“...it’s not really about shooting people at all.”
March 8, 2018 6:22 PM   Subscribe

Splatoon 2’s non-violent gameplay makes it a truly subversive shooter [Evening Standard] “Where the likes of Call of Duty and Battlefield bring gritty and visceral warfare to the gaming landscape, Nintendo has once again shown its mastery in giving a creative all-ages spin on an established genre. Splatoon keeps the addictive gameplay of third-person shooters intact — select a weapon, run around a map, aim accurately and pull the trigger — but gives it an eyeball-frazzlingly colourful overhaul and removes character conflict from the equation. Rather than bullets, Splatoon’s tools are filled with neon-hued inks, and instead of battling enemy players the multiplayer mode sees teams tasked with spraying as much of the game map as possible with their team colour. The characters aren’t soldiers either — they’re vaguely elfish childlike creatures called Inklings, who for some reason can turn into squids and swim through their own coloured ink.” [YouTube][Game Trailer]

• Why Splatoon 2 is the Perfect Online Shooter for Gamers That Don't Play Online Shooters [IGN]
“...I just haven't been enjoying online shooters like I used to. This is largely because I'm older and more anti-social now; I have less desire to talk to or even interact with strangers online while playing games, not that I've ever found much of what's said in online lobbies to be worth engaging in. Because of this, if I do ever feel the need to dabble, it tends to be in those shooters that are large in scale and with a high number of concurrent players, or at least something in which I can go lone wolf, leave the mic unplugged, but still contribute to an overall team effort. To this end, the Battlefields and Titanfalls of this world have been solid options for me, but even then, my online investment in such games has been fleeting at best. Splatoon then, as a smaller scale, team-focused game, seemed to check all the boxes that usually turn me off and, for that, I was happy to ignore it completely.”
• Splatoon is a multiplayer shooter for introverts and I love it [Eurogamer]
“But I am awful at shooters, put off by the aesthetics, terrified of the skills gap, and unable to quickly grasp the difference between this gun and that gun. Mostly though, it is the social aspect of online shooters I am unable to deal with. Even without voice chat, online shooters are games you can ruin for everyone around you simply by being terrible at them. You can upset things for your team-mates, and you can provide an insufficient challenge for your enemies. To play an online shooter has often, in my case, meant that I know I will be disappointing strangers - angry strangers who probably deserve better. And yet I'm alright at Splatoon. Not great, just alright, and being alright is enough for me, thanks. And the reason I'm alright at it, I suspect, is the reason why I hate the thought of disappointing angry strangers in other games: because I'm an introvert.”
• 'Splatoon 2' Is More of the Same Because 'Splatoon' Was Already Excellent [Waypoint]
“There's not enough appreciation for games that manage to thread the needle, finding a way to onboard the inexperienced, indoctrinating them to complicated concepts and intertwined mechanics, without falling prey to oversimplification. Splatoon 2, like Splatoon before it, is one of those games: an easily accessible shooter, yet one with an enormous amount of depth for those who seek it. It rewards different types of players. Are you a sharpshooter, capable of flicking an analog stick around with ease, and sniping someone across the way? You have a place. Then again, you have a place in most games. Are you someone who's more interested in supporting the team, knowing you'll be useless in a firefight? You have a place, too—just focus on soaking the world in as much ink as possible. (And chances are you'll end up finding a weapon that suits you, whatever your skill level.)”
• Splatoon 2 redeems the most clever online shooter series in years [Ars Technica]
“Splatoon 2 does a great job—better than its predecessor—at building a worthy single-player campaign out of a mostly multiplayer game. The same could be said about last year's Titanfall 2, and Nintendo may very well have noticed that game's stellar campaign, because S2 succeeds with a similar "movement shooter" series of missions. One of the original game's Squid Sister pop stars has gone missing, and you have to complete a bunch of short-and-sweet missions to connect power lines and figure out where she vanished to. The plot is paper-thin, but no matter. S2's campaign revolves primarily around the series' squid-transformation gimmick and offers new challenges and twists in nearly each of its 24 platforming levels. The game demands that players figure out every creative paint-and-swim challenge that they possibly can—even just in the "hub world," which forces players to solve puzzles just to find the danged levels—and the campaign pushes players' control limits with warp pads, rotating platforms, zip-rail races, cover-with-paint-to-reveal structures, and a ridiculous number of pesky, tricky-to-find hidden goodies.”
• Nintendo’s Splatoon is armed to the gills with aquatic whimsy and puns [A.V. Club]
“Nintendo made a game that is, ostensibly, about going online and shooting other players with guns—except, in the Nintendo tradition, it’s not really. Winning or losing has more to do with painting the town your own color of ink; “splatting” members of the opposing team out of existence only slows them down. The conventions of team-based warfare are maintained, but Splatoon injects enough whimsy to make everything feel fresh and accessible—a candy coating to make the bitter pill of combat easier to swallow. The arenas are joyous and fashioned after skate parks and shopping malls. The weapons are playful, resembling plastic water guns and comically oversized paintbrushes. Even scorekeeping is lighthearted. An overweight cat with fur shaded to resemble a bow tie and suspenders does all the tallying. Battles are frantic tugs-of-war, but at a brief three minutes each, they’re never overwhelming. Possibly the most delightful evolution in combat, though, is the way you traverse the battlefield. You can transform from your childlike human form to a squid, dive into the ink, and swim through your team’s color to skate across the arena at high speeds.”
• Ink Different: Splatoon 2 Is Great, But It's Not Exactly New [Wired]
“Repetition isn't entirely without merit in this case. Splatoon's brilliance is in its pedagogy, the way its multiplayer maps worm into your brain. In any multiplayer shooter, the stages in which you play are everything, and determine your experience and your performance; if you're cartographically minded enough to internalize these arenas, you'll be better prepared to respond to your enemies. It's so ingrained in the culture of shooters that we don't call them "levels" anymore, or "arenas." We call them maps, and you need to learn them if you want to be a part of the conversation. But Splatoon makes this learning process central to the in-game action. Competitive matches here aren't won by killing—or "splatting", as it's called—your enemies. Instead, they're won by covering the arena itself in ink; the team that covers more of the map wins. ”
posted by Fizz (32 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Ah, just in time for the announcement of a hefty single-player expansion for the summer, simply titled, Octo Expansion. Debate the ratio of kid to squid to octopi, style to the micro-sized underwater world, and post-apocalyptic lore. Part two has sold over 5 million all over the world and remains fairly frenzied in Japan. It's pretty good.
posted by chainlinkspiral at 6:28 PM on March 8 [2 favorites]

