When Square Enix first announced Foamstars this year during the May PlayStation State of Play, my attention was immediately piqued. After all, it seemed completely different from what I’m used to seeing from the developer. And now, after several months, we finally have our first hands-on experience with the game through the Open Beta Party. Let me tell you that, after playing for just a couple of hours, there’s a lot here to differentiate from others like it in the genre, but it may take some practice to break the idea that this isn’t Splatoon.
During the open beta, two modes are available to play. The first is Smash the Star, where the objective is to eliminate (or, as the game suggests, “chill”) seven players from the opposing team. Once seven players have been “chilled,” a random one among them is selected as the Star Player, and if they are defeated, the game ends. This mode is by far the most chaotic because when the Star Player enters the stage, everyone must work together to defend that player. So, expect to face a lot of opposition unless you team up.
One thing that is evident from the start is that Foamstars isn’t similar to Splatoon or other competitive shooters. In both modes, the primary goal isn’t to cover the stage with your foam; instead, you should strategically use it for both defense and offense strategies. Additionally, you can slide over your own foam, and each character has two sub-weapons that you can trigger using the shoulder buttons.
Next up, we have Happy Bath Survival. Here, the game arena is divided into outer and inner sections, with four players divided into two teams: two inside the outer ring and two inside the inner ring. The inner ring players must defeat the opposing two, while the outer ring players help by throwing bombs or foaming up the opponents.
Regardless of the mode you choose, matches last a maximum of 6 minutes each, and, as the narrator keeps saying, this isn’t a competition or a fight to the death. Everyone is here to have a good time, and that’s precisely what we want from video games these days, isn’t it? I was a big fan of the overall presentation, from the user interface to the controls, which felt incredibly smooth, especially with the PS5’s haptic feedback.
Out of the eight characters, I found ΔGITO the easiest to control due to his shotgun and balanced kit. His Ultimate can summon a shark that moves forward independently. However, I also recommend Mel T and Pen Gwyn for beginner players because they can cover a lot of ground quickly. If you want to support your teammates by covering the area with foam, their kit is perfect for that.
On the other hand, Tonix proved to be the most challenging character, mainly because timing is crucial when using her charged shot. Baristador was also challenging, mainly due to understanding where his foam would land, as he uses a Long-type gun.
One key aspect of Foamstars’ game balance is that on the player selection screen, two players cannot select the same character (i.e., if I choose Baristador, the other three players cannot select him). This approach keeps matches fresh and unique, encouraging players to try out different characters.
However, there are a couple of balance changes that would be welcome. For example, the Happy Bath Survival mode could limit the outer ring players a bit more, as they can interfere significantly with the inner ring, especially with their sub-weapons. Given that the outer ring has foam that you can easily traverse on, it becomes quite effortless to turn the tide.
Perhaps my only gripes are that, to successfully “chill” a player, you need to not only cover them with foam but also slide on them. Depending on the character, this can be a bit challenging, especially with Long-Range Gun characters. Additionally, even when foamed up, a teammate can slide and save you from being defeated. However, it’s harder than it seems, especially when you’re far apart.
In summary, I had a lot of fun playing Foamstars. Although the matches were short, each one and the characters convinced me that this wasn’t just a Splatoon clone. Instead, it’s a very enjoyable competitive shooter with a unique identity that stands out from the crowd. I’m excited to see what other modes await me when I play this game.
Foamstars is set to release on PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5 in early 2024.
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