Splatoon represents something unique within the Nintendo gaming landscape, it is the only first party shooter on the Wii U platform. Unfortunately there is a large portion of disabled gamers that will not be able to enjoy Splatoon, because of its many barriers.
The biggest concern with Splatoon when reviewing it for its accessibility was whether or not players with colorblindness can enjoy the game. Splatoon relies extensively on color. The player’s character is a humanoid squid, called an inkling, who fights battles with other players and the evil Octarians using brightly colored ink. One of the quickest ways that a player can die is by walking on enemy territory that is coated with the opposing teams color. Happily, Splatoon alleviates this problem in multiplayer by allowing those with colorblindness to lock sets of high contrast colors, however, players are not simply allowed to pick colors. They must play through the random sets of colors present in multiplayer until the game picks a set of suitably high-contrast colors. Then the player may go into the options menu and choose to lock in these colors. While lacking in its execution, this feature is appreciated, and keeps the game from being inaccessible for those with difficulty distinguishing color. On top of this, the art style in Splatoon is adorably over stated and easy to see. The fonts are large and nothing in the game seems to rely on fine-detail. As a result, short sighted players should have little problem exploring Inkopolis.
The real barriers arise for those players with fine-motor disabilities. To begin with Splatoon has almost no controller customization. The only option that players have is to turn off the gamepad’s gyroscope, which turns the control scheme into a more traditional FPS setup. However, players can only do this after completing Splatoon’s tutorial, which means that gamers who can’t physically pick up the gamepad and move it around will need the help of an able-bodied person in order to start the game. The bigger problem is that on the back of the case, Nintendo states that players can play Splatoon not only with the gamepad, but also with the Wii U Pro controller and the Wii Classic controller. The alternate controller support is somewhat misleading however, since player 1 will always have to use the gamepad, and the alternative controllers are only available when engaged in split-screen multiplayer. Beyond this, the game requires fast reflexes, and while the weapons have generous spread patterns, the lack of precision requirements does not make up for the demands they place on the player regarding timing. Nintendo highlighted the amount of character customization available in the game, and while there may be dozens of distinct weapons in Splatoon, you won’t be able to purchase them until your character reaches level 4, which means that you’ll have to play the game extensively before being able to configure your character to compensate for any impairments.
The best good news comes for gamers with auditory impairments. As usual, nothing in this Nintendo first party tile relies on voice over dialogue, and nothing seems to rely on sound of any kind, but because of the extensive fine motor barriers, I was not able to progress far enough into the game to rate it definitively barrier free.
Splatoon was very disappointing. It was a great game and a refreshing twist on an established genre, but because of the way that the controls were executed, most gamers with fine motor impairments should just steer clear of this title completely. On the other hand, if you have a visual or auditory impairment, this game will probably be accessible enough for you to get the full enjoyment out of it.