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Foamstars finds a happy middle ground between Splatoon and Overwatch

While I’ve never been too great at competitive shooters, something about Splatoon clicks with me. Perhaps it’s just that there are so many ways to contribute to a team, which means that I can become my team’s MVP by playing the objective rather than winning firefights with other squid-kids. I’ve always wished other developers would take inspiration from the series to find more creative ways to let players flex their skills in a shooter without requiring pinpoint precision.

It’s taken close to a decade, but that wish has finally come true with Foamstars. Square Enix’s upcoming multiplayer game is a direct riff on the Splatoon formula, replacing ink with colorful foam. Though there are some pretty direct links between the two games, Foamstars isn’t just a copycat. Its matches are quite different from Splatoon’s, finding more of a middle ground between that series and a traditional shooter.

Foamstars - Reveal Trailer | PlayStation Showcase 2023

I played four matches of Foamstars at this year’s Summer Game Fest, which gave me a chance to play around with a few characters and their game-changing abilities. While it wasn’t enough time to fully grasp its intricacies, I’m already intrigued by what’s proving to be a chaotically fun shooter that’s doing a lot to separate itself from Nintendo’s beloved series.

Let’s foam ’em up

During my session, I’d play a few rounds of Foamstars’ main mode, Star Rush. It’s a four-versus-four, family-friendly team deathmatch mode (“killing” is called “chilling” here) where players need to work together to defeat the opposing team’s “star player.” The basics of battle carry some obvious similarities to Splatoon. Players have different guns that can soak the terrain in foam. Players can surf over their team’s foam color, but stepping on the other team’s foam will slow them down.

A character surfs on foam in Foamstars.
Square Enix / Square Enix

That’s actually where most of the obvious Splatoon influence ends. For instance, players don’t simply defeat enemies by shooting at them. Instead, they need to cover them with enough foam until they’re trapped in a big ball and then surf into them to pop it. Teammates can save each other from defeat by popping the ball themselves. It’s a totally different approach to combat that forces players to aggressively follow up on their opponents to secure the KO.

It’s also a character-based game rather than a loadout-focused one, pulling more from the Overwatch formula. The first character I tried, for instance, wielded a shotgun that could cover a wide patch of ground with foam. You can also wield rapid-fire pistols that aren’t too different from Splatoon’s Splat Dualies. On top of that, each character has two special abilities that operate on a cooldown and an “ultimate.” One character can shoot out an exploding shuriken, while another can perform a side-flip and launch a horizontal foam blast during it.

After a chaotic opening match where I struggled with inverted controls, I started to get the flow of battle. Teams are set loose in a flat map that they can shape the more they fill it with foam. I’d see players on the other team building large mounds of foam and standing atop them to snipe far-off enemies. It’s not quite a Fortnite level of building, but it seems like there’s a fair bit of strategic potential like that, adding some creativity to how players build up the map.

Though I had fun with my matches, I need more time with it to fully understand the flow of battle. Teamwork seems to be the key, as there’s incentive to split off into squads of two so everyone has a buddy that can save them from a foamy death in a pinch. Going off solo is an easy way to find yourself “chilled,” and that might be something that casual Splatoon players may have a hard time adjusting too. That series excels when it comes to making it feel like every individual player can go off, do their own thing, and still contribute. That’s not so much the case here based on what I’ve seen.

A character runs around on foam in Foamstars.
Square Enix

I also have yet to get the hang of foaming the terrain up effectively. Foam spreading doesn’t feel as simple and painterly as Splatoon’s inking, as it was a little harder for me to gauge where the foam from my shotgun would actually land. I wasn’t quite able to get into a fast ink-and-surf flow during my matches, which is another area where Splatoon just feels so good. I imagine that’ll come with time, but the more 3D nature of the foam can just be a little trickier to navigate.

It’s clear that I have a lot to learn here, but that seems to be working in Foamstars‘ favor. I get the sense there will be a lot more complexity to its team-based battles, which will open up some opportunities for a potential competitive scene. Even more exciting is that it’ll include some form of single-player campaign at launch, though Square Enix isn’t revealing anything about it quite yet. All of that is enough to pique my interest in what should be a unique spin on a formula I already love. Bring on the suds, I say.

Foamstars doesn’t have a release date, but it will launch on PlayStation 4 and PS5.

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Giovanni Colantonio
Giovanni is a writer and video producer focusing on happenings in the video game industry. He has contributed stories to…
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