With Splatoon out in the wild we can get a first proper impression of how the game is going down with families. With this in mind I checked in with the Huo family to see how they'd taken to the local and online components of Nintendo's new shooter.
They took a while to get used to the controls - and to agree how best to share the GamePad - but seemed to take to things quite quickly:
One player uses the GamePad and its-built in screen, and the other player uses a controller and plays on the TV. It's a natural solution to local multiplayer, but it raises a minor issue: since everyone in the family prefers the motion control, we have to swap after each game to make it fair.
This surprised me actually, that after some practice, I prefer the motion control over traditional right stick control. I almost felt like I should give it a try the way the designers created the game, and there's a certain logic to it, almost like using a mouse and keyboard. Using the right stick for Left and Right, I found the most success by minimizing the motion control to mainly up and down.
The Huo's highlighted how different a shooter this was, even compared to something like Plants vs Zombies Garden Warfare:
The emphasis is taken off eliminating other players and instead you compete to cover the most area. Because moving around is much quicker in your own ink, even when playing to pop balloons you still have to cover the ground with ink. Even a kid friendly shooter like EA's Plants vs Zombies Garden Warfare is still about mowing down your enemies. Splatoon's Single Player Story Mode has some aspects of that, but it also features some puzzle aspects, as well as finding hidden items through each level.
That's not to say that you can't benefit from inking other players, of course. Sending them back to their spawn point means that they're off the field, while you're still out there, laying down ink. Speaking of laying it down, Splatoon offers a wide variety of ways to spread ink around the stage, from rapid fire small weapons, long range charging weapons, and ground covering paint rollers.
The kids took to it pretty quickly, after using the Story Mode and Battle Dojo to get comfortable with the controls. After a few days, they were willing to try the online Turf Battle, and they had fun, even though they didn't always end up winning. As a parent, I'm happy about the decision to leave voice chat out, as it provides a game experience that is free from negativity.
A nice tip that they highlighted was how to get online to play against friends already playing a Turf Battle.
Choose Join Friends in Regular Battle to see who on your friend list is playing at the moment, and jump to their lobby, or wait in line until they are done their match. Nintendo have announced a future mode where you can pick a team of four friends, but the ability to join friends is in the game, from the start.
Provided word gets out about Splatoon to a wide range of families, it is already looking like a unique and welcome experience. Time will tell how effective the advertising is, but my experience that playing the game once is all it takes for my friends to ask about not only getting the game but also a Wii U — something that hasn't happened since the days of Wii Sports.