Square Enix's Gooey New Shooter Feels Like the Perfect Party Game
The good kind of chaos.
Foamstars immediately drew comparisons to Splatoon upon its announcement, and for good reason. Both games pit two teams of four against each other and let you use a kind of “liquid” to cover the ground, which lets you travel through it quickly. Those comparisons, however, pretty much end there, and Foamstars could be a massive surprise that could end up being a fun, albeit chaotic, multiplayer party game. After playing multiple matches at Summer Game Fest, Foamsters is easily one of the biggest surprises of the entire show.
The key difference between Foamstars and Splatoon comes down to the very speed of the game. Splatoon is quick, but everything about Foamstars feels blazingly fast by comparison, from the movement of your character to the way foam piles up into massive mounds in a matter of seconds. It takes a round or two to get used to.
This speed is baked into the core design of Foamstars. Even though your shots are made of floaty foam they move and coat the area quickly, and characters can simply do a quick reload when they run out. Each of the hero-like characters has a different moveset and weapon, although they fall into the basic categories of speed, long range, close range, and rocket launcher support. My personal favorite character, The Baristador, is a dapper, mustachioed, monocle-wearing gent that fires a massive milk laser for his ultimate attack.
The real interesting catch is how you eliminate enemies, and it doesn’t work like a typical shooter. You have to foam up enemies until they become incapacitated and turn into a foam ball, then on the left trigger you have a “surf” ability that lets you quickly slide across foam. After making an enemy vulnerable you have to surf into them to get a KO. It’s an interesting system that admittedly gives Foamstars a unique feel, and ultimately adds to the chaos, in a good way.
Matches are a cacophony of neon foam and crazy skills, all of which are on a cooldown timer, and the adrenaline really kicks in as you rush to KO an opponent before their team can save them.
This also means teamwork is absolutely vital, and more often than not, it’s actually a better idea to split into pairs that work well together, rather than all grouping up. Each team has a stock of seven KOs that, when depleted, turns one player into the “Star Player,” boosting their attack and defense and granting health regen. Taking out that player ends the match.
There’s an interesting verticality that quickly becomes apparent in Foamstars, as mounds of foam let you create barriers or pen in enemies with the high ground. That verticality integrally changes how you think about this type of game, and when combined with the overall frenetic pace and tone makes for something that feels like a kind of joyful concentrated chaos.
At its core, Foamstars really feels more like a party game than a competitive shooter, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Think of how Super Smash Bros. stacks up against “traditional” fighting games. That may be its key to success, but releasing a live service title right now is a daunting prospect. Foamstars’s success will really lie in how well Square Enix can cultivate an audience and consistently update the title with things like new characters, maps, and modes.
Foamstars makes a surprisingly strong first impression, particularly in how diverse its cast of characters feels, and the tight tuning of its gameplay. If the already-announced single-player mode manages to be something unique and ambitious, Foamstars could really end up being a surprise hit.