Last week I danced on top of a giant rubber duck DJ. No, I’m not back on the mushrooms – I was playing Foamstars, which is a similarly colourful and fun trip. Square Enix’s bubble-packed team-based shooter is bursting with character and style, while frequently managing to maintain a tense competitive edge. While not all of its launch modes hit home for me, I found myself pleasantly surprised at just how much fun I was having after four hours of hands-on time.
Foamstars will launch with multiple modes available, of which most are centred on multiplayer. The one exception is Foamstars’ PvE offering, which is playable in both solo and co-op and consists of fighting against waves of randomised enemies to achieve the highest score. While I only played one of these missions once, I can’t see it being where many will sink their time into; instead, the meat of this shooter is found in its three PvP modes.
Smash the Star is presented as Foamstars’ signature mode where two teams of four battle it out deathmatch-style until they reach seven eliminations, at which point an opponent’s “Star Player” is crowned. This player is buffed with increased health and damage output, making them formidable on the bubble-field, but once a Star Player is taken down the match is over. It’s a genuinely fun time and when teams are balanced can get really tense, as fights go down to the wire and the risk/reward nature of attacking your opponent and defending your Star Player comes to the fore.
First impressions may be to dismiss Foamstars as a Splatoon clone, but after playing it I found its hero-shooter DNA became much more apparent. Yes, painting the floor with your team’s foam colour aids movement, enabling you to surf along the perpetually changing floor with ease, but points are not awarded for how much territory you occupy.
While I had fun with Smash the Star, my favourite mode without a doubt is Rubber Duck Party. Teams of four battle it out to capture a wildly oversized rubber duck and escort it as far as they can toward the other team’s spawn point. It’s essentially Overwatch 2’s push mode and its objective-based focus spoke to those Overwatch sensibilities within me. That isn’t all though – the duck is also a DJ and if you climb on top of his shiny yellow head and manage to dance for a few seconds without being foamed up, it shoots forward at speed, pushing you further toward your team’s destination. It’s a nice little touch that once again encourages team play and smart team compositions as you look to defend the giant duck and his tiny dancer.
These two modes were easily the highlight of my time with Foamstars and came in stark contrast to the third multiplayer mode, Happy Bath Survival, which fails to offer the same level of tension or teamplay. Half of each team is stripped of their hero abilities and must assist the other two players with basic weaponry alone by painting the floor for them, in what is a relatively dull arena shootout. It’s disappointing because it sidelines the characters for stretches of time, as their usually tide-turning abilities can be combined to devastating effect in both Smash the Star and Rubber Duck Party.
Foamstars Gameplay Screenshots
Each of the eight heroes is equipped with their own weapon type, abilities, and super star skills. My favourite is the speedy Agito, who allowed me to dive under the foam, sneak around the back, and then erupt above the enemy in a shower of bubbles, before finishing up with a shotgun full of foam. They’re a great flanking option with a powerful super star skill that unleashes a homing shark that explodes on impact. Others I had fun with included Mel T who, despite sounding like a long-lost member of the Spice Girls, is in fact an ice cream-loving young lady who deals big damage thanks to explosive skills and a rocket-propelled foam cannon. In truth, I had a good time with all eight of the characters and can see where each will hold their value in different game modes, especially when teamed up with other heroes that offer synergistic opportunities.
There’s a level of charm to each too, which carries over into the maps themselves. Each showcases a different part of “Bath Vegas” and is visually distinct from one another and, crucially, is constructed with gameplay first in mind. They offer interesting architecture and varying levels of verticality, as well as obstacles such as the giant roaming roulette ball found circling Fomeopatra’s Crazy Wheel. In a time when so many shooters are militarised in their presentation and seemingly afraid to embrace colour, it’s welcoming to be barraged by it at every turn in Foamstars, which successfully marries Nintendo’s charm with the panache of Persona. The same can be said for the soundtrack, which delivers track after track of catchy tunes that wouldn’t sound out of place in an Atlus RPG.
I enjoyed my time with Foamstars then, and hope you will too, but I just can’t help but fear for its long-term appeal due to the recent fate many live-service games have met. Both free and premium season battle passes will be available throughout the first year of Foamstars’ life with new cosmetics, characters, maps, and modes promised, but all of which are a mystery at this point. It’s free at launch on PlayStation Plus, which will definitely give it an initial boost with millions of PlayStation players being able to download it for free. It’s a strategy the likes of Rocket League and Fall Guys enjoyed great success with, but it didn’t have the same effect on Destruction AllStars – a game I reviewed and thought was a fun enough time, but sadly one that didn’t take off. I just hope that Foamstars doesn’t suffer a similar fate and finds its audience, as it’s shaping up to be a genuinely fun and family-friendly hero shooter.
Simon Cardy couldn’t stop dancing on the duck. Follow him on Twitter at @CardySimon.