Posted by: seanmalstrom | March 8, 2015

Email: Splatoon impressions from PAX East

Hey Master Malstrom,

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So I waited for 90 minutes this morning in a line to play Splatoon so I could give you and your readers some hopefully helpful impressions.  IGN has posted a video up but I am, as you would say, A Glorious Reader so my feedback will be different than how the media is going to talk about this game.
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I was really looking forward to playing Splatoon.  Nintendo usually screws us over on the East Coast when PAX comes here and never puts anything exciting in their booth the past couple years so it was cool that they were introducing it here.  Also, the game just seemed to appeal to me and I had high hopes for it.
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The demo consisted of a tutorial plus 2 rounds of multiplayer team vs team play, I think around 3-4 minutes each.
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Firstly, I noticed your character moves slowly.  Like to the point of being shocked.  Unless I missed a run button somewhere during the tutorial, I couldn’t believe how slowly you moved.  It immediately brought to mind Steel Diver: Sub Wars.  Like Nintendo was gimping the FPS to make it more “thoughtful” or try to make it less about reflexes to reduce the load and lag on their consoles.  We already got corrupted with Zelda mutating into a puzzle experience, this is just what we need is a puzzle FPS.  Why couldn’t this be more like Metroid Prime or Metroid Prime Hunters?
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So already a few seconds in, I was already a little put off.
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Then I learned in the tutorial that in order to aim your gun, you have to tilt the control pad.  In other words, to squirt ink on the ground, you tilt the pad down and to squirt ink high and far away, like over walls, you tilt the pad up.  Naturally, depending on your tastes, you may enjoy this control scheme or think it adds that Nintendo feel to an FPS experience.  Personally I hated it.  Why can’t I just use a control stick or something, where I have 20+ years of muscle memory trained?  It just reminded me of those god awful 3DS experiences where you have to move your body around and face the 3DS in different directions.
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Painting the battlefield did feel fun and put a smile on my face.  There is something child-like and gratifying to squirt colorful goo all over the place.
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In multiplayer, your team scores points by covering as much ground in your color as possible.  Whoever does most wins.  Covering walls or other objects in your color doesn’t count towards your score but does reveal another experience to the game.  See, in squid form, you are slightly more speedier and are protected.  By coloring walls and ramps in your color and discovering that your squid form and pass through things like grates, the game starts to feel a little like SSX or a Tony Hawk game.  People will definitely be developing skill in finding clever and efficient ways to move about the arena in order to win but may also do it just for the fun of it.
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I felt inherently weak in the game.  Like one hit from an opponent’s gun and you are dead.  You have to wait a few moments to respawn.  However, you can warp to a teammate instantly using the gamepad which may deemed as a clever innovation by the public.
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You have a limited amount of ink you can shoot before needing to refill.  In order to refill quickly, you go into squid form and swim around in your own color.  I didn’t like this.  I felt like the game was trying to force you to go into squid form.  There are already other incentives to go into this form (like the fact that this is the only way you can move about with any speed whatsoever!) that I didn’t need a refill mechanic imposed on me.  I didn’t understand why I couldn’t just spray constantly, because you will need to strategically stop spraying at various points in order to survive.
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If you are somehow trapped in your opponent’s color, you will refill ink while in human form, just a lot slower.
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You have special powers that allow you to use super weapons and things like that but I didn’t have much time to explore them.
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This game is going to take a while to get used to because there is a lot of thinking you need to do in this game.  This is not a hack and slash FPS where  you can just spam a fire button and hope for the best.  You have to constantly tilt the control pad, while moving about, and rotating your camera, switching your view between the tv and the gamepad which shows the ever important strategic map, watch various meters and icons at opposite ends of the tv screen which tell you when you can use special abilities and keep an eye on your bloody ink level and make sure you have some path to take to refill ink even in the middle of a heated one on one.  Oy!
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All in all, my impression of this game went from “I am super excited about this game” to “Ehh… I need more time with it to know how I feel.”  The overall theme of the game did feel fun.  But there was something about the controls and mechanics that just felt off.  I still want to like this game and hope I will continue to want to purchase it, but it is very quickly l losing its spot as a day 1 purchase for me.
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Also, and maybe I am wrong about this, I didn’t get the impression that this game was moving people.  The line for the game was long and was long all day so people were eager to try it.  But as people left after engaging in the demo, their faces seemed to communicate a “Huh.  Well, that was interesting.” rather than a “OMG this game is going to be the best thing ever!!! Woo!”  A lot of people seemed like they had to pause and reflect on the experience before they could digest it.
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Hopes this helps you and your readers.
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It is interesting that you made the observation that Nintendo doesn’t seem to want to make games around reflexes or fast movements. Nintendo used to make such games. Why the change? Perhaps it is because the game makers are now all fuddy duddy old people who eat mashed yeast while watching Matlock (or the Japanese equivalent of Matlock).
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I see Splatoon becoming a giant dud. Kids look at it and go “WTF? Just paint? Typical Nintendo. Seems like a child’s game.”

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