There’s a lot to be said for games that are more than the sum of their parts. The games that truly shine are the ones that are able to take expertise from many different disciplines and blend them together seamlessly, each part effectively giving more to the whole because of its interconnection with everything else. Then there are the games where, individually, the elements are strong but there’s a lack of connection between them which makes for a good, but not great, game. That’s what I felt when playing through NUTS as whilst there’s many great parts to it I didn’t felt like they came together as a cohesive whole, lacking that thread woven between everything that’d make this a must play rather than an interesting distraction.
Needing a job and a break from society at the same time you find yourself in the employ of a certain individual who wants you to monitor the squirrel population of a place called Melmoth forrest. You see she had previously done it herself, on behalf of a company who had to conduct an environment assessment before they’d be allowed to begin a development there. However that was some 20 years ago now and the company wasn’t successful that time around. This time though it seems they’re back and flush with cash, which is why the researcher has been able to put you under her employ. So off you go, into the forest to track squirrels and report back on their behaviour.
NUTS’ visual style is extremely striking, even after the torrent of games that have used the low-poly/texture style over the past couple years. The colours are used in fantastical ways to communicate things to the player, like the time of day where colours shift from bright yellows and greens to the night time’s darker reds and greys. Looking back at my screenshots I found that, surprisingly, the environments are actually pretty sparse in their level of detail but this wasn’t something I picked up on during my playthrough; the simplicity of the visuals and environment seemingly tricking me into thinking there was more there. So with visuals as simple as this you’d think that this would mean they want you to focus on other things, right?
Well for the rest of the game things are pretty simple. You’re given a starting location, some camera equipment and are told to track squirrels back to their stash. This is typically a repetitive affair of simply following the squirrels along their path until you find it, something which can take a couple days of in-game time. The game does seem to have some protection against you stumbling across the answer right away, as there were a couple levels when I went exploring and found what I thought to be the solution only to have it not work out immediately. I might’ve just buggered it up though, thinking back on it.
Littered in between each of your squirrel hunts will be little pieces of story, both from your present day journey and from your employer’s past. With simplistic visuals and relatively simple/repetitive gameplay I figured that there’d be a strong focus on the narrative but, in the end, there really wasn’t much to go on. Sure some of it was interesting, and even cute at times, but there’s not a lot of narrative to go off of even in the game’s short play time. The devs tried to inject some intrigue in the game’s later chapters but, in the end, it all kind of fell flat since there wasn’t enough investment in the backstory beforehand.
NUTS is a game that has the makings of something really great but, for lack of investment in a few key areas, unfortunately falls a little short. To be sure the craftsmanship on many parts of the game is incredible but the thread to tie them all together just isn’t there. To be sure, I tend to favour games that engage and capture me with their narrative and I do feel that that is the weakest part of this game. Still with that being said I’d still like to see more from this rag tag developer team, one that doesn’t believe in developing games under crunch time. That’s a value I can definitely appreciate and would love to see where they go from here.
NUTS is available on PC, iOS and Nintendo Switch right now for $28.95. Game was played on the PC with a total of 2.6 hours play time and 66% of the achievements unlocked.