Developer: Joon, Pol, Muuutsch, Char, & Torfi
Genre: Adventure, Puzzle, Simulation
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Age Rating: TBA
Release Date: 04/02/2021
A code was provided for review purposes.
NUTS is a story focused adventure game, with a heavy emphasis on exploration and developing lore. As a recently hired employee, you will traverse the wilderness and collect data about the endangered squirrel population. As data is collected, the world begins to develop, showing Nina, your boss, how dire the situation you have encountered truly is.
The gameplay features elements of adventure as well as simulation by having the player move cameras around the map, tracking the squirrels. Working for Nina, each day will be used to complete the tasks she delegates. She frequently requests that squirrel hideouts be discovered in addition to other smaller tasks such as taking pictures of landmarks.
Throughout the daytime, exploration is the key to success. After visiting marked locations, you must decide where to locate your cameras for the night. Although you can only carry one of the stationary cameras at a time, the developers implemented several quality-of-life features, such as the ability to adjust the angle of the camera, as well as a screen that shows what area will be visible on the feed. Traversing through the map is easy, and the tools are simple and intuitive. The developers were not afraid to alter the formula. Each level includes something new for the player to experiment with, and some levels completely change the way the game is played. Exploring the world during the day is an incredibly fulfilling experience.
Each night, the cameras monitor the forest as well as any squirrels that may be passing by. The player remains inside their caravan and watches the camera feed. There are various options such as rewind, pause, and fast forward, each making scrubbing through footage enjoyable. Using the footage to find out how the squirrels migrate is made intuitive with the printer and notebook. Players will use the footage shown on the cameras to understand where to place the cameras on upcoming days. Printing images of the security footage keep players focused on exploration of the world and does not force them to memorize the patterns they witnessed on the security footage.
Additionally, the notebook allows the players to always bring images of the camera footage with them, assisting in their progress. By including options for players such as documenting findings in their notebook, and adjusting the speed of the camera footage, the developers of NUTS made each night feel unique, purposeful, and exciting.
NUTS has a minimal soundtrack. Most sounds that play are ambient noises from the environment or the hum of the electronics you use to explore. The sounds are fitting, and the lack of a soundtrack reflects the environment provided. Moreover, the cases that do feature a soundtrack are done expertly. The developers utilize the soundtrack to add suspense and frighten the player. This is not a scary game, but the soundtrack can make the player’s surroundings seem ominous.
In addition to the sound effects and music, the game features voice acting. The reading was professional and clearly dictated. It helped complete the experience. The phone calls would not feel complete if there was not an audible response from Nina. The voice acting is excellent, and greatly improves the quality of the game.
Furthermore, the art style the artists chose was an incredible decision. Not only does it look stunning and inviting to players, but including minimal colours makes the important items stand out, as generally, they are vastly different than the environment. It is obvious what objects can be interacted with, and which objects are simply environmental. Moreover, the art style continues the theming of the game. There is a large emphasis on the difference between night and day. The art style inverts the colours in the colour scheme depending on the time of day. This feature helps the player distinguish between the two times, and further highlights the differing playstyles. Not only is the chosen visual style appealing, but the design choices make important items vibrant, emphasizing their importance and alerting the player of their presence.
Why Watch Squirrels?
The story showcased in NUTS completes the package. Despite interesting visuals and sound gameplay, the true draw to this game is the detailed and immersive story. Learning about Nina’s backstory as well as the history of the landmark you are exploring makes each action you take seem meaningful and shows that there is more to the game than just exploring. Each task completed has a genuine purpose, and the story motivates the player to perform well.
Not only does the story give the player motivation to complete the tasks provided, but the frequent phone calls with Nina and letters from Simon make the characters feel like real people, and not solely existing to progress the story. Finding tapes that Nina left behind encourages exploration further, and even though Nina went exploring for different reasons, uncovering her opinions and observations makes her a completed character instead of a plot device. Even Simon’s lack of conversation is explained, making his character plausible and realistic.
Despite excellent immersion and character designs, certain topics seemed to be disregarded or underutilized. At times, plot points were not fully developed when there was potential for additional great story progression. Even some of the story elements discussed in the trailer were barely developed when they could have been forefronts of the story. Despite my gripe with the lack of development in some areas, the world and story of NUTS is incredibly enjoyable.
The performance was good for most levels. Unfortunately, the fourth level was burdened by frequent stutters and frame drops. It does not completely ruin the experience, as there are no precise jumps, and the value of the game comes mainly from the story and logic behind the placement of the cameras. Despite this, it stood out and disappointed me, especially because the other levels performed so well. It seemed out of place. There was one other instance where there were significant frame drops. However, this was during an event where there were a lot of moving assets, and this makes more sense. While not game-breaking, the slowdown did negatively impact my experience with the game.
While not necessarily important to everyone, the game only allows saving when a chapter is complete. Though fairly insubstantial, it was odd to feature such infrequent save points. Completing a level takes a decent amount of time, and without save points within the level, it can be a large time commitment.
Finally, NUTS is short in length. I was able to complete the game in around five hours. There is little reason to replay the game, as the locations of the squirrels are identical in consecutive playthroughs. However, the game is captivating and was an excellent experience despite its length.
NUTS hosts an enthralling narrative, an excellent artistic vision while also featuring engaging gameplay. Despite being brought down by the length of the game, the missed potential in additional story content and some minor performance issues, NUTS is an excellent experience which I thoroughly recommend.
Rapid Reviews Rating
You can purchase NUTS here
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.