When Foamstars, Square Enix’s Splatoon-esque party game where two teams of four face off in a giant foam-spewing battle, was announced at the PlayStation games showcase, it wasn’t clear what to expect. Was this just Splatoon in PlayStation-exclusive form? What was the gameplay like? Would it be any fun?
Foamstars is four-vs-four splooge-fest where you shoot pink and teal foam and one another until your character is completely trapped and then bounced off the stage. In Star mode, the only one we were able to try, each team gets seven lives. Once they are used up, one player becomes the “star” based on who has the best overall performance that match. They get enhanced health and attack, as well as slightly faster cooldowns for their abilities. But once the star player is killed, the game is over and the other team wins.
The game is being developed internally at Square Enix with a team composed of developers from Dragon Quest, Nier, and other franchises. It definitely feels like Splatoon, but with a Persona-style presentation and the balancing of Overwatch. Each “VIP,” aka hero, has two normal abilities and a special that can be deployed throughout the match in-between cooldowns. There are DPS characters and tank characters, with variations in gun speed and spread. The fundamentals aren’t bad, even if they’re mostly cribbed from other established competitive multiplayer games, but it’s not clear it has the magic to standout in a crowded field of already successful live service shooters.
When we sat down at Summer Game Fest for a hands-on demo, gratis beers in hand, we didn’t know what we were getting into.
Alyssa Mercante: First off I’d like to say that I’m very upset you were better than me at this game.
Ethan Gach: Get rekt. I like it. At least for the five matches we played. I don’t know that a successful live service game that makes, but the concept isn’t as dumb in practice as the PlayStation showcase reveal made it seem.
Alyssa: It actually is pretty fun. I do sort of feel like I was struggling to get the aiming down even after five matches, but I am also admittedly not a Splatoon player. Is the assumption that this will just sort of mimic that, content-wise? Maybe new characters and new weapons coming out every so often? They wouldn’t tell you any details right?
Ethan: “We want to focus on the foam right now” is not an exact quote but pretty close to what the Square Enix rep said when I peppered him with questions about microtransactions, unlocks, custom builds, alternative maps, and the other stuff that usually keeps players coming back.
The shooting felt no worse than third person Fortnite to me, other than the fact that you’re aiming cum bubbles instead of bullets.
Alyssa: Okay, it wasn’t as cummy as I thought it would be, it’s much more of a mousse. It’s very reminiscent of the shit I put in my hair in high school. I like that the foam can be used to change up the environment though, like build up walls and shit, which is definitely a nice differentiator from Splatoon.
Ethan: There are shades of a build mechanic, but I wish it was more directed. You can layer foam by shooting the same areas but it takes a while to really change the topography or build up anything resembling a protective barrier.
Alyssa: Yeah I wonder if different maps will be better for that kind of mechanic, as this one was pretty flat/open. Would be interesting to see it in play on a map that’s got two really distinct levels and you could use the foam as a means of cheesing certain height differences or something.
Ethan: The map itself was a pretty small and bland arena, though I appreciate the city pop metropolis backgrounds and general Persona-like stylings. What did you think of the different characters’ abilities. Who did you like playing as the best?
Alyssa: I liked Tonix, the burst-fire one. Her ultimate is a foam-shooting mech which is rad. I also, naturally, only picked the characters I thought looked really cool/want to dress like.
Ethan: Jizz D.va you mean?
Alyssa: Stop that’s definitely a Pornhub search.
Ethan: The cooldown abilities and specials were neat enough, though I couldn’t quite figure out the the best way for it all to come together. A game like Overwatch has maps that funnel you into choke points that play nicely off of different heroes’ abilities. Here it felt a little more haphazard, though maybe with more time and practice those synergies would come into focus.
Alyssa: Yeah maybe you need to really get in the weeds for it to feel like who you’re choosing matters in terms of team composition, because that sort of felt like we were just picking randomly. And that shotgun guy was OP.
Ethan: While Splatoon is clearly the closest analogue mechanically and shoot-feel-wise, the overall package reminds me of Fall Guys in terms of its presentation, accessibility, and my skepticism of its longevity and what would keep me or someone else coming back in order to make it a sustainable online hangout.
Square declined to answer any questions about what the meta-progression, microtransactions, or additional modes will be like, although they did promise a ranked-mode, which seems very premature.
Alyssa: Ranked mode? I was already toxic during our hands-on, I can’t go anywhere near that. It’s definitely an interesting thing to have as a PS-exclusive, as well, so I’m veryyyy curious to see if it has legs. Can definitely see it being a fun, silly party game the same way Fall Guys was, but does anyone even play Fall Guys anymore? Is there longevity in this? More importantly, can I change the colors of the foam?
Ethan: I’m very curious about the origins of the game. Was this a mandate handed to the devs and this is what they came up with, or did they arrive at the prototype on their own and then Square saw the potential to bring it to a full release? PlayStation doesn’t do Early Access but maybe it should.
Alyssa: Also, what the hell is the single-player bit they wouldn’t give details on? Much to think about here.
Ethan: I just hope there’s a hub world where I can leave spunk messages on billboards for other players to discover.
Kotaku is covering everything Summer Game Fest, from the main show on Thursday to other events happening throughout the next week. Whether you’re into larger-than-life triple-A games or intimate, offbeat indies, you can keep up with all things SGF here.