Review – NUTS

With indie games flooding the market these days, it’s always nice to find one that tries something different. Baba Is You is a prime example of a small, low-budget indie game that really impressed me with its innovative puzzle gameplay style. When I first saw the trailer for NUTS, it caught my attention with its striking art style. I then became intrigued by the sinister undertones the trailer alluded to. I had to know, what was the story behind these squirrels? Was this a straight-forward nature surveillance game or was this story completely nuts?

The game starts off with you starting your first day on the job as a rookie nature researcher. You’ll familiarize yourself with a tiny caravan that you’ll be living in for the duration of your assignment, as well as your tracking equipment. Your job is to find and track the squirrels living in the Melmoth Forest as part of an environmental impact study for a new dam that is about to be built. You’ll report to your boss, Dr. Nina Scholtz, regularly throughout your assignment and assess the increasingly strange findings. There’s more going on in this forest than meets the eye.

NUTS

Home sweet home.

At least, that’s what they want you to think. From the trailer, I thought NUTS was going to either turn into a horror game or at least have some completely bonkers story. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. I won’t get into any spoilers, but let’s just say that the trailer is extremely misleading. It’s not dark, it’s not twisted, and frankly, it’s not that good. The story just meanders on, hinting that something shocking is around the corner, but then never delivers. It ends with a lot of unanswered questions as well.

NUTS

No joke, this is literally what you’ll be doing the entire game.

As far as the gameplay goes, I do have have to commend the developers for trying something different. This is a first-person surveillance game in which you’ll use your GPS to find points of interest and set up cameras around the forest in order to track down the squirrels. After setting up the cameras, you’ll go back to your trailer and start recording footage during the night. When you awake, you’ll go over the footage and see if you can locate any squirrels. Once you find them, you’ll have to strategically place the cameras to follow to movements of the squirrels to reveal their hidden stash of nuts.

Unfortunately, that’s really all NUTS has to offer. You’ll talk back and forth with Nina about your findings and you’ll go back to squirrel surveillance. The concept is original and fun at first, but it gets old very quickly. They tried to change things up a bit by altering your missions from time to time. You’ll have to track the squirrels in reverse in order to find where they came from as well as get footage of the squirrels in specific timestamps. However, at the end of the day, you’re still just moving cameras around and collecting footage.

Luckily, controlling the cameras is very simple and easy, as is interacting with most objects. Working the surveillance equipment is fairly simple too. Although, my biggest gripe with it is that there’s no way to slow the footage you’re viewing, nor is there any way to go frame by frame. The squirrels move very quickly and it’s sometimes difficult to get a picture of them when they’re in frame. This made the task of getting photos of the squirrels in specific timestamps really tough and annoying.

NUTS

It looks like they’re having a party. I wonder if they’re listening to the Squirrel Nut Zippers?

The art style is what first grabbed my attention, because like this game’s concept, it’s really unique. It’s bold and incredibly simple. There’s no texture work or lighting effects. Instead, everything is displayed with simple outlines and dual color schemes. The bulk of the forest will be colored in hues of blues and purples, with your equipment and interactable objects being colored in reds and oranges. It’s very easy to spot where things are, but there isn’t a whole lot of details anywhere. Like the gameplay, it becomes bland after a while.

The sound design is probably NUTS‘ strongest feature. You’ll only hear dialogue from Nina, but her voice actress delivers a pretty decent performance. There are a few times when she doesn’t quite sell feeling distressed when it’s needed, but most of her lines are done well. The general sound effects, the ambient forest chatter, and the various recording equipment are well done and convincing all around. There’s very little music in NUTS, with most of the game relying on the ambient sounds of Melmoth forest. However, I feel like that was the smart choice as it adds to the immersion.

‘Cause I’m TNT. I’m dynamite!

If I’m being totally honest, I was really disappointed by NUTS. I feel like I was completely duped by its misleading trailer. The concept does have potential, but they didn’t go dark enough or weird enough with it. The story never gets terribly interesting and it leaves you with a lot of unanswered questions. It’s also incredibly short. Depending on how good you are with tracking down the squirrels, this game will only take you two to three hours to complete at most. It doesn’t give you any reason to replay it either. For the price tag of $20, you’d be nuts to waste your money on it.

 

Graphics: 6.0

The graphics are incredibly basic, but clean. It features a striking two color scheme and these change slightly in each chapter. There’s not a whole lot of details though.

Gameplay: 6.0

The gameplay consists solely of interacting with a few objects and aiming cameras at things in the forest in order to capture footage of squirrels.

Sound: 7.0

The voice acting for Nina is pretty decent and the sound effects are well done. There’s very little music in NUTS, instead relying on the ambient sounds of nature, which I think was a smart choice.

Fun Factor: 3.0

The gameplay loop of tracking down and surveilling the squirrels is unique, but gets old very quickly. The story seems like it’s going to ramp up into something crazy, but never does.

Final Verdict: 5.0

NUTS is available now on Apple Arcade, Switch, and PC.

Reviewed on Switch.

A copy of NUTS was provided by the publisher.