The video game industry is one that has been built on trends. If a game reaches escape velocity and becomes a big hit, it’s inevitable that others will be lining up to get a slice of that turkey. This has had some unfortunate consequences.

For some formulas, there’s plenty of room in the market for pretenders. Consumer hunger may wane over time, but genres like open-world, survival, RPG, or fighting have always had an audience. However, this doesn’t hold true with Games as a Service, whether it’s subscriptions or microtransactions. Publishers rushed into the MMO market following the explosive success of World of Warcraft, and now we have a trail of very expensive corpses littering the past two decades.

But investors never learn. So, in order to drum up some excitement, publishers from all over are trying to jump on the bandwagon, and there’s a tinge of schadenfreude watching so many hollow efforts fail.

Which brings us to Foamstars. I’ve most likely already given away how I feel about it.

Foamstar Happy Bath Survival
Screenshot by Destructoid

Honestly, I went into Foamstars with as open a mind as I could muster. I like Splatoon. Foamstars obviously lifts heavily from Nintendo’s multiplayer shooter. It could be a good time.

You play as a hip young person who has the ability to squirt foam. They have harnessed this unique ability to fight crime and also participate in a competition to see who is the best foam squirter. Each event is a 4v4 affair but in different configurations. One has the team split into combatants and supporters (Happy Bath Survival, which is a great name), another has you whittle down the team’s life stock (Smash the Star), and another is pretty much just Tower Control from Splatoon (Rubber Duck Party.)

The big difference between Foamstars foam and Splatoon’s ink is that the foam can stack into colorful mounds of cryptid fluid, which works… okay. There’s no analog to Splatoon’s classic Turf War match style, so the foam is mostly functional. You can still surf across your team’s foam, just like, well, you get the idea.

To knock out an opponent, you have to deplete their health bar, at which point they’ll be encased in a cocoon of froth. You can then surf into them to claim the “chill” (because foam is about love, not war), or a teammate can free them.

While Foamstars wears its influence on its sleeve, it does enough to differentiate itself from Splatoon. A match in each feels similar but not quite the same. If that’s not enough, you can tell the difference because Foamstar’s personality feels entirely forced.

Foamstars Surfing
Screenshot by Destructoid

There are six characters to choose from, with one unlockable through gameplay and the other through money. Okay, that’s not entirely true; Mel T can be unlocked by raising your Season Tier up to 31, which doesn’t seem impossible based on the pace of leveling I had while playing. Anyway, we’ll talk about microtransactions in a bit.

The fact that you’re stuck with these few characters is kind of annoying to me. Customization for them comes down to a small assortment of outfits, weapons, and surfboards. Very few of these are unlocked through gameplay. Most of them have to be paid for. But we’ll get to that.

My biggest issue with the characters is that they’re annoying. They’re overly cheerful, spout as many bad puns as they do foam, and some of the voice acting is just grating. I wound up switching the vocals to Japanese, just so I could play without constantly cringing. Splatoon has its own share of bad jokes and puns, but at least the characters speak jibberish.

However, if you’re down for some cringing, there’s a shockingly insubstantial wave-based defense single-player mode with an inconsequential story about very little. It’s so bare that it’s practically see-through, but there are some very dim attempts to explain the lore. It feels like such an afterthought. It’s pretty bad when Splatoon’s single-player feels more developed.

Foamstars Chaotic Duck game
Screenshot by Destructoid

There was one moment when the game crashed completely during the first round of Happy Bath Survival. Straight to the PS5 menu. I went right back into Foamstars, where it told me that the round would be recorded as a loss, which is pretty normal to prevent people from just logging out and scrubbing a bad game. I don’t really care if the loss is on my record; I don’t even know how to check it. However, it told me to “Please check [my] network connection and try again.” I was incensed. Check your game, Square Enix, and watch where you wag that finger.

Growing pains, I get it. Few online-focused titles have smooth launch days. Every time I queued up for a match, it would take five minutes to get in. I’m sure in a week, it won’t be such an issue. Besides, sitting around for five minutes gave me time to write this article and take a look at the real-money shop.

Holy damned crap. Character packs that come with a costume, a weapon skin, a pair of surfboards, and a couple of other things cost 60 Canadian Loonies. I could order in the fancy curry for my partner and me, and the aftertaste would probably last longer than my interest in what pants my character is wearing.

I don’t know; maybe I’m a bad judge of value, but that seems a little pricey to me.

Foamstars microtransactions
Screenshot by Destructoid

You’d also be betting that money on whether or not Foamstars will be around in a year. I can’t claim to see the future, but I wouldn’t take those odds.

Foamstars can be a good time in the heat of a match, though I’d argue most competent online shooters can be. I had some exciting moments of fighting through mountains of foam, but there was a lot that bugged me about it.

For one thing, I never really got a feel for how foam is removed or replaced. In Splatoon, it’s easy; one ink just replaces another. For Foamstars, it would sometimes seem like I could throw everything at a mountain of the other team’s fluids, and it would still be standing. On other occasions, my hard-spread spittle would get wiped away in an instant. These are things I can’t think about in the moment.

It can get pretty chaotic and hard to read. Midway through the match, the level becomes just a field of colorful undulations. I never quite got the feel for when and how was the best way to use my sub-weapons. They always seemed entirely useless. I got better with reading the game over time and was able to take out targets with more precision, which makes sense that I’d improve, but it still didn’t quite click.

Foamstars Single player
Screenshot by Destructoid

It’s fine. But fine doesn’t really cut it in the world of GaaS. Any game can get better over time, but a live service approach needs to come out swinging to draw attention away from more established titles, and Foamstars can barely get through the ropes. Even if you really enjoy the core game, there isn’t a lot of content to support it. A lot of the arenas feel interchangeable, there isn’t a very good variety of characters, and an overwhelming amount of cosmetics are locked behind extremely galling pricetags.

It was released for free on PlayStation Plus, and given the prices they’re charging to add on to the meager content within, it should probably remain that way. But no, if you want to pick it up next month, it will run you $29.99.

If you’re picking up Foamstars while it’s free and can look past the hollow nature of its framework, it’s possible to have fun with it. You might even find it appealing. I can even admit to having a bit of fun with it. However, it’s not even close enough to make up for the disgust I feel towards its expensive microtransactions, derivative nature, and irritating characters. The best thing I got out of this experience was the desire to return to Splatoon 3 for some Salmon Run. As for Foamstars, I’m just uninstalling it.

Zoey Handley

Staff Writer – Zoey is a gaming gadabout. She got her start blogging with the community in 2018 and hit the front page soon after. Normally found exploring indie experiments and retro libraries, she does her best to remain chronically uncool.

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