Splatoon hits the Wii U - is it ink-redible or disap-painting?


Just a couple of weeks to go until E3 2015, where the news will flow like water and games journalists will huddle under the news-waterfall like that bit in Mad Max, holding up their word-buckets and hoping to get a taste of a sweet, sweet scoop. If you haven't seen Mad Max yet, that reference will be a bit lost on you. Also, what the hell is wrong with you? Go see it right this instant!

Splatoon reviews were the big topic of this week, coming in as mostly favourable and with the general consensus that Nintendo's Wii U shooter is cute, fun and different from the normal shoot-em-up fare - but that it lacks much outside of its central theme: inking up an arena.

It's a refreshing take on a genre that's almost entirely about hitting people until they cease to exist, thanks to its visual style (day-glo sport-punk, as I called it in my review for The Guardian) and its squid-nonsense music, as well as the general concept of replacing bullets with gorgeously animated, brightly-coloured ink.

I've spent a lot of time with the game, and the others aren't wrong - it IS a lot of fun, especially when you have a handle on how it all works; you start to develop your own tactics, and the shoot-swim-splat rhythm is unbelievably satisfying when you nail it. But the online co-op is far too idealistic to work - no voice chat, tedious lobby waits, no real matchmaking system (until ranked matches, which unlock at level 10) and a bare minimum of maps make the game run its course far quicker than it deserves to.

The problem here is that Nintendo is wading into unfamiliar waters, going up against genre veterans like Infinity Ward and Bungie who ironed out these types of mistakes long ago. Furthermore, when the solo mode has loads of cool, innovative doodads, such as sponges that turn into platforms when inked, and wires that you can squelch along in as a squid to access new places, it makes you wonder why the multiplayer mode (by far more exciting to play) is just a load of flat land. No doodads in sight. Boo.

Yet despite the drawbacks, the game still manages to be a tonne of fun, and will be even better when the August patch adds features like parties of friends. Will Splatoon sell Wii Us? That's undoubtedly what Nintendo wants, after lacklustre sales and being generally (and possibly unfairly) the butt of this console generation's jokes, but sometimes Splatoon feels like a rushed release with some gaping holes in its gameplay. A shame, because the innovation and creativity is as Nintendo as any game, but Super Mario Galaxy it ain't.

But hey, I know what you're really thinking. You're thinking, "ink, blah blah, guns, blah blah, is there any football on right now? I like football. Especially the bit where they make the grass all muddy. God, I hate grass." We're all thinking the same. And amidst all that football stuff that's normally going on, there's been a lot of FIFA drama taking place this week.

Yes, many FIFA officials have been put on the naughty bench, which is apparently not a real thing. But what's more exciting - and much less criminal - is the addition of female footballers in FIFA 16! Finally, we can actually appreciate the wonderful game of kickyball the way it's meant to be - with ladies being just as excellent as the overpaid haircut models we're used to. It's taken 22 years to get to this stage in the FIFA games, despite women having existed (so our research says) for at least a few decades.

The internet, as may be expected, has been mostly divided into two camps: the people who think it's cool, welcome and progressive, if a bit late, and the hotbed of rampant, idiotic misogyny. "Girls don't play football," they cry, because in their world, kicking a thing into a big hole is a male-only pursuit. "Every time a woman has ever attempted a sport, she has fallen pregnant by the mere presence of testosterone, and is unable to perform her sportly duties on account of having breasts, or something."

Four words: Pipe down, watch this.

Join us again next week, where I'll be speculating about whether or not the new Tony Hawk game will have hoverboards. It'll be fun.