squid, you need to do more with the ink.’ So we started think­ing you can hide in it, and when you’re mov­ing in­side it, you can swim faster. Then we thought of the fea­ture where if you step on en­emy ink, it traps your feet and you take dam­age. At the start, you couldn’t paint the walls, but we thought, ‘How about we can paint the walls? It will give more of the wet, vis­ceral feel­ing.’ We put that in, but then we re­alised, ‘Wait, you can paint it, but you can’t do any­thing with it, so that’s no good.’ So we added the abil­ity to climb up the walls when they’re inked.”

Ev­ery­thing has come back to ink. It’s the bind­ing agent be­tween the game’s dis­tinct per­son­al­i­ties. It is ammunition and it is win con­di­tion. It is move­ment medium, hid­ing place and trap. A lot of love has gone into the ink, and in its shim­mer­ing sur­face we see a world of pos­si­bil­i­ties for cre­ative play. Ex­panded movesets are a clear trend in mod­ern FPSes, but the in­ter­play be­tween squid and ink pulls map and char­ac­ter closer to­gether than in any shooter we’ve played. One mo­ment is etched in our mind: we’re hold­ing the cen­tral tower in the skatepark arena, a charge-shot sniper ri­fle in hand. Pop­ping one un­for­tu­nate as the team rushes our po­si­tion lets an­other ap­proach the base of the struc­ture unchecked. It won’t be long be­fore he springs up and an­ni­hi­lates us. Op­er­at­ing on sheer re­flex, we as­sume squid form and leap over his head, drop­ping seam­lessly into a pud­dle of our ink on the tower’s side, then in­stantly squirt up the build­ing to emerge be­hind our would-be at­tacker. It’s enough to push him off our perch, and sec­onds later he’s a pud­dle. Ink is cer­tainly far more than a gim­mick to ex­cuse a bright splash of colour on the box art.

In hind­sight, it seems so ob­vi­ous, but this is how you make waves in the most over­sub­scribed genre in gam­ing. Spla­toon’s Turf Wars still feel like they be­long in the same pool as Bat­tle­field, Call Of Duty and their peers, but which of those games al­lows you to still con­trib­ute with ev­ery shot you miss, cares as much about your weapon’s splat­ter pat­tern as its hit­ting power, or makes read­ing the ground akin to read­ing the flow of battle?

It’s in­tended to be friendly in a genre that’s of­ten any­thing but. Par­tially, that’s born of Amano’s own ex­pe­ri­ences on­line. “I like shoot­ing games and I would in­vite friends to come play with me,” he says. “But they’d start play­ing and they’d be like, ‘Oh, but it’s com­pli­cated; the con­trols are not very easy,’ and I found that I would soon be on my own again... I didn’t have fun all the time on­line ei­ther, and when I’d choose cer­tain match­mak­ing set­ups, I wouldn’t find any­one to play with. From time to time, I en­coun­tered th­ese frus­trat­ing mo­ments, so I wanted to come up with some­thing new, a dif­fer­ent genre, even though it’s sim­i­lar to an ex­ist­ing shooter… We wanted to make a shooter that was dif­fer­ent and could al­low peo­ple who aren’t so used to the tra­di­tional types of shoot­ers to come in.”

It seems very like Nin­tendo to make an arena shooter that’s not pri­mar­ily about shoot­ing men, where aim­ing skill is im­por­tant (and it is: slain enemies are not only not cov­er­ing ground while they respawn, but pop and spray ink of your colour where they once stood) and yet the green­est be­gin­ner can pitch in. It won’t be for the Arma crowd, but the great­est com­pli­ment we can pay Spla­toon is that has nailed that Nin­tendo feel. We’re re­minded of the vibe of lo­cal Mario Kart tus­sles as the staffer next to us swears pe­ri­od­i­cally un­der their breath when­ever they get splat­tered, dimly aware of their bosses watch­ing from half­way across the world, but not enough to be able to fully over­come the emo­tion of the mo­ment.

Su­per jump­ing is a risky way to join the fray. To avoid a quick death, you can start fir­ing just be­fore you touch down

Why test an on­line game in­ter­nally? “Just take this as a jokey re­sponse, but we didn’t want any­one stronger to ap­pear be­fore the game was re­leased,” Amano laughs

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