking at the GamePad screen, which also shows your team's progress, and opt to be transported to them. This however comes with a risk – do you get transported to them in an area where there’s a lot of enemy ink, knowing there might be an adversary or three to splatter you straight away? Or do you play it safe, starting in home territory before heading to opposition covered areas on the ground?
It really is one of those ‘just one more turn…’ titles from which it’s difficult to tear yourself away. With the review game meaning limited competition, I often found myself waiting for eight players to join for around fifteen minutes, and not even minding too much knowing the fun that would follow. In the age of 4G and limited attention spans this felt like a big feat.
The reliance on strangers to help you end up on the winning team can of course be frustrating – some will insist on following you into the same area, when it makes strategic sense to disperse and cover as much of the level as possible at first. But that’s also what makes the exclusion of voice chat a smart move – it’d undoubtedly be hilarious at points, but Inkopolis's family-friendly tone is absolutely part of its appeal.
The controls also take some getting used to, with movement of the GamePad directly changing the view on screen. But the mechanism comes with rewards that once mastered allow for the frantic gameplay that makes Splatoon such a winner.
Nintendo have been criticised in the past for leaning too much on Mario and Zelda and failing to bring new ideas to the platform, but this is very different from anything they’ve offered before, and a refreshing change from the heavy, and often dark, online shooters that dominate the market. With their game-changing creation of Wii Sports back in 2006, right back to Mario Kart in 1992, Nintendo have proved once again how incredibly fun they can be when they introduce a new competitive style to the mix. Like the best Nintendo games, Splatoon takes a simple idea (like paintballing without the pain, or Quasar that as an adult you don't look creepy joining in with), adds innovative features, an abundance of friendly colour and graphics, and turns it into something special.