But after spending some time in the Splatoon Global Testfire beta, I can confirm the playmates didn’t lie.
The beta, which is available in limited hours this weekend, was put into place equally for players to try their hand at Splatoon, and for Nintendo to test servers for the online component of the game.
Players first customize a boy or girl inkling, and after a short, but detailed tutorial introducing the game’s controls, the 4v4 mode of Turf War becomes available. In this mode, each team of four holds a particular color of ink, with the goal of covering more ground on the map with their ink than the other team. Jumping up walls, swimming through ink, and taking out other team members all come into play.
Four weapons were available to choose from: Splattershot Jr., Splattershot, Splat Roller, and Splat Charger. Splattershot and its junior counterpart both felt like beginner weapons that did a good job of covering sufficient ground, while also having the ability to bring down another player when you got close enough.
Splat Roller quickly became my favorite of the four, as it allows your inkling to easily cover ground the fastest, but also basically lets you plow any enemy you get near – which in turn may becomes its only real danger. This weapon is brilliant for a player like me who can’t aim in shooters to save his life, especially by having to do so via the Wii U gamepad.
The first few matches I got into took place in two different maps: Salt Spray Rig and Walleye Warehouse. By about the third game, I discovered the gameplay was much deeper than I had realized, which is something I originally was worried about when the game was first revealed. Will walking around squirting ink be the only thing to do? Luckily, this is no longer a concern.
Looking down at the Wii U gamepad shows a helpful map displaying whose color is occupying what space, helping you know exactly where to head next. After being inked by an opposing team member, you are respawned on the other side of the map, which can be slightly annoying as you are typically surrounded by your own team’s color, forcing you to waste time traveling to an area to spread more of your ink. A quick jump feature by touch of the gamepad allows your inkling to quickly fly across the map back into the action, though not without the risk of landing right in an enemy’s path. Along with bombs and supercharged attacks, there’s more than just running and squirting here, and I couldn’t be happier.
One of my favorite parts of Splatoon turned out to be what differentiates it from other shooters the most: swimming. A quick touch of ZL, and your inkling dives into ink that allows it to dodge enemy attacks, climb walls, and most importantly, recharge its ink supply. I loved each and every chance to venture deeper into enemy territory and get close to an opposing team member, to successfully dodge their shot at me by diving into a pile of my own ink (which is a sentence I never thought I’d write).
The Splatoon beta did exactly what it should’ve done – it reeled me in and has me really excited to get to experience more of the game when it arrives May 29. So far, I’m loving the atmosphere the game provides through music and art, the unique aspects of gameplay created through its weapons and swimming tactics, and the various components that play into this particular mode. While Turf war may just be one of the modes included in the game, I’m dying to get a chance to spread my ink into all of the other ones when I have the full game in my hands.