With the independent games flooding the market these days, it’s always nice to find a game that tries something different. Baba Is You is a good example of a small independent low-budget game that really impressed me with its innovative play style. When I first saw NUTS’ trailer, it caught my attention because of its catchy art-style. The sinister background that the trailer alluded to piqued my curiosity. I had to know what was behind the squirrels? Was it a simple game of nature observation or was this story completely insane?

The game begins with your first day on the trail as a budding naturalist. You are introduced to the small trailer you will live in during your mission, and to your scouting equipment. Your task is to find and track live squirrels in the Melmont Forest as part of an environmental impact study for a new dam to be built. You report regularly to your supervisor, Dr. Nina Scholz, throughout the mission, evaluating increasingly strange results. There is more going on in this forest than meets the eye.

Home sweet home.

At least that’s what they want you to believe. After the trailer, I thought NUTS was going to be a horror game or at least have a completely twisted plot. Unfortunately, that is not the case. I won’t give spoilers, but let’s just say that the trailer is very misleading. It’s not dark, it’s not twisted, and frankly, it’s not that good. The story meanders, hinting at something shocking that never happens. It ends with a lot of unanswered questions.

No kidding, that’s literally what you’ll be doing the entire game.

As for the gameplay, I have to congratulate the developers for trying something different. It’s a first-person shooter in which you use your GPS to find places of interest and install cameras in the woods to track squirrels. Once the cameras are installed, you go back to the trailer and start recording at night. When you wake up, watch the footage and see if you can spot any squirrels. Once you find them, strategically set up the cameras to track the squirrels’ movements and discover their hiding places for nuts.

Unfortunately, that’s really all the NUTS has to offer. You tell Nina about your findings and then go back to watching the squirrels. The concept is original and fun at first, but it gets old fast. They’ve tried to change things up a bit by changing your tasks from time to time. You have to follow the proteins from behind to find out where they come from, and also take videos of the proteins at certain times. But eventually you will just move the cameras around and collect images.

Fortunately, camera control is very simple and easy, as is interacting with most objects. Working with the surveillance equipment is also very simple. What I prefer, however, is that there is no way to slow down the footage or view it frame by frame. Squirrels move very quickly, and it is sometimes difficult to capture them when they are in focus. This has made capturing images of squirrels at specific times very difficult and tedious.

It looks like they are having a party. I wonder if they are listening to the zippers on the squirrel notes.

The artistic style is what first caught my attention because, like the concept of this game, it is truly unique. It is bold and incredibly simple. There are no textures or lighting effects. Instead, everything is rendered with single outlines and double color schemes. Most of the forest is colored in shades of blue and purple, while your equipment and replaceable items are colored red and orange. It’s very easy to see where things are, but there’s not much detail anywhere. Like the gameplay, it gets boring after a while.

The sound design is perhaps NUTS’ strongest point. You only hear Nina’s dialogue, but her acting voice does a decent job. There are a few places where she doesn’t convey the feeling of stress as well as she should, but most of her phrases are well done. All of the sound effects, the surrounding forest sound and the various sound devices are well thought out and overall convincing. There is very little music in NUTS. Most of the game is based on the ambient sounds of the Melmoth forest. Still, I think it was a good choice because it adds to the immersion.

Because I’m TNT. I’m dynamite!

To be perfectly honest, I was very disappointed in NUTS. I feel like I was completely misled by that misleading trailer. The concept has potential, but it wasn’t dark or strange enough. The story never really gets interesting and leaves a lot of questions unanswered. It’s also incredibly short. Depending on your level of squirrel tracking, this game will only take you two to three hours. It also gives you no reason to play it again. For $20, you’d be crazy to spend your money on it.

The graphics are incredibly simple, but clean. It has a catchy two-color scheme that changes slightly in each chapter. There aren’t many details here, though. The game consists entirely of interacting with multiple objects and pointing cameras at objects in the forest to catch squirrels.
Nina’s voice is quite good and the sound effects are well thought out. There is very little music in NUTS, which relies more on surrounding nature sounds, which I think was a wise choice. The game cycle of chasing and tracking squirrels is unique, but it ages very quickly. It feels like the story is going to be something crazy, but it never is.
Final Verdict: 5.0

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

Appears when the power is turned on.

A copy of the NUTS was provided by the publisher.

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