If the Internet is already dead set on writing Foamstars off completely, then it'll be red in the face come PS5, PS4 launch day. Despite the comparisons it's attracting, this isn't really a Splatoon rip-off, and most important of all: it is really quite enjoyable to play. We had the chance to compete in multiple local matches at Summer Game Fest Play Days, and came away pleasantly surprised. With a single player campaign and more online modes on top, what we played was chaotic just as much as it was pure fun.
The Square Enix title isn't about territory control, or rather: the mode we played wasn't. Instead of fighting for space by covering the arena with foam, it plays out like any other round of Team Deathmatch until a squad of four has suffered seven eliminations. At that point, the best-performing teammate is marked as the Star Player and the round ends the next time they die. Foam is the key to all of this, dictating deaths, survival, abilities, and movement.
While the mode we played in Foamstars has a different goal, it's impossible to get away from how similar it is in certain aspects. Foam deals damage, and your entire skill set is based around it. Shooting too much of it leads to a complete loss of liquid (essentially a reload) and surfing in enemy foam will slow you down. That's all very Splatoon-like, except where it's not is in the very thing you're shooting: foam.
It's a 3D object that can be stacked, unlike paint which can only be plastered across things. This simple but important difference is the game changer Foamstars has to its name as you can essentially create your own cover, forts, and walls independent from the map itself. This adds an entirely new layer of strategy whereby you can almost forego the established rules of the arena and create your own on top. It's tough to judge just how much you could do across only five multiplayer matches, but in those alone foam was stacking on itself, blocking sight lines and causing new fighting lanes to crop up. Square Enix representatives spoke of more elaborate and complex structures being created entirely out of foam during internal playtests, and it's not much of a reach to see how they could come to fruition.
That wouldn't matter, though, if Foamstars wasn't great to play immediately from the off. But it is. Eight characters were playable at SGF Play Days, all complete with their own weapon and set of unique abilities (two main skills and an ult), and experimenting with who does what was half the fun. Uninterested in finding our main, we jumped between the loadouts of Soa, Tonix, and Pen Gwyn to find a groove that suits our fancy. Perhaps more traditional roles like tanks and healers will come to the forefront naturally upon the game's release, but there's a pleasure to be had in experimenting and learning what does what — particularly for when you're on the receiving end.
As such, the roughly 45-minute session was a blast. It's one of those games you can't help but play with a smile locked across your face, taking in the chaos and revelling in it when you score some takedowns. With the surfing mechanic on top — this is also how you'll confirm kills and save teammates — it's a responsive experience that feels finely tuned with genuine care.
It very much remains to be seen what the entire package will look like; this was just one mode in a wider multiplayer offering, so who knows where it'll fall on the spectrum from free-to-play game to $70 release. There's also no word on any microtransactions, Battle Passes, or an in-game store, but then the title was only announced recently and lacks a release window. What we can confirm right now is it's fun. Lots and lots of fun. We expect some will be eating their words once the full game's out. If you have any spare room in your life for another multiplayer game, keep your eye — and ignore the snark — on Foamstars.
Foamstars is confirmed for PS5 and PS4, but lacks a release date at the time of writing. Are you convinced the game might be better than first impressions suggested? Share your thoughts in the comments below.