Ask people what kind of shooters they’re playing in video games these days, and they’re likely to rattle off a high-quality – yet mature-rated – title like Call of Duty or Halo, franchises that have managed to sell millions of copies around the world, and should continue to flourish with new entries set for release later this year. But what if a company introduced a game with hardcore shooting controls, but with a theme that would make it enjoyable for players of all ages

That’s exactly what Nintendo will be doing with Splatoon when it releases for the Wii U this May. This third-person action game takes all the familiar components from a competitive shooter, but replaces the hardcore weaponry and explosions with paint. Lots and lots of paint. In fact, it’s easy to say that it’s the video game equivalent of a paintball war, but with a twist.

The goal in Splatoon is to cover as much terrain with paint as possible within the enclosed map. This includes shooting walls, floors and other spaces, before the enemy can cover up the area with their paint. However, there’s an advantage to having more paint around, as players can transform temporarily into squids, moving at a faster pace across a map and also refilling their paint gun at the same time.

Along with shooting the terrain, players can also shoot at their adversaries, “taking them out” and forcing them to regenerate back at their home base. So, to some extent, there are some hardcore shooting elements at play in Splatoon, but instead of over-the-top carnage, players see explosions of paint. In addition, other elements from shooters are featured here, such as super-powered bazookas that can cover a greater area with a single shot, and bombs that act as grenades, splattering paint across a limited area – and, again, “taking out” enemies in the way.

Ever since its introduction during Nintendo’s E3-oriented Nintendo Direct special last year, Splatoon has been building buzz. But when the game made its playable debut at PAX East in Boston earlier this month , people started to take notice. Nintendo set up an eight-person competitive booth – with teams of four taking on one another. Players waited in line for hours on end to get in on the action, and experience this weird yet magical little title that Nintendo is producing. The video below shows just how popular the game was at the event.

The game will have full online support, along with local multiplayer options for those who prefer a “couch” session with their friends. There will be a number of maps available, and players will be able to “level up” accordingly, even earning access to bigger and better weapons, including a giant paint roller that can mow down anything in its path.

However, it’s the unique non-violent approach that should make Splatoon stand out, as both kids and veteran shooter fans should have no problem getting into the competitive spirit of the game, but splatting paint instead of blood everywhere. That should no doubt please parents, while, at the same time, bringing hardcore Nintendo fans in droves to check the game out as well.

Nintendo’s marketing move at PAX East showed an awareness of Splatoon‘s potential, and how the game benefits from hands-on experience and the enjoyment of the spectators. Perhaps Nintendo will continue to put effort into marketing this title, yet another one that could help move Wii U consoles into the market.

It’ll be messy, but Splatoon definitely looks like a game changer for the shooter genre . . . and Nintendo, for that matter.