I see a lot of classic Mario platforming design in Splatoon’s campaign

Definitely a good thing

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While Splatoon‘s multiplayer was on display for all to see at E3 2014, the single-player campaign was fairly under wraps. We now know that it will be a completely separate affair from online play, complete with a full narrative and a colorful cast of characters to help you along your journey.

I had a chance to play through a handful of story levels at a recent event, and I’m happy to report that although it’s a bit simplistic, I’m seeing flashes of tried and true Mario design peppered in.

Splatoon (Wii U)
Developer: Nintendo EAD Group No. 2
Publisher: Nintendo
Released: May 2015
MSRP: $59.99

Splatoon‘s setup is not unlike a typical Saturday morning cartoon. The evil Octarians have “squidnapped” the sacred Zapfish, and the heroic Captain Cuttlefish has tasked you with getting them back. To help you along the way you’ll have a cast of eccentric sea-dwelling creatures to sell you upgrades, like the goofy jelly fish Jelonzo that doesn’t speak the Inkling language all that proficiently, or Annie, a shy sea anemone who has an asshole fish named Moe living in her head. While the theme is cute enough to draw anyone in at first glance, it’s the commitment to classic platforming precepts that I really took note of during my hour-long campaign play session.

Everyone knows the classic Mario design by now — developers will often craft a level to show you a new concept in a safe manner, then kick it up a series of notches, culminating in an explosive and dangerous finale. That philosophy is followed to the letter in Splatoon with unique concepts used to test the limits of your ink skills. Geysers were a particular favorite of mine, allowing you to swim to the top after turning into squid form. While they’re sometimes required for platforming, it’s an interesting optional way to change up the height differential for various enemy placements.

Sponges are another really fun mechanic, which expand as you ink them and shrink from enemy fire. There’s a few high-tension sequences that force you to attack enemies while simultaneously managing your sponges so you don’t plummet to your doom. Another stage featured a series of mini-bosses, designed to help you ease into multiplayer against more humanoid opponents. Nearly every level I played introduced a new concept like this, and I can see it riding through until the very end.

The campaign also allowed me to really dig deep into the core of what makes Splatoon tick. What I love about the ink mechanic is that it always has a purpose, unlike other shooters where errant shots are basically wasted. Even if you don’t hit your target, you’re slowly working your way towards victory with each zone that’s covered. Ink means extra maneuverability, cover, and in some cases, platforming opportunities. Creating your own path has a cool maze-like feel to it, and reacting to enemy fire is now multi-faceted affair as you plan out your above and below ground strategy in tandem.

Much like the multiplayer component however, I’m not entirely sold on the longevity of Splatoon‘s campaign, as I can see myself breezing through it in an afternoon (I couldn’t get an exact estimation from Nintendo, but I’m told the focus is mostly on multiplayer). However, I’ll be damned if I didn’t have an amazing time with what I’ve played, and I’m excited to try out the final build come May.


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Chris Carter
Managing Editor - Chris has been enjoying Destructoid avidly since 2008. He finally decided to take the next step in January of 2009 blogging on the site. Now, he's staff!