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Nintendo's ink-based shooter 'Splatoon' is addictive, improving and appropriate for kids
"Splatoon" is rated E 10+ for cartoon violence. - photo by Jeff Peterson
Wii U owners have been blessed with some excellent multiplayer games recently e.g. Mario Kart 8 and Super Smash Bros. Wii U., both of which came out in 2014.

This summers big multiplayer release, Splatoon, a third-person online shooter and a brand new intellectual property for Nintendo joins the mix with a very different kind of gameplay. Just like Mario Kart and Smash Bros., though, its an easy recommend for Wii U owners of pretty much any age. Its addictive, fast-paced, easy to pick up (but difficult to master) and such a perfect example of Nintendos legendary creativity in action.

In Splatoon, players take control of graffiti-obsessed humanoid squids called Inklings, who live in the town of Inkopolis where ink battles are treated with as much seriousness as college football is in Alabama. Using paintball guns, brushes and rollers, players then compete to cover various landmarks in multicolored ink in a variety of gameplay modes.

This includes a solo campaign to defeat the evil Octolings as well as local one-on-one versus matches called the Battle Dojo, where one player uses the GamePad and the other uses the TV.

But the heart and soul of Splatoon is the four-on-four online battle mode called "Turf War." Players are matched up in teams online (either randomly or with friends via Nintendo Network ID) and then compete to cover as much ground as possible with color-coded ink, all in a frantic three minutes. Turf Wars are quick and fun and totally addictive. Once players get the flow of things, its like eating Pringles you just cant stop. And with extra incentives like the ability to level up and buy more gear, it's all the more difficult to quit once things get going.

Control can feel a little finicky at first because "Splatoon" doesnt just use a standard shooter-style setup. Instead, players aim with a combination of right analogue stick and the GamePads built-in gyroscopic sensor. So, to look up, the player just tilts the controller back; to look down, the player just tilts it forward. It sounds pretty intuitive, but depending on the gamer, it might take a bit of getting used to at first finding that perfect sweet spot for the GamePad that allows maximum wrist mobility. For the first few rounds, just expect to die at least once or twice when a firefight breaks out and the camera is suddenly stuck staring at the sky.

Holding the left trigger can turn the Inklings into squids that can cruise through the ink, up walls and through fences. That, coupled with secondary weapons (grenades, etc.) and special moves, makes "Splatoon" a much more complex game than it might at first appear.

In terms of art style and overall production, Splatoon has charm to spare. For anyone old enough to have owned a Sega Dreamcast, the punk-reggae-hipster vibe filtered through Japanese pop culture is more than a little reminiscent of another graffiti-centric game, Jet Grind Radio and probably not by accident.

With the bright, smiley visuals, catchy music and wonderfully groan-inducing cephalopod-related jokes, its perfect for kids.

For the hardcore gamers out there, Splatoon does skip out on a few features that are standard in a lot of shooters nowadays, like voice chat. For some, that might be a strike against it. However, a lot of parents will no doubt appreciate the fact that they dont have to worry about the language in online interactions.

Arguably one of the best things about Splatoon, though, is the fact that its still getting better. Late last month, the developers added an all-new gameplay mode called "Tower Control." Basically a spruced-up king of the hill, Tower Control involves taking over a moving platform and riding it into enemy territory. If the other team captures it before it gets to a specific checkpoint, it reverses direction. The kicker, though, is that whether a players team wins or loses affects their overall standing on an online leaderboard, and the competition can be pretty fierce.

On top of that, the developers have plans for various special events. On July 4, for example, players got to celebrate the first-ever Splatfest in North America, which lasted all day and let players wear special T-shirts and compete in ranked competitions.

Nintendo has said that it's committed to keeping Splatoon feeling fresh with new content. Between that and the already-addictive gameplay, Splatoon is an obvious choice for anyone with a Wii U. Gamers of just about any age will have a blast painting the town of Inkopolis red, blue, teal, purple or whatever color theyre assigned in one of the several gameplay modes. And parents will enjoy having a kid-friendly alternative to the more mature games typically found in the shooter genre. Separately sold amiibo figures provide added features.

Game: "Splatoon"

Platform: Wii U

ESRB rating: E 10+ (cartoon violence)

Price: $59.99
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