Platform: Nintendo Wii U

Splatoon is a new kid-friendly adventure and battle game from Nintendo. It has a great sense of humor, an adorable design, and it is a ton of fun. You play as an Inkling—an adorable cross between a squid and a kid—that shoots ink through various kinds of weapons and has an impeccable fashion sense. With lots of ways to play and exciting new features that change daily, Splatoon is a game I expect to enjoy for a long time.

Twintacle Octotroopers

Two members of the Octarian Army fire ink in the single-player story mode.

The Story in Splatoon

Splatoon is not burdened with an abundance of plot, and that’s a good thing. With five main gameplay modes, plus exciting character customizations and an active online community, keeping it simple was a smart move.

In single-player story mode, you learn that long ago there was a great war between the Inklings and Octarians. After the world’s sea level rose, the two communities had to fight for territory, because (naturally) sea creatures can’t swim. The Inklings ended up living above ground while the Octarians lived below. However, when the great zapfish (the source of the Inkling’s electricity) goes missing, one elderly Inkling called Captain Cuttlefish discovers a secret Octarian plot to wipe out the Inklings. You must help the Captain infiltrate the underground Octo Valley to rescue the great zapfish.

Meanwhile, back on the surface level, the other Inklings haven’t really noticed that anything is going wrong. They go about their daily lives, shopping for fresh new clothes and competing in friendly ink battles. This is where you go to access the game’s other play modes, which include Turf War, Ranked Battle, Amiibo Challenges, and Battle Dojo. These modes not only work logically with the setting and plot, they’re also ridiculously entertaining. Money you earn doing battle can be spent on cool new gear for your Inkling.

Another great thing about Splatoon? You can choose your Inkling’s gender, skin tone, and eye color, and the choices have no impact on your gaming experience. (In some games, for instance, the gender of your character can limit your gameplay in one way or another.) And you can go back and change these things later without impacting your game’s progress in any way.

Shoe shopping

An Inkling goes shopping for some fresh new kicks.

The Gameplay in Splatoon

Almost everything about Splatoon’s gameplay was immensely satisfying. In Turf War, two teams of four race to cover a shared arena with their team’s colored ink. Colors change in every round and are assigned randomly. Players with colorblindness rejoice—Splatoon comes with a color-lock setting.

Turf Wars are frantic races against the clock. The more turf you cover for your team, the more points you earn. Points help your Inking level up and earn money for gear. Luckily, the game is pretty good at matching teams up at similar skill levels. But—and this is important—even if you lose every match, you can still advance your character’s level. Being a beginner cannot stop you from participating and having a good time.

What’s more, since you’re fighting for turf and not for kills, it’s easy for players at lower skill levels to pick a corner of the map and just have fun inking everything in sight. Attacking other players helps buy time, but it’s not a requirement for victory. This keeps the whole match feeling healthy and cooperative.You can play online either with strangers or with friends. While strategy can certainly come into play in Turf War, there is no group chat. (And thus no potential for online trash talking.)

Battle Dojo is the only play mode that allows two players to share one console. One player uses the GamePad. The other player uses a Wii U Pro Controller or a Wii Classic Controller in conjunction with the TV. The two players race to pop balloons. When one player attacks the other, the player that was attacked loses progress. Overall, I felt that Battle Dojo was the biggest disappointment of the game. What I really want is a local multiplayer mode for Turf War, or maybe a cooperative two-player mode for the main story. There is a lot in Splatoon that could be done cooperatively, but cooperative play is unfortunately not an option for local multiplayer.

The gameplay in the single-player story mode was reminiscent of Super Mario games. It did a great job of getting the most out of the ink-shooting mechanic. Although my progress in the story mode didn’t give my Inkling any extra points or money for other game modes, it was still a great way to learn battle tactics. The story mode was relatively short, but each level and boss fight was clever and challenging in all the right ways. The game’s final boss actually had me blasting the volume and standing on the sofa while my roommate cheered me on. It was one of the best final boss battles I’ve fought in a long time.

Turf War

Two teams of four face off in a battle for turf.

Splatoon’s Rating

Splatoon is rated E10+ for cartoon violence. Attacking other characters is a significant part of the gameplay, but there is no blood or gore. If you are attacked, your Inkling will pop or fade away and reappear at the beginning of the area. The main plaza of the game is occupied by other real-world players’ Inklings, and sometimes they have visible drawings or messages that you can read. However, Nintendo (as always) does a really good job of filtering out all profanity and inappropriateness.

Ranked Battle

Splatoon Ranked Battle features variations on the basic rules of Turf War. It’s only accessible to Inklings who have achieved level 10.

The Takeaway

Splatoon makes me smile. From planning my Inkling’s newest outfit to duking it out on the battlefield, I found almost every aspect of this game satisfying, vibrant, and joyful. Although the local multiplayer mode was somewhat lacking, the other modes more than made up for it. I cannot wait to see what new updates Nintendo releases for this first game in what is sure to be a long franchise.

This article was written by

Courtney is Pixelkin's Associate Managing Editor. While working with the Girl Scouts of Northern California, she mentored young girls in teamwork, leadership, personal responsibility, and safety. Today, she spends her time studying adolescent development and using literary analysis techniques to examine video games.