Foamstars Preview: War Has Broken Out In The Club

Foamstars Preview: War Has Broken Out In The Club

Foamstars isn’t beating the Splatoon clone allegations. Let’s just rip that bandaid off right now.

A team shooter by Japanese studio Toylogic and published by Square Enix, Foamstars is a chaotic 4v4 arena shooter in which your primary mode of interaction is shooting foam. The aesthetic is that of a combative foam party, as though war has broken out in a nightclub — pounding pop music, flashing lights and lasers, fashionable characters, and a ton of viscous, mountainous bubbles. The goal of the game’s primary mode — Happy Bath Survival — is to cover more of the map in foam than your opponents inside an allotted amount of time. When the time runs out, the team with the greater coverage percentage is declared the winner — this is exactly the same goal as Splatoon‘s primary mode, Turf War. Another mode, Smash the Star, is a Protect the President style game mode where one player becomes the sole focus of the enemy team’s aggression and must be defended.

Foamstars‘ point of difference is … well, it’s the foam. During the group Q&A portion of a hands-off preview last week, I asked two of the game’s lead developers how the foam actually worked from a mechanical and design perspective. I got a very enthusiastic, ten-minute response that went into great detail, and it changed much of how I’d viewed the game’s design ambitions to this point. Maybe it will change yours as well.

Where Splatoon‘s paint (or, I suppose, ink) covers flat, two-dimensional planes in flat, two-dimensional paint, the foam in Foamstars is three-dimensional. It has mass and can be interacted with. This makes the game’s primary offensive and defensive tools the exact same thing. Because it has mass, foam can be used to block your opponents’ lines of sight or wall off lanes of traversal. Because you can climb on it, you can use it to gain a height advantage or clamber over enemy walls. You can bounce on it. You can use it to alter the terrain of a level. If you find the right item, a kind of Back to the Future hoverboard, you can surf along the top of it.

You’re also not safe hiding behind it. Foam isn’t solid, and your enemies can shoot through it.

All of this quite literally changes the landscape of every match, and it’s the mechanic that I’m most interested in. Will it be enough to sell the game to a larger audience? It’s hard to say. What might help Foamstars‘ fortunes is that Square Enix is launching it on February 6, as one of the monthly games on PS Plus. It’s the Rocket League strategy — release it onto PS Plus, a popular and highly-subscribed service, and hope that entices people to check it out. It’s far from a guarantee of success — Destruction All-Stars‘ PS Plus launch didn’t meet with anything close to the sustained success of Rocket League, so I imagine there’s a lot of crossed fingers at Toylogic this month.

There will, of course, be a battle pass because you can’t launch a multiplayer game in 2024 without one. The battle pass is littered with cosmetics and other trinkets to decorate your character. All of the characters in the game already have a lot in common with Japanese pop idols, so if you love your J-Pop, you’ll probably find a lot to like about these designs. The team has also promised a new PvP mode and content across the game’s first year — indeed, there was a lot of talk about the first year of Foamstars but little about anything beyond that, creating an overriding impression of this being a make-or-break product.

It’s now only a couple of weeks until Foamstars is out in the world, and we can all take it for a spin. I went into the preview uncertain about what I’d get out of it. I came away from it more interested in the game than I had been previously, but in a forensic way — I’m more interested in playing with the foam and looking at it as a design experiment than I am in actually playing Foamstars for fun.

I’m weird like that, though. Your mileage, of course, may vary.

Foamstars launches on February 6 for PlayStation platforms.

Image: Square Enix

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