A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Splatoon is a third-person shooter, with a strong focus on multiplayer, but it's very colorful and cartoon-like. Players can use paint guns and bombs to take down enemies, who disappear and respawn back into the game. Parents also should know their kids might ask about buying action figure-like amiibo characters to use in the game, but they're not mandatory for gameplay. The gyroscopic controls of the gamepad can potentially frustrate players, but they can be turned off. Players can challenge others online, but there's no online communication available.
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What's it about?
SPLATOON is a third-person action game for the Nintendo Wii U that lets you use paint as a weapon in solo or team-based matches. You get to choose what kind of Inkling you want to be, along with which weapon to wield. You're tasked with painting a level your particular color, as well as popping balloons, targeting enemy Inklings, painting walls (which lets you climb them), and choosing the right time and place to change from humanoid to squid form, which temporarily makes you vulnerable as you submerge yourself in ink to suck up more ammunition. You can take on the game's artificial intelligence (A.I.) in a solo campaign, playing against someone beside you on the same TV, or fighting online against other humans in up to four-on-four battles. Though not mandatory, the game also supports Nintendo's amiibo characters -- physical action-figure-like toys -- which add new gear, challenges, and abilities to your character (Inkling Boy, Inkling Girl and Inkling Squid) -- when placed on the Wii U GamePad.
Is it any good?
Splatoon isn't only the first new franchise from Nintendo in a long while, it's also really, really fun. It might not be perfect, but it's a blast to play, especially with friends beside you or online, and it's a "must-have" title for Nintendo Wii U owners with a penchant for combat. The controls take a bit of getting used to, especially on the Wii U GamePad, but before you know it you'll be running around creatively designed levels -- with a lot of verticality -- as you and your teammates tackle enemy Inklings using all sorts of paint-spraying weapons, such as machine guns, bombs, turrets, and more. You'll need to pop balloons when they show up, find new places to hide or to use as a vantage point to peg off enemies, and ensure you're covering as much of the world in your dedicated color -- all while the other guys are doing the same.
If you can pardon the pun, you should get your feet wet by playing the single-player game against an evil octopus army, but the real fun begins when you go head to head with someone beside you, via split screen, or against online friends in the up to four-on-four battle areas. Playing over the Internet also is rewarding, as you'll unlock new environments, weapons, and gear for your Inklings. It's here you'll really unleash your abilities such as painting walls to climb them for a better view of the action, swimming with serious speed to another side of the level (provided it's covered in your paint color), or popping out of the ink to surprise unsuspecting enemies. Unfortunately, the multiplayer matches lack maps and modes -- something that's supposed to come in a future download -- plus there's no option to chat (and thus strategize) with others in online play. Also, the gyroscope option isn't very intuitive (good thing you can change it in the settings). But overall, Splatoon no doubt will be a hit among kids and kids at heart looking for a fun, family friendly, and messy third-person shooter.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the impact of violence in games such as Splatoon. Even though the violence isn't realistic, and you shoot paint instead of bullets and bombs, should the game be rated "Teen" instead of "Everyone 10+"? Will kids who play this game develop a taste for shooters and soon crave more adult-like entertainment?
If you could turn into anything you wanted, what would it be? Why? Would you need something to trigger this ability, like the Inklings do with paint?
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