NINTENDO is the king of innovation in video game genres, with games like ARMS and Splatoon taking familiar mechanics and reworking them into something magical.
The company made a splash with the release of Splatoon on the Wii U, and even more so with its Nintendo Switch sequels.
Having played a substantial amount of Splatoon 2 and 3, and even having competed in official international tournaments and placed quite highly, I’ve got a good handle on the third-person paint-flinging shooter genre.
Nintendo isn’t the only company competing in the space, though, at least not anymore, as Square Enix has now released its own take on Splatoon.
It’s called Foamstars, and it takes the formula Nintendo perfected and adds more verticality, new game modes, and a big dose of futuristic aesthetics.
Pulsing neon lights and bright, colourful cyberpunk clothing grab your attention as soon as you boot it up on your PS4 or PS5.
Not quite so striking is the soundtrack, which quickly falls into the background with very few memorable tracks to speak of.
Visually, though, it’s all there, and it looks nice — like a big, expensive party in Las Vegas, which is actually where the game is meant to be set, or at least something like it.
The gameplay is where things get interesting, but also much messier and more chaotic than anything you’d see in Splatoon.
The main competitive game mode in Foamstars is called Smash the Star, and it’s, well, difficult to explain.
Essentially each team has a certain amount of lives, and once those lives are expended – by the enemy team knocking them out – one player becomes the MVP and gets access to more HP and ammo.
This can happen on both sides, and the ultimate goal of the match is to knock out that MVP, with the team that successfully takes out the opposing MVP being crowned the victor.
There could be some amount of strategy to this, but at least in the early competitive landscape, it’s mostly just random chaos.
In my experience, players will just run in, fire off their foam, and hope they somehow end up with a victory.
Now, don’t get me wrong, that can be a lot of fun, but it doesn’t really come close to scratching the strategic competitive itch that Splatoon does.
There’s a neat idea in building up piles of foam to use as defensive barriers and to gain a height advantage, but it seems like right now players primarily use those advantages when they happen — they don’t make them happen.
That said, all of the playable characters feel diverse and different from the rest, so it’s a lot of trial and error to find a character that works with your play style.
One major concern right now, though, is the cosmetics, which can cost an absolute fortune through microtransactions that are anything but micro.
At the very least, all of these are for cosmetics only, and there’s no way to gain an advantage by spending extra money.
Foamstars has a lot of potential, but it has a long way to go before its competitive landscape approaches anything resembling other established games in the shooter genre.
It remains to be seen if players will stick to the PlayStation exclusive long enough for that growth to happen, but if it does, there could be an interesting future for Foamstars.
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Written by Oliver Brandt on behalf of GLHF.
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