Pub­lisher/de­vel­oper Nin­tendo (EAD) For­mat Wii U Re­lease Q1 2015


Spla­toon is what oc­curs when Nin­tendo be­lat­edly de­cides to move in on the most pop­u­lar, lu­cra­tive and rigidly tem­plated genre in games. Spla­toon is the on­line mul­ti­player shooter re­drawn on De Blob’s can­vas us­ing Su­per Mario Sun­shine’s FLUDD; it’s a game about paint­ing the town first and tar­gets sec­ond. There are no perks, no un­locks, no kill­streaks and no sniper ri­fles – just eight play­ers with a Su­per Soaker each and a tank of paint.

It’s a typ­i­cal side­step of genre con­ven­tions by a com­pany that prefers to de­fine them. There is lit­tle to Spla­toon that’s tra­di­tional, and it takes some get­ting used to. The right ana­logue stick, for in­stance, can only pan the cam­era left and right, with the gy­ro­scope used to aim. You jump with X, whose con­tem­po­raries Call Of Duty play­ers have spent the best part of a decade stab­bing to switch weapons. And it’s not the op­po­si­tion you’ll want to line up in your sights, but the space around them. Vic­tory is not about kills or cap­tures, but paint­ing more of the map than the op­po­si­tion. It’s easy to get dis­tracted: when a Nin­tendo staffer re­minds us that only paint on the ground counts, we’re too busy turn­ing a tree pink to care.

You’ll want to paint the walls, too. A squeeze of the left trig­ger trans­forms you into a squid, plung­ing you be­neath the painted sur­face, where you’re hid­den from en­emy forces. You move faster, and all the while you’re re­fill­ing your stock of paint. When a foe ap­pears at the end of a cor­ri­dor you can take them on, but you’re bet­ter off dip­ping be­low the sur­face and pop­ping up be­hind them.

The sin­gle map shown at E3 cen­tres on a square choke­point with raised plat­forms, and it’s no sur­prise to see games de­scend into hec­tic run­ning-and-gun­ning in the town square at first. Then you re­mem­ber what you’re here for, and head off to the side where you’ll find a gated cor­ri­dor, a flank­ing route to the en­emy spawn point. Still think­ing tra­di­tion­ally, we try to jump and man­tle over it. We press a nonex­is­tent ac­tion but­ton to see if it’ll open. Even­tu­ally, the penny drops. We squirt paint through the gate and onto the floor be­hind, trans­form into a squid, and pass through to the other side. Vic­tory beck­ons.

Spla­toon is both re­sound­ingly fa­mil­iar and thor­oughly dif­fer­ent, a quin­tes­sen­tial Nin­tendo game, but the last thing that any­one ex­pected. Share­hold­ers are for­ever sug­gest­ing Nin­tendo move into more lu­cra­tive gen­res and onto ri­val plat­forms, and while the lat­ter still seems fan­ci­ful, it’s clear the com­pany is lis­ten­ing. It’s just go­ing to do things its way.

It’s no tra­di­tional shooter, but there’s as much value in stick­ing to­gether here as in the likes of Bat­tle­field. When you die, you can su­per­jump straight from your base to a team­mate

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