i agree Splatoon 2 is the perfect shooter for people who hate online shooters. i think, paradoxically, part of the reason is its poor matchmaking and unreliable networking. the outcome of a match is often completely unfair as people frequently get disconnected, which prevents anyone from taking it too seriously. it's inconvenient to group up with your friends, so you don't have gangs of shitheads going around griefing people. also, it's difficult and cumbersome to use voice chat, which is good.
posted by vogon_poet at 6:37 PM on March 8 [1 favorite]

Splatoon was always special and different, it just needed the proper platform. The Switch is truly the follow-on to the Wii and the Game Cube we've deserved, and while there are "adult" games like Bayonetta and Doom, the true attraction are the joyfull, gleeful games that Nintendo has made their stock in trade. Zelda, Mario, Mario Kart and now Splatoon and Smash Brothers, where everyone fights, but there's no viscera strewn about despite the amazing moves. Nintendo is at once more adult and more child-like than its competitors.
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:41 PM on March 8 [3 favorites]

Nintendo is at once more adult and more child-like than its competitors.

*deep inside Nintendo headquarters*

NIGHT CREW JANITORS: “So we have all this cardboard laying around...”
posted by Fizz at 6:45 PM on March 8 [4 favorites]

Also worth mentioning is the other non-violent (well, unless you count knocking out robot sentries as violent) shooter: Portal. And a lament that we're still waiting on a sequel. Valve? Hello? Anyone there? And while you're at it we need another Half-Life, kthanxbye.

