Nuts Review- Hiding Above the Trees, Looking For Squirrels
With its interesting story and unique art style, Nuts is a narrative puzzle game worth exploring a forest of squirrels for.
Joon, Pol, Muutsch, Char & Torfi
Review copy provided by the publisher
What’s up with all these squirrels? That was my first thought when I first saw Nuts. Published by Noodlcake and developed by Joon, Pol, Muutsch, Char & Torfi, this first-person narrative puzzle game was a fresh surprise. From its eerie setting and evolving mystery to its intricate puzzles, Nuts goes in unexpected places that stuck with me after the credits rolled.
Nuts follows a rookie field researcher who’s tasked with surveying squirrels in Melmoth Forest for Viago University. To get this research, you place cameras around certain parts of the map to see where the squirrels go. After reviewing your footage, you send it to Dr. Nina Sanchez, your supervisor. When you solve the puzzle, Dr. Sanchez will call you and the story progresses from there.
As a whole, the story is so interesting and it goes in directions I didn’t see coming. It doesn’t take a lot of risks which, in this case, isn’t a bad thing. The story is fun and always entertaining. The game only lasts four hours and doesn’t overstay its welcome. Nuts reminds me of games like Firewatch with its tone, setting, and messages.
As you go along, one of these themes is the importance of preserving forests and natural habitats. Without giving the story away, there are people who want to threaten the forest and take it down. In a way, this layer feels relevant today, with deforestation becoming a consistent issue in society. This leads you and Dr. Sanchez to do whatever you can to keep the forest and squirrels in peace.
Where the puzzle mechanic comes in is with the cameras. In the beginning, you start with one camera and tripod you point at a tree. From there, you view the footage at night to see where the squirrel goes. It starts easy but gets more complex the further you get in the story. Once you find where the squirrel is stashing nuts, you take a photo and send it to Nina. Your base of operations is an RV with items like a fax machine and bulletin board. You’ll also use a GPS to tell you where to go and a journal to keep track of the objectives. To review your footage, you go to your desk and play it back on a VCR and old TV.
“Nuts goes in unexpected places”
As the story progresses, you’ll get to use up to three cameras at the same time. With each new camera you acquire, another TV is added to your work station. The key to solving each puzzle correctly is in placing each camera in the right area. You can adjust each one to tilt it in another direction. Finding the right balance takes time and a lot of trial and error. Sometimes one camera will catch a squirrel going in one direction but cameras two and three won’t be in the right places.
Patience and experimenting is key to tracking where the squirrels go. The missions deepen in complexity, with one requiring you to send pictures of a squirrel at specific time stamps. Placing cameras around the map is a great feature and a cool way for players to experiment. Sure the feature can get repetitive but at the end of the day, it never felt like a bad thing.
Two other important items in the game are your portable camera and journal. Some parts of the game have you taking pictures with your camera. Sadly, it isn’t required often enough to warrant it being a feature. Most of the pictures you’ll need come from the video cameras placed around the map rather than the portable camera. As for the journal, it keeps track of your current story mission and photos taken with your camera. It’s a nice way to keep track of what’s going on. If you get stuck, you can always revert to the journal for a refresher on what to do.
Like the camera puzzle mechanic, I wish the journal was more fleshed out. It could include things like records of past missions and photos, info on Dr. Sanchez, or maybe journals the main character writes in between missions. There are also cassette tapes of Dr. Sanchez in the past scattered throughout the game. The tapes are a great way to not only get backstory on Dr. Sanchez but also Melmoth Forest.
One of the highlights of Nuts is its art style. It’s so unique and distinctive. If I had to make a comparison, it reminds me of games like Return of the Obra Dinn. During the day, the colors are bright orange and green. At night, the colors are a mix of purple and orange, with the squirrels being white. Other sections of the game feature different color schemes but each setting is vibrant and great to look at.
However, a recurring issue I faced is the game’s framerate. It’d slow down a lot and it got to be noticeable at times. One crucial point in the story was so choppy and sluggish that it took me out of the story for a moment. At the end of the day, it rarely detracted me from my enjoyment of the game. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the game’s music. Another great thing about the game is its music. It’s so atmospheric, eerie, and sets you in each mission.
“Nuts stands out from the crowd.”
With its solid story, puzzle mechanics, and art style, Nuts is a great game. From the opening to the end credits, the story is fascinating and so well-told. You learn enough about Dr. Sanchez and the main character to understand what’s going on. Placing cameras around the map is a unique way of implementing puzzles. The trick comes from placing them in the correct area to see where each squirrel is going. My main gripe is that while the game adds variety in how you solve puzzles, it doesn’t evolve the cameras and expand on their usage. Besides the cameras, the game’s journal feels limited and leaves room for ways to further use it.
That said, even with so many great indie games on Switch, Nuts stands out from the crowd. Its story concludes in a way that’ll stick with you after the credits. It also offers a quirky, mostly satisfying experience that answers the question: what have these squirrels been up to?