Stay with me, I'll explain...
One of the undeniable highlights of Nintendo's E3 showing was Splatoon -- a new take on the third-person multiplayer shooter that coated the genre in a fresh lick of paint.
Or rather ink.
Nintendo have never struck us a company that'd jump into the saturated online shooter market, you wouldn't find them crafting a COD killer or taking the field against the likes of Halo or, indeed, Battlefield. But Nintendo are all about innovative twists on well-worn themes, and in Splatoon they've not just handed a roster of their beloved mascots Quasar rifles or paintball guns, they've gone and greenlit a brand new IP. Nintendo EAD making a new IP and a multiplayer shooter? Don't be alarmed, hell hasn't frozen over just yet.
The excellently named Splatoon features two teams of four players vying for control of a level, marking territory by splattering everything in sight with ink to match the teams' respective colours. You essentially run about the place, covering as much of the map as you possibly can in the colours of your team, splattering any miscreant foes you come across, and transforming into a squid every so often to refill your paint gauge, traverse the place a little faster, and just because it's cool.
It all handles magnificently. Movement is gloriously fluid, switching between human and squid forms at the tap of a shoulder button. Moving through enemy ink is a slow and painful process, and you can't transform into a bundle of tentacles in enemy territory, but zipping about in your own areas, jumping out and dousing the surrounding area is highly satisfying. So too is painting routes up walls and through chain-link fences, circumnavigating obstacles with squid traversal before popping back into human form and splattering an unsuspecting enemy.
You don't die in Splatoon, you simply spawn back at your home base if you fall prey to an enemy barrage, or you can opt to squad spawn on a member of your team by tapping them on the GamePad. The whole point is to get you straight back into the action, with bumping off your adversaries secondary to securing as much territory as possible. Confrontation is necessary, mind, giving you extra points and increasing a bar at the top that, when filled, turns your inky Super Soaker into a bazooka that can paint vast areas with a single shot. On defence it can be important too, particularly when someone exploits the level design to find a sneaky way into your territory and begins wreaking havoc close to your base, boosting their territory as they decrease your own influence.
What was clear even from limited hands-on with one map was just how easy Splatoon is to grasp, and just how vast the game's potential can be. The GamePad is incorporated as a tactical map that proves absolutely essential to engineering victory, allowing you to easily see the territorial boundaries. Not only that, but Nintendo have deployed the motion control as an optional means of aiming. The control system we were privy to didn't have a traditional aiming reticule, and instead aiming was a little bit hit-and-miss with the GamePad as the only option, but Nintendo have said that there'll be several control options come launch. Whether there's Pro Controller support for potential eSports matches in the future we can't say at this point.
It's the pick-up-and-play ease of accessibility that's being promoted currently, and that's a great thing. It's built upon a simple premise, but Splatoon already feels like something a bit different, a little bit special. The core gameplay is enormously entertaining, its central mechanics rife with the "simple to grasp, yet hard to master" beguiling depth of the likes of Smash Bros and Mario Kart. In many ways it seems to be Nintendo's Titanfall -- a game with interesting, fluid traversal, blending simple mechanisms together in a fresh fashion. Swap mechs for squids, and my reaction to Splatoon is much the same as it was for Titanfall this time last year: a game with a cracking central premise and promising core gameplay just waiting for modes and content and the rest of a framework that'll keep players coming back time and time again.
Of course, Nintendo have traded Titans for tentacles, Pilots for paintballs, and Splatoon is stuffed with the easygoing whimsy and ageless charm that we have come to expect from Nintendo EAD. In fact, calling Splatoon "Nintendo's Titanfall" perhaps does this breath of fresh air a disservice. It's more a statement about where the game is currently: it's clear that Nintendo have something incredibly interesting on their hands. What they do with it remains to be seen.