Actually, Valve should really do a crossover: the Half-Life world in which one of the guns you get is a Portal gun. Portal anywhere you want! I can't be the only person to think of this, right? Valve? You people even awake??
posted by zardoz at 7:01 PM on March 8 [4 favorites]

Nintendo's support of Splatoon 2 has been pretty amazing. I wish I played it more... it's a game that feels best on a larger screen, but I never use my Switch in docked mode.

I just finished watching the most recent Nintendo Direct. It really is kind of crazy that Nintendo's products and even their marketing has this sense of enthusiasm and joy you just don't get from pretty much any other software publisher.
posted by selfnoise at 7:06 PM on March 8 [3 favorites]

There was a great mod for, I think, Quake 3, where you only had a rocket launcher, and the explosions had been modded to resemble bouquets of flowers, and the goal was to kick your opponent off the platforms that made up the maps. It was floral games king/queen of the hill. It's been almost 15 years ago, but I think it was designed by someone who wanted to play with their kids.

Hearsay, I know. I'd love to find it again, if only to see how much it matches my memory of it.
posted by kandinski at 7:17 PM on March 8

Also worth mentioning is the other non-violent (well, unless you count knocking out robot sentries as violent) shooter: Portal. And a lament that we're still waiting on a sequel.

Portal 2 came out 7 years ago...
posted by Sangermaine at 7:30 PM on March 8 [1 favorite]

There is probably something interesting hiding here about how humans process symbols.
posted by b1tr0t at 7:45 PM on March 8

Splatoon/Splatoon 2 has some incredibly detailed worldbuilding, which is pretty amazing when you consider this almost became a Mario title.

There's the whole Japan-but-not-really vibe mixed in with the skateboarding style and branding. it's incredibly cool. I still want a Takoroka T-shirt.
posted by JoeZydeco at 8:21 PM on March 8 [2 favorites]

Ah, just in time for the announcement of a hefty single-player expansion for the summer, simply titled, Octo Expansion.

With an unexpectedly heavy Matrix vibe, to boot.
posted by tobascodagama at 9:01 PM on March 8 [1 favorite]

Also notable, and timely given International Women's Day: your squidkid avatar can be male or female, but the mascot character is a cheeky squidgirl, which is unusual for mascot and player stand-in characters. They're overwhelmingly male. (Except in MMOs where they tend to be female, and usually poorly-dressed.)
posted by Merus at 9:06 PM on March 8 [3 favorites]

Portal 2 came out 7 years ago...

I know, I meant the next sequel. If anything should be a massive franchise, it should be these games.
posted by zardoz at 9:33 PM on March 8 [1 favorite]

Does Valve even make their own games anymore?
posted by JHarris at 9:43 PM on March 8 [1 favorite]

Portal 2 was also kind of middling as a game (though great as entertainment), given that very little of the game was actual puzzle-solving, instead of just constant Where's Waldo-style "find the gray portal-able panel" everywhere. Still, I did enjoy it.
posted by DoctorFedora at 10:41 PM on March 8 [2 favorites]

Splatoon, though, is a delight and a half! It is my secret shame that, for as much as I played the original Splatoon, I have spent very little time with the sequel, which is better by basically every meaningful standard.
posted by DoctorFedora at 10:43 PM on March 8

Splatoon on the WiiU was the best multiplayer shootey game I've ever played in terms of raw fun, even though much of the time I was using a huge paint roller and not doing much actual shooting.

The rollers are a different type of fun: painting a lovely smooth thick line of paint through enemy territory gives a nice "mmmmmmm" feeling, swerving around a corner and flattening an inkling with the roller, a nice "pow" that immediately reverts back into more "mmmm". Plus the smugness of knocking out a gun-wielding opponent, of course. There have been many attempts to make a 3D Pacman that were all worse than the original, but Splatoon has managed to take the basic gameplay of Pacman, improve it massively, and merge it into a 3D shooter.

