But where the squid ability really comes into its own is during combat, enabling you to dodge the laser of a sniper who has you in their sights, speedily slip around the corner near another opponent to launch an ambush, or simply evade the streams of ink pouring from the many splat guns gradually colouring the game world. Of course, you can't attack while in squid form, so there's a tactical element to choosing the opportune moment for switching between the two.
There are also lots of smaller, smarter innovations swimming amid the bigger, genre-redefining fish. Death in Splatoon causes your character to explode in a big wet wave of your opponent's ink, meaning that scoring a kill has an additional layer of satisfaction to it. A top-down view of the arena map is displayed on the screen of the Wii-U controller, allowing you to see which areas still need to be painted, or require a second layer, at a glance.
All of this results in a shooter that is gleeful and vibrant, fast and messy, aided by Nintendo's typically slick presentation. Splatoon is a game with attitude. Specifically, the slightly corporatized attitude of early 2000s Avril Lavigne. It's elfish child combatants sport baggy shirts, cargo shorts and trainers so chunky they'd choke a Labrador, while the soundtrack blends sanitised skater punk with a little reggae here, a touch of electronica there.
This "hip" aesthetic does have a slightly nasty side. If you're below level 4, you can't buy items from the shops on account of not being "cool" enough. Speaking as someone who was never cool enough, not as a teenager or as an adult who writes about computer games for a living, this brought back some pretty painful memories. I mean, level 4 is nothing, really. You can achieve it in an hour. But don't tell me I'm not cool enough to access parts of a bloody videogame, for goodness sake!
Maybe that bugged me more than it should. But there are bigger problems too. The first of these is that Splatoon is a fairly slight game, with roughly a dozen weapons, a handful of maps, and a single online mode. That said, Nintendo are already adding new stuff for free on a weekly basis, and the price-tag is lower than Wii-U games generally launch at, so it seems churlish to complain overmuch. There's also a 4-hour single-player mode, which sees you battling an army of evil octopi in the fittingly named Octo Valley. It's entertaining enough, but it does feel a little tacked on to bulk out the offering.
My main gripe is with the lacklustre local-coop. Battle Dojo limits the fighting to just two players, and revolves around the popping of balloons (what is it with Nintendo and popping balloons? Does Miyamoto have a phobia of them or something?) Compared to Turf War, Battle Dojo is just dull, and this is a shame. Nintendo have long been the best supporter of local-coop, and I would have liked to see them attempt something more ambitious in Splatoon, be it a 4-player Turf-War or the ability to play online with several local players. Given Splatoon's more casual nature, it seems the ideal place to experiment with such a blend, even if it was just in the unranked matches.
I like Splatoon, but I'm unsure it will have the staying power of either the best online shooters or Nintendo's best multiplayer games. A little like Titanfall, Splatoon reinterprets the genre in such a way that it limits the potential for variety and the unexpected that the best player-driven games have. That said, unlike Turtle Rock's Evolve, Splatoon is actually enjoyable in the act of playing, and it's also clearly intended to be played in short bursts. So hopefully I'll be proved wrong, and the ink will stick.