Splatoon improves every aspect of the arena shooter genre by changing the way you move, shoot, and win. I probably shouldn’t lead with what is effectively the summation of my review but I feel it’s important to understand from the outset that Splatoon isn’t just Team Fortress with ink.
Let me do a quick breakdown. You have various weapons that shoot and/or splash ink. The ink from your weapon follows a logical trajectory, it’s not a bullet it’s ink. You can turn into a squid to move through the ink at higher speeds and with greater mobility than your non-squid form. There are various game modes that all boil down to controlling the map by covering it with your color of ink.
Killing (“splatting”) people isn’t the win/loss scenario in any mode. That’s what helps Splatoon stand out so much from the growing crowd of multiplayer arena shooters. Who cares if you die 13 times, did you help the team by protecting a beacon or firing off your special weapon at the opportune time? Then you feel accomplished. It’s hard not to come away from a winning round of Splatoon feeling like you weren’t part of a well oiled machine, even if you got rolled over by some Japanese 10 year old more times than not.
Besides just the excellent combat there are wearables you can buy that affect your stats in various ways but nothing game breaking. I was splatting people who were fully geared out in my first game of Turf War. It allows for you to customize your character without completely destroying the balance of a match. It also gives you something to spend money on and time on outside of the matches, which is nice.
There is a single player mode that mostly acts as a tutorial, it isn’t essential but some of the humor is chuckle worth and the boss fights are creative. You know what, scratch that, play through the single player just to experience the boss fights. The single player is also the best way to get yourself used to the gyro aiming used in Splatoon. Seriously, do this. The gyro is much more precise than the analog stick and if you want to be competitive (of course you do) then learn it’s intricacies.
Splatoon may not fit everyone’s definition of good times, but chances are it’s fast paced and constantly shifting battleground will keep you coming back until the next content update, which will undoubtedly add even more frenetic action and strategic inking.