It's a very Nintendo concept: a shooter that people who aren't good at shooting with joypads can play, an option to get a fundamentally different type of gameplay pleasure while playing the same game at the same time.

I've got Splatoon 2 for the Switch and haven't played it yet because I'm still wrapped up in Zelda Breath of The Wild. I'm going to force myself to change cartridges today. Yes. Today.
posted by BinaryApe at 11:10 PM on March 8 [3 favorites]

We got Splatoon2 (did they miss an opportunity by not calling it SplaTwo'n?) for my 21 year old son for Christmas. Since he was home for about 3 weeks after due to college break, we got to watch him play nearly every day. LOVE IT. We're still whistling the songs and we haven't heard the music since mid-January.

It's the first first-shooter game I wish I was playing since we played Doom on networked computers in college.
posted by cooker girl at 6:31 AM on March 9 [2 favorites]

It's great how they're adding just about everything realistic that was on people's wishlists, from little things like the option to wear trousers to a whole new, extremely challenging horde mode, somehow with a very different but still totally coherent style too. It does seem like they listen to the community, even adding an appearance of Callie, which was a relatively inconsequential thing missing from the story that fans were nonetheless asking about.

The music and trailer for that expansion pack have got me pretty hyped. I'd sort of imagined that the world and mechanics would be great in a grungier, more challenging spinoff one day, but I didn't expect it so soon or to look this good. I love that all the new characters in the subway are based on deep sea creatures. And playable octolings! Asking for that has been a running joke for years.

> the mascot character is a cheeky squidgirl
Not to mention the four leading NPCs, featured recently in another (fansubbed) live concert

For anyone picking it up: don't skip the motion controls. They're not quite as perfectly low latency as the wii u gamepad, but they're still basically the best console shooter input I've ever used.
posted by lucidium at 6:52 AM on March 9 [4 favorites]

Does Valve even make their own games anymore?

Valve are “going to start shipping games again,” were jealous of Nintendo
posted by tobascodagama at 7:12 AM on March 9 [1 favorite]

The fan culture of Splatoon is also remarkably wholesome and non-toxic, much more so than most online team-based shooters (looking at you, Overwatch), and is mainly expressed through in-game fan art that often draws from social media memes.

When I picked up the game last summer, one of the big fan art trends in the main plaza was supportive LGBT/non-binary and cishet ally memes, with barely any naysayers or GG edgitude in evidence; clearly, Nintendo must have mods keeping the artistic discourse within certain parameters, but I also feel like the game just attracts a kinder, more progressive crowd.
posted by Strange Interlude at 7:38 AM on March 9 [8 favorites]

The fan culture of Splatoon is also remarkably wholesome and non-toxic, much more so than most online team-based shooters

I'm glad to hear this. I made this post because I finally pulled the trigger and hit purchase. I'm still wading my way through the campaign (surprisingly well fleshed out and fun). But I'm feeling hesitant about getting into an online splatfest because I'm not good at multiplayer games and I get anxious when I play with strangers. I feel so much pressure to be a certain way, to be good, to not suck at a game.
posted by Fizz at 7:59 AM on March 9 [2 favorites]

the sequel, which is better by basically every meaningful standard

Better by every meaningful standard save one: the music. I really miss the Squid Sisters music from the original Splatoon.

When I first started playing I stuck exclusively to Turf War. I avoided the Ranked Battle modes for way too long because I thought I would be hopelessly bad at them (not as quick as I used to be, etc. etc), and because I expected the sort of toxic competitiveness that's common to online shooters. This was a mistake! Ranked Battle is where it is at. It's ridiculously, insanely fun. Turf War is dull in comparison. And, possibly through sheer bloody-mindedness, I did eventually get good enough to achieve S+ rank. My standard advice to newcomers is to switch to Ranked as soon as you're eligible and never look back. Except during Splatfests.
posted by scribblethrift at 7:59 AM on March 9 [4 favorites]

My teenage son has lots of friends who play online shooters, your Calls of Duty and Destinies Two, but he's never been big into them. A lot of that has been the aggressive and griefing culture that accretes around them, and how that doesn't gibe with his personality.

