Square Enix’s new third-person shooter foam starswhich pits teams of four players against each other in bubble-covered battles, appears to be the company’s take on Nintendo’s popular ink-shooting series, Splatoon.
As part of Summer Game Fest, Polygon got some hands-on time with the game, and there’s good news: the match format introduces a nice touch that leads to some exciting competition. There’s also bad news: fighting with bubbles doesn’t pack the same punch as gloppy ink – and gameplay suffers because of it.
The general postulate of foam stars is easy to understand and grasp. To win a match, your team must kill any member of the opposing team seven times. Once your team gets seven kills, the best player on the other team becomes the “star player” and you must kill them to win the game.
Similar to Splatoon games, you can spray the arena – venues include glittering Las Vegas-style clubs – with foam in your team’s color and smooth surf over it. Some skill attacks and bubbles can be fired at the same spot to build up a bunch of bubbles which will then give you a higher vantage point to shoot (or be shot at). Each character, a mix of anime idols and influencers, has two different skill attacks; for example, the Pink Pigtailed Soa can throw a grenade and do a whirling leap through the air that emits bubbles. Different characters have different skills, so a character like Pen Gwyn is more suited for long range snipers while Rave Breaker can cover the map with lots of moss.
The match format is a welcome touch that will likely be more enjoyable for solo players looking for a thrill wearing a hard match. The star player takes the brunt of the pressure in the late game and can turn the tide of battle dramatically. At one point, my team seemed to pick up an easy win after landing seven straight skills, but ended up losing the match after a star player on the other team slipped away from us. In chasing them, we lost our focus on…staying alive.
For such a cute theme, I struggled with foam starvisuals when it comes to the heat of the moment. The bubbles were bouncing around a lot, leaving me oblivious to the real impact of my bubbles and weapons. In general, close range shooting was easy to pull off, but anything with more distance felt like shooting in the dark. The thickness of the bubbles cluttered the screen as they accumulated rather than just covering the map. Often the bubbles seemed to be higher than my character and obscured them.
The game features a mechanic where if your character dies they turn into a rolling ball of foam. At this point, either your opponent has to surf you to kill you, or your teammate can revive you. It’s a fun mechanic in theory, but in the chaos of a match it once again caused some visual confusion. The foamball-like characters are hard to spot amid the visual noise, though they’re marked by neon signs that say “luck.” The revive mechanic added another element to an otherwise cluttered screen and simply slowed down the fast pace of battle. In the end, I ended up leaving several people behind in this moss ball state because I couldn’t find them.
foam stars frantic should still make it a welcome addition to any gamer who doesn’t have a Nintendo Switch. The fast-paced and unpredictable nature of the matches led to some exciting storylines, and the game ran without major difficulty or bugs – which was impressive considering you have to juggle spraying and foam-navigating in fast-paced matches. However, as someone who regularly plays other popular shooting games like Splaton 3 and zero construction FortniteI don’t see myself going to foam stars Soon. The gameplay was just a bit too heavy and visually confusing to feel like a confident replacement for stronger shooters, for now.
foam stars is coming to PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5. Square Enix has yet to announce a release date.