Splatoon | Game Review

Nintendo gives shooters a family-friendly makeover with this colourful paintballing romp

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Publisher: Nintendo
Reviewed On: Nintendo Wii U
Cert: 3
Available On: Nintendo Wii U

As far as shooters go, Splatoon is not your average game. It's bright, it's colourful, and although the game is technically a shooter, there's not a gory scene in sight, making it family-friendly to boot. Because rather than being the run-of-the-mill war game, Splatoon is all about paintball, and although taking your opponents out is part of it, the game is actually more about gaining territory by painting your surroundings.

It doesn't sound like much, but Splatoon is actually great fun. The lack of guts and gore means it's suitable for a wider audience, and running around painting a skate park or a factory is more satisfying than it sounds.

Set in the city of Inkopolis, where hybrid squid/human creatures the Inklings are on the hunt for the Great Zap Fish, the source of the city’s power and suspected victim of the Octarians. Your job is to traack down the Zap Fish, battling the crafty Octarians as you go. You do this in human mode by firing paint at them, at moving objects, at almost any surface you see. Switching to squid mode allows you to swim through the ink, cover ground faster and refill your ink tank for the next battle. It’s also useful for evading enemies, turning virtually invisible and sneaking up on them before splatting them into oblivion.

The campaign treads the line between combat and platform, but the real draw is in Splatoon's multiplayer modes. You can practice in the Battle Dojo or take on friends in regular battles, but logging on to the online multiplayer and getting thrown into the action is the most satisfying option of the lot.


It’s four-on-four, and you have a choice of weapons, from splat guns to giant rollers that can cover ground quickly and effectively. It all depends on your  fighting style, with guns the weapon of choice for those who prefer a long-range battle, and rollers for a more up-close and personal combat style. I preferred the giant roller; there's something especially satisfying about splatting an escaping enemy.

During the battles, the game pad displays the map with the different ink markings, so you can see how your team is progressing. You can also see the location of your teammates, and if you have to respawn, you can get a boost to bring you directly to them.

Regular battles are just for fun though; when you’re serious about Splatoon, you try your hand at the Ranked Battle stages. You have to earn your place there, reaching rank 10 before you’re granted access. These battles are all about keeping specific territory, known as Splat Zones. Once you secure the zone by painting it with your colour, the timer starts to count down from 100. When your oppositions counters successfully and retakes the zone, your stops and theirs begins. The object is to get your timer to zero first.

The rewards for winning are great: more points towards advancing your player’s level, and some points to help you bump your ranking up from a C- to something a little more respectable. Those ranks are important: lose and you’ll find your rating takes a hit. It also determines your team mates, with ranked battles pulling in players with similar rankings to fight against and alongside each other.

This is where Splatoon stumbles a little. The absence of voice chat means that you are limited in terms of co-operation. You can call your team mates with a button press, which activates a garbled “To me” call, but that’s about it (your other voice option is a pat on the back). Voice chat would make it far easier to strategise and coordinate attacks.

Another negative is the lack of maps. You can only play two at a time for each of the battles, and you’re told which two are available to you. That can get a bit wearing, although it’s also a good way to find the strategic spots to launch attacks on your enemies that you may have missed first time out.

Overall, Splatoon is a mix of colourful charm and entertaining shoot-em-up fun. It's not without its flaws, but we love it all the same.

Ciara O'Brien

Ciara O'Brien

Ciara O'Brien is an Irish Times business and technology journalist