Then he got a Switch for his birthday, along with Splatoon 2, and he can't get enough of it. Plus it's a game he and I can play together. So well done, Nintendo.
posted by sgranade at 8:03 AM on March 9 [1 favorite]

This makes me really want to get a Switch. (If they put out an Animal Crossing game for it that will probably get me to finally do it, but this will be next in line.) Thanks for this post!
posted by skycrashesdown at 8:03 AM on March 9

But I'm feeling hesitant about getting into an online splatfest because I'm not good at multiplayer games and I get anxious when I play with strangers. I feel so much pressure to be a certain way, to be good, to not suck at a game.

The great thing about Splatoon is that the responsibility for victory or defeat basically rests on the team filling in each other's weak spots and maintaining awareness of what the other team is doing. Most of the communication for this can be accomplished 100% non-verbally through visual cues (keeping an eye on the map colors, the tracker lines for certain powerups) so you're not getting berated through voice chat or in the lobby by online randos.

The Turf War mode basically teaches you all the techniques that you'll need to excel at the other modes (superior ink coverage, avoiding opponent's specials, etc.) and the Ranked submodes (Rainmaker, Tower Control, Splat Zones) are deeper applications of those skills. Ranked matches also make sure to set you up with other players at your approximate skill level, as measured by a gradually-increasing letter grade as you play and win more matches.

The game can get quite challenging if you're up against experienced players, and you'll have sessions where it seems like you can barely get a foothold against the other teams, but you're ultimately building the skills to win further down the line if you stick to it.
posted by Strange Interlude at 8:18 AM on March 9 [2 favorites]

The ink mechanic, if nothing else, is a brilliant way to instantly communicate to players of all skill levels a sense of map control that is only attainable in other shooters through hundreds of hours of gameplay experience and memorisation.
posted by tobascodagama at 8:29 AM on March 9 [2 favorites]

Yeah, in Splatoon, you can be terrible at hitting your target, but since the main objective is usually douse the environment in ink, missing still rewards handsomely. The squid mechanic is comparable to a duck/cover/stealth option, but tied to ink/zone control. Evading and surprising the enemy team is half the fun. The fan art community is always a nice little reward for logging in, and seeing fan creations adorning the plaza front and center on giant displays, or tucked away as graffiti in the alleys, is always a thrill. I've spent way too much time toiling away at GrizzCo's horde mode, which contains some of the game's biggest challenges. Coordinating with mostly silent teammates.
posted by chainlinkspiral at 10:21 AM on March 9 [1 favorite]

I've spent way too much time toiling away at GrizzCo's horde mode, which contains some of the game's biggest challenges.

Oh yeah, almost forgot about Salmon Runs -- it's a great way to "speed date" with unfamiliar assortments of weapons that you normally wouldn't pick for other modes. Nothing teaches you how to properly use a charger weapon in close quarters like having to deal with three different boss monsters, each with their own very particular weakpoints.
posted by Strange Interlude at 2:03 PM on March 9 [2 favorites]

Oh man, yeah, the best part of Splatoon as someone who mostly Just Can't at Floating Gun Games is that one of the best ways to help your team is to find a part of the map where nobody is, and just paint it your color. What other team-based game is there where just hanging out by yourself can be the most valuable thing you can do?
posted by DoctorFedora at 4:52 PM on March 9 [4 favorites]

This makes me really want to get a Switch. (If they put out an Animal Crossing game for it that will probably get me to finally do it, but this will be next in line.) Thanks for this post!

Stardew Valley is on the Switch right now and seems to scratch that itch for everyone I know who’s waiting for Animal Crossing to finally be announced.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 5:18 AM on March 10 [1 favorite]

We should get some mefi games going! Salmon Run in particular is brilliant when you get a team that knows what they're doing together. There's a mefightclub thread, but it's been a bit quiet.
posted by lucidium at 10:34 AM on March 10 [3 favorites]

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