After going hands-on with this PlayStation exclusive for 45 minutes at Summer Game Fest, this exclamation still rings true. It definitely looks like Splatoon, and it also feels like Splatoon. That said, it also does just about enough to stand on its own two feet, with foam proving to be a welcome change from the ink used in Nintendo's iconic online team shooter.
If there's one word we can use to sufficiently sum up our time with the game, it's "messy". Foamstars is incredibly messy, and we don't just mean in the sense that you're spraying foam in every direction; the muddy visuals, shaky performance, and gameplay mechanics all add up to form an experience that, while certainly fun, can't hold a candle to Splatoon's slick, exceptionally polished presentation.
Now, we played a relatively early build of Foamstars, so everything we mention here may well be smoothed out in time for launch; we certainly hope so, at least.
On a positive note, Foamstars is most definitely a fun time; there's no denying that. By utilising globs of foam instead of liquid ink, you can essentially mould your own terrain on the fly, allowing you to build makeshift blockades against your enemies, or get the drop on an unsuspecting opponent from above. It's cool, and it's really this aspect that makes Foamstars stand out from Nintendo's own creation.
The game mode we played was also quite different from what you might be used to in Splatoon. Instead of coating the ground in foam with a view to cover as much of the area as possible, Foamstars instead features a more straightforward deathmatch concept, with each team possessing seven lives. When you've managed to wipe out the opposing team (or vice versa), the best performer on the losing team will be designated the 'Star Player'. They then receive a huge boost in health and is clearly marked on the map, so your job is to either hunt down or defend the Star Player.
It's a neat concept, and a couple of our matches wound up with both team's Star Players revealing themselves, so there was a careful balance to be made in chasing down the opposing team's Star Player whilst also ensuring your own is well defended. Needless to say, things got pretty heated.
Where Foamstars falls short, however, is that it just isn't a particularly polished experience; at least, not yet. Despite running on a PS5, the performance was pretty woeful at times, with the frame rate stuttering during more chaotic moments. Not only that, but because foam is flying in every direction from both teams, it can often be difficult to see what's going on.
This is particularly noticeable when one of your teammates has been downed. When you or a buddy has been hit enough, rather than dying outright, you'll become entombed in a bunch of foam, becoming a 'foamball', if you will. During this state, you can be revived within a short time frame, but your opponents can also ram into you and end your life. Despite markers pinpointing your teammates, it's really difficult to gauge where exactly they are on the map, so it can be quite tricky making your way to them before your enemies do. We're not sure whether a bump in performance will solve this or if the sheer amount of foam needs to be toned down a bit. Either way, it's definitely a problem.
We're also interested to find out just how much content is going to be in the full game. The mode we played was certainly fun, but we're unsure whether it could hold our attention for very long. We're confident that more modes will be introduced later down the line, but Square Enix is being quite cagey at the moment. Not only that, but it's currently unknown whether microtransactions will play a role in the full game. Given Square Enix's ongoing commitment to NFTs, we're concerned that Foamstars could be hosed down with microtransactions.
We remain hopeful that Foamstars can come close to matching the sheer success of Splatoon. There's no reason why the PS5 and PS4 can't have their own quirky multiplayer title like this, and Foamstars absolutely has heaps of potential. From what we've seen so far, however, we're not completely convinced, and Splatoon fans concerned they might have to split their attention between two similar games have anything to worry about.
Have you been convinced by what you've seen from Foamstars so far, or do you think Splatoon fans can rest easy? Let us know.