Splatoon has been bubbling away for a while, but it's only now - thanks to the recent Global Testfire events - that we start to see how unusual and engaging a game this will be for a whole new audience of shooting fans.
Every family is different but a video game flash point for many are the shooting video games aimed at older players. Call of Duty fluctuates between PEGI 16 and 18, but the draw starts much younger.
While prohibition may defer the issue for some - banning guns with my youngest has just meant than any stick is now an assault rifle - a better approach is to engage children on the appeal of these games and how they feel about the violence. Then find some viable, equally exuberant and exciting, alternatives.
In this light, Splatoon is an important game for families. More importantly though, it's also a ton of fun and surprisingly deep for what appears to be a simple third-person shooter. In my home it has already provided a path which navigates some of the pitfalls of other shooting games.
More than that, it has triggered a new birthday party pastime, Splat Ball. Like Splatoon, Splat Ball provides "a low impact alternative to Paintball for younger players". Similarly, it's not just a dialled-down version of the real thing, but changing the speed of the projectiles and age of players changes the experience in unexpected ways.
In Splatoon, the use of ink means you can see where people are shooting, and the territory they are capturing. In the physical Splat Ball game, the paint pellets "shoot at a velocity of 110-140 feet per second. At this speed, you can see the ammo in the air before you see the satisfaction of your splat!" It becomes more about movement and less about firepower and targeting.
Splatoon will doubtless appeal to players of all ages. Most of the dads I know can't wait to play more. Again this mirrors Splat Ball, which "was engineered so kids (and adults!) ages 8+ could easily cock, load, and fire." Crossing the generations is more than a novelty; it sets up play habits more likely to resist the migration from sitting room to bedroom and become something families do together.
Like the Splurge Guns in Bugsy Malone, your arsenal in Splatoon is fun and frivolous. But like the film's firepower it too manages to matter when you are hit. The burn of being inked at the critical moment is distinct from the rage of a head-shot, but still impacts on how the player feels — in a good way.
Add in the extension of the game by its own unique amiibo and this is looking very tasty indeed. In fact, I think the Splatoon amiibo are my favourite to date (with the possible exception of the woolly Yoshi). Being granted additional levels and challenges is a nice incentive to collecting - although my seven year old is still holding out hope that they will come to Super Smash Bros. as fighters rather than costumes.
As you can see, my test family couldn't get enough of the four-vs-four demo last weekend. I'd have preferred there to be a four or five player local co-op but I can understand this may have been hard to deliver. Ensuring every player has a full screen to themselves also stops other players from screen-peeking and cheating.
Another negative for some is the lack of voice chat, but as a parent I really won't be missing this feature. Also not having voice means that players have to communicate in non-verbal ways with each other — a skill I'm keen for my children to develop.
See a family play the game for even a few minutes and these concerns melt away to leave an engaging experience that can be played, watched and understood by all ages. It's the kind of game that involves everyone in the room - certainly not something you can say about Call of Duty, hence its problematic relegation to bedrooms.
I'm looking forward to playing more Splatoon, but (and here's the real mark of success in my book) I'm also looking forward to introducing Splatoon to friends and family. Who will you play it with?