As the saying goes, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. And seeing as we’re talking about imitation, we might as well wrangle Square Enix’s latest game into the limelight—a foam-centric, candy-coated online arena shooter called Foamstars. I must admit, it’s essentially Splatoon with a bubblegum aesthetic — and I’m not entirely sure if it’s much more than that, to be honest with you. With that said, a clone’s a clone, and although said clone is a blatant rip-off of Nintendo’s award-winning shooter, it does have an identity—a plaque that I, along with countless others, will hereby refer to as Splatoon 1.5. Sorry, Square.
Like a lot of players who recently caught wind of the popping candy entrée, I was awfully quick to judge Foamstars before actually playing through it. Moreover, I was equally as hasty when it came to brandishing it as a clone of another, slightly better-traveled multiplayer game. Not that you can blame me, mind you, as its heart evidently beats at the same rate as its adversary’s, and its core features are a little too on the nose to make the game anything other than a spiritual successor to Splatoon’s legacy.
It’s a tough one to call, really, as Foamstars, at least on paper, comes across as a foam-induced DLC for an alternate universe and nothing more. But playing it, on the other hand, reinforces the fact that, mechanically, it isn’t quite the imitation that it’s first made out to be. But I’m getting ahead of myself here, so for the sake of lathering a bit of context on the matter, I’ll rewind it back to the beginning—to the opening chapter that allowed me to pass through to its gumdrop-scented dimension.
It’s a Foam Party!
It goes like this: there are two teams in a match, each containing four players per side. As one of several characters, each coming with their own brand of weapon and ability, players must take to a vibrant arena and, well, eliminate the opposing faction in a timely manner. The goal, in short, is to rack up a total of seven kills, after which the player with the most eliminations is crowned the VIP, and thus becomes a primary target for the other team to remove from the board in order to claim the round. It’s simple, fast-paced, and oh-so-competitive.
What truly sets Foamstars apart from the likes of Splatoon is its excessive reliance on moldable foam. Armed to the teeth with one of many weapons, players can deploy copious amounts of the lavish liquid in order to build forts, ramps, and other structures, effectively morphing the arena into a candy floss-like world. What’s more, it also allows players to slip and slide around the map on a surfboard, too, which is a joy in itself, oddly enough. The point is, it does have its own form of identity, even if, for the most part, it does exist under an umbrella of Splatoon’s own creation.
Team Deathmatch and online cooperative modes set aside, Foamstars does also come loaded with its own campaign—an episodic adventure that slumps players into the shoes of each of the available characters. All in all, it’s about three hours in length, and the prize for completing each of the characters’ unique mission sets is, well, more modes and missions in other areas of the menu. So, quite a lot of bang for your buck, all things considered.
Caked in Color
As far as gameplay goes, Foamstars is surprisingly easy to learn, as it’s more or less the case of projecting ludicrous amounts of foam at targets, and hopping on a surfboard to swoop in and snag the kill. As it is, of course, an online multiplayer game, however, this isn’t to say that it’ll be a walk in the park for everyone who signs up to it. Sure, it can be a cakewalk, but it depends entirely on the squad you’re given, as well as the opponents that occupy the second portion of the arena. But that’s just the online mode; the story, on the other hand, is far more relaxed and forgiving, as it allows you to make as many attempts as it takes to get the job done.
I will say this: your choice of character doesn’t really make that much of a difference. More to the point, as each of the available characters have similar abilities and foam-coated weapon wheels, it doesn’t really matter who you choose to side with, or who you choose to be your arch-nemesis, for that matter. For the most part, it’s a level playing field, which means, seasoned pro or not, every combatant starts out with the same odds of winning. And that’s great, in ways; the competitiveness of it all makes it all the more exciting.
While on the subject of competitive gameplay, Foamstars is, without doubt, a team-based game, clear as day. It’s so team-centric, even, that it’s nigh impossible to “be a hero” and showcase your natural talents — even after you’ve already slugged through numerous bouts and mastered all there is to learn and practice. Case in point: each team must not only protect their VIPs, but also work collectively in order to defeat the opposing ones.
But Does it Work?
Like a lot of online multiplayer games that adopt only the one or two modes (Crash Team Rumble, we’re looking at you), Foamstars does often struggle when it comes to keeping the players’ attention. And whilst it is fun in short bursts, its general lack of depth does begin to grate after extended periods of play. What’s more, with fewer incentives and rewards for players to unlock than the average arena shooter IP, it does mean that the game can get a little monotonous after a fair while. With that said, it does benefit from its inclusion of a Story Mode—a relatively short but surprisingly bulky expedition that adds a little more meat to the bones, so to speak.
Aside from the core gameplay modes and beginner-friendly mechanics, Foamstars also includes a fairly generous selection of goodies to unlock, such as custom paint jobs for your surfboard, outfits for your character, and skins for your foam guns. With that said, most of said items do come at a cost—a tediously high price that I, personally, wouldn’t have dared to splash out on. But then, with the vast majority of the purchasable items being purely cosmetic, none of them are all that important, and thus hardly worth thinking about, let alone putting your hands in your pockets for.
Cheeky in-game add-ons cast aside, the rest of the game does actually fall into your lap without so much as a spill. In short, there aren’t any paywalls, or any pay-to-sim schemes, for that matter, so while it does make the occasional effort to pluck the coin from your back pocket, it never overstays its welcome — and for that I’m truly grateful. It could’ve been a lot worse.
Foamstars isn’t the first online shooter to copy-and-paste the core components from Splatoon’s archive, and it certainly won’t be the last, either. With that being said, in spite of its clear references to the latter, Square’s foam-centric art piece does actually possess a generous amount of original material, such as a wide array of unique weapons, abilities, and cloud-woven locales, to list just a few. What’s more, it’s a lot of fun to play — especially in packed-out lobbies that churn out more competitive opponents than careless ones.
When all’s said and done, it’s nigh impossible to ignore the similarities between Foamstars and its reputable adversaries, but that isn’t to say that it’s a bad game, in general. In fact, it’s actually a very good game, made all the better due to its inclusion of offline modes and other original features. Granted, it isn’t something that you’ll want to play for months, or years, even, but it’s certainly worth sinking your teeth into once or twice, nonetheless — more so if you’re a sucker for a hearty 4v4 arena shooter.
When all’s said and done, the future is clearly bright for Square Enix’s newly formed IP. It’s early days yet, so while we can’t exactly comment on its longevity, we can reinforce our previous statement: Foamstars, even in its adolescence, is a friggin’ fun game, and definitely something that competitive players will get a kick out of.
Foamstars Review (PlayStation 4 & PlayStation 5)
Double Bubble, Infinite Trouble
Foamstars, in spite of it being a candy-coated clone of Splatoon, is still an absolute blast to play — especially with other like-minded combatants who’d soon rather wreak havoc with bubbles over bullets.