Coming from a surprise announcement during the Sony PlayStation Showcase, Foamstars was a title that probably didn’t get a fair shake. It was easy to dismiss this game based on the trailer alone, with many calling it a clone of a famous ink-based game on the Nintendo Switch. While that’s true on the surface, I couldn’t have been any more wrong after playing a few matches.
During Summer Game Fest, I got the chance to play 5 rounds of Square Enix’s latest competitive shooter, Foamstars, with other members of the press (I actually played against Push Square and Easy Allies, while getting teamed up with well-known DJ Zedd and crew). In the first match alone, Foamstars surprised me in ways that I didn’t think possible, and I can easily say that the game does enough things that could make it a surprise hit if given the chance.
Foamstars is a 4v4 shooter that touts foam as its differentiating factor. It’s not hard to see how this is simply just “ink” in a different form, but foam as a 3D object acts just like one, and it is enough to make all the difference.
Other similar titles will mostly rely on their level design to engage the players, but Foamstars lets players create their own levels in a sense. Foam can accumulate, providing opportunities to create barriers, inclines, walls, and much more. Of course, it can get chaotic during the middle of skirmishes, but more coordinated teams can definitely find a strategy to utilize this unique property of foam in the game. The level we played on was a mostly flat area, but it would be nice to see more level variety in the final game.
The playable build we got to try featured a diverse lineup of characters that fall into 4 archetypes. From close quarters (shotgun) to rapid-fire (assault rifle), these classes each have their own unique skills that can damage enemies or even create more foam for the team. Characters also have ultimate moves that can easily turn the tide of battle when used correctly! Creating foam is an integral part of the strategy, as surfing on opposing foam gives a significant penalty to mobility, among other things.
The match we played had each team with 7 lives, and each time a player is defeated, one life would be taken away from the total. Players will respawn and get another shot at redemption. Each time players lose their HP, they will be trapped in foam, and the opposing team will have to surf their way to the player to fully knock them down and tick off life from the total.
Of course, teammates can also save their foamy comrades by surfing into them as well, which is a crucial strategy that players will have to learn if they want to succeed in Foamstars. With life totals dwindling as the match goes by, an Star Player will be chosen when each team is down to their last life, and this player will have increased stats, regeneration, and damage. This powered-up state also comes with a big bullseye, and the first team to take out the Star Player will ultimately win the match.
While some elements are indeed similar, Foamstars does its best to stand out, and it succeeds for the most part. Each match was fun and action-packed, and after a couple of rounds, both of our teams started to form strategies and team compositions that we used to gain the upper hand. Most of the time, we even got to a point where both teams had their Star Players activated, resulting in a tension-filled affair that brought out the best in all players involved.
Apart from various online modes, Foamstars is said to have a single-player mode as well. We only got to try out the multiplayer aspect of the game, so we’ll reserve judgment on the other stuff we haven’t seen yet.
Only time will tell how much of a success Foamstars can be for Square Enix, but for the 40 minutes or so and 5 matches that we played (we won 3-2 btw, Zedd and his crew really do know how to play!), it was evident that everybody had fun and wanted just a bit more before we were booted out. That says a lot about Foamstars, and it went from a simple clone that was easily dismissed to a surprise hit in a matter of minutes.