Splatoon is a simple game: you’re a squid- or octopus-like humanoid in a post-apocalyptic world, and all you wanna do is shoot people with colorful ink and buy cute outfits. I had never played a Splatoon game before Splatoon 3 was released last week, but my friends were all hyping it up, so I jumped in. There’s not a ton of backstory to catch up on in this third installment — just accept that you’re a squid now.
It’s been about a week. Reader, I am hooked. I simply cannot stop splatting. I don’t even like shooter games — I don’t need more gun violence in my life, even if it’s fictional and contained to a Nintendo Switch screen — but Splatoon is different.
In the main mode of play, called Turf War, you’re split into two teams of four with other online players. Each team has its own color ink, like a bright Nickelodeon orange, a greenish-yellow that looks like toxic waste, or a purple color that matches The Verge’s redesign. Over the course of three minutes, it’s your team’s goal to cover as much territory as you can with your color ink.
There are different types of weapons — some guns that shoot out small amounts of paint, but can easily
kill splat your enemy, sending them back to their home base. There are bombs that you charge up by saying “Booyah!” — which, by the way, is one of only two phrases your character can say in-game, with the other being the less delightful “This way!” There’s also a crab tank, and… I don’t know what to tell you. It’s a crab tank.
Personally, I’m a fan of the roller-style weapons, where you simply push a paint roller around and run over your enemies. The rollers are great for someone like me, who is not dexterous enough to aim a paint gun. But the real reason why I am so committed to the roller is that they’re so satisfying. You’re just a squid and/or octopus, running around making a clean, colorful streak of ink. The roller can ink the edges of the map, crisply sliding along and covering every last pixel. If your team is losing badly, just charge ahead into a sea of enemy-colored ink, zigzaging your pink paint in a sea of neon green until you inevitably get splatted by a “Sploosh-o-matic” or a “Bamboozler.” When you run out of ink, you recharge your weapon by swimming, an experience that somehow manages to release the stress from your real-world flesh sac. It’s like yoga, but squids.
Somehow, even journalism is enjoyable in Splatoon. The game starts with a news cast called “Anarchy Splatcast” hosted by Deep Cut, who are both a rock band and broadcasters? It’s confusing, especially for a Splat-noob like me, but Shiver and Fyre are just that talented, I guess. In Splatoon 3, the duo are also joined by Big Man, a talking manta ray who starts all of his sentences with “Ay!”
But my favorite NPC has got to be the guy who runs the clothing shop. He is a species of Jellyfish called the Man-o-War. And he sells clothes. So his shop is called… the Man-o-Wardrobe…
Games writers have pointed out the other great attributes of Splatoon, even calling it “the ideal social platform.” They are correct. Others have noticed that if grind all the way to level 98, you can make your character dab, which is just brilliant. But Splatoon is all about the ink, and boy do I love the ink.
There’s one problem for me, though. I am not very good at Splatoon.