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Foamstars’ shifting bubble terrain shows it’s no Splatoon knockoff

The internet discourse during big gaming events can be a lot of fun to follow. There were plenty of jokes being thrown around when Square Enix first revealed Foamstars during May’s PlayStation Showcase, for example. There were plenty of Splatoon jokes flying about, and they were easy to make when watching a trailer. However, Shacknews recently tried out Foamstars and quickly learned that this is no Splatoon clone. In fact, it’s quite fun.

After giving Foamstars a look back at Summer Game Fest, Shacknews went back for a rematch at PAX West 2023. There was only one game mode available, but it was enough to set Foamstars apart from the pack. Smash the Star has one objective: Eliminate enough players to designate a single opponent as the “star.” The star receives some major buffs, but if the star is eliminated, the game is over. That, by itself, shows that Square Enix is at least trying to think outside the box rather than go to old standbys like Team Deathmatch, though the hype cycle is still young and that announcement could come any week now.

While Smash the Star is a fairly unique game mode, that’s not the main thing that sets Foamstars apart. Each member of a team of four gets a weapon that fires off foam. In one of the only appropriate comparisons to Splatoon, players must endeavor to cover as much of the playing field with their own color of foam as possible. That’s because walking on the opposing foam color will severely reduce a player’s speed and open them to enemy fire. Upon running out of HP, players will be balled up in enemy foam, at which point an opponent can surf into them and pop them. Conversely, an ally can also surf into them to save them and put them back in the fight.

Each Foamstars character has their own distinct abilities, though there wasn’t nearly enough time to determine who can do what. There was even less time to measure potential synergies. Instead, with the limited time we had, we played around with characters like Mel T, a bubbly influencer who could bring out an inflatable unicorn that covers the surrounding area in allied foam. There are eight playable characters in total, with the potential for more down the road.

The early joy in Foamstars comes in the foam’s function. As players spray the playing field with foam, the terrain becomes different. Players must go from navigating a flat surface to keeping an eye out for sudden bumps and escalating walls. Skilled players can build cover and keep themselves safe from the sniper character. If one unfortunate player becomes the star, the changing terrain makes it entirely possible for them to try and hide from the opposing team. Strategies shift at a moment’s notice as the stage layout changes from the onslaught of bubbles.

It’s early to judge whether Foamstars will find an audience or show staying power. However, this early taste of what Square Enix has in the works was encouraging. We’ll be sure to keep an eye out for additional game modes to see how well they fit with what the publisher has shown off thus far. Foamstars is coming soon as a PlayStation exclusive.

These impressions are based on an on-site demo from PAX West 2023. It may not be representative of the final product.

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