From publisher Noodlecake and indie developer Joon, Pol, Muutsch, Char & Torfi, NUTS is an investigation game with some fascinating twists that certainly set it apart from other games trying to invoke that same feeling of intrigue.
The game’s premise is a curious one – you are a recent graduate of Viago University and have been tasked to find where native squirrels are making their homes in Melmoth Forest. NUTS wastes no time, it wants you to be involved in this adventure, and the game starts up with no initial cutscene to be found. For a game focused on narrative this works to its advantage – the striking visuals of the forest immediately stand out in a bold way. As the psychedelic color palette envelops your screen, with sharply contrasting but simplistic colors, Melmoth beckons for you to uncover its
Speaking of secrets, the game quickly takes a turn for the interesting as these squirrels and the forest may not be what they appear. Without going into spoiler territory, the story successfully compels you to find out more without becoming tiresome or getting in the way of the unique gameplay. If you are a fan of mysteries, NUTS certainly scratches that itch, with more being revealed about the forest at every turn.
Even if you were not a fan of the story, all the other aspects of the game combine to create something exotic that is worth exploring. Each area of the forest that you explore has a sharply different visual look and uses uncommon combinations of colors to its advantage. From orange and purple to yellow and light green, the forest comes alive with its weird and wonderful visuals. They create a sense of strangeness while at the same time making the forest come alive, which perfectly encapsulates the feeling you get when playing this game. The forest is serene, but something strange is underneath it all.
The fantastic foley sound effects come together to put you in Melmoth, from the gusts of wind whistling through the trees to the crunch of leaves beneath your feet to the calmly flowing water of a nearby creek, each effect is masterfully made to bring the experience together. The music adds to its tranquility, with restful tracks peacefully accompanying your squirrel observation. The gameplay is satisfying in a unique way – you essentially play as a detective of squirrels. Your goal (most times) is to track a squirrel from its den to its nest of nuts, and several pieces of
equipment are used in this pursuit. Each day, you use a handheld GPS to find the initial location of a squirrel and set up your cameras in locations that you think the squirrel will follow in its path to its nest. You come back to your caravan and record the footage, and at night you use a multiple-TV setup to track the squirrel. The controls are reminiscent of any surveillance system, with a play, pause, forward and rewind buttons, with options to speed up or slow down your findings in either direction, or skip to the beginning or end of the footage.
This process is repeated – track the squirrel’s location along its path by continuously moving your cameras and reviewing their footage to find the destination. When a desired picture is found, you fax it to your research correspondent and leader Nina back at the University, and she helps you uncover more of the mystery of Melmoth Forest, Viago University, and how it is connected to these curious squirrels.
I do not want to say more about the story, except that you should experience it yourself. The voice actress of Nina does an excellent job in her role. Even more impressing is that she did all the
Foley design, which is impressive and should certainly be commended.
Lastly, the game only took me four hours to complete, and I am certain you are better at puzzles than I am, so if you are looking for a shorter adventure, this game certainly meets that criteria!
NUTS is unique, intriguing, and bold at the same time. Its striking visuals, excellent sound work, novel gameplay, and puzzling narrative come together to create an experience that encompasses what I love about indie work in video games, and its easy to see why it won the 2020 IndieCade award for best audio design, was a finalist in the 2020 Berlin A MAZE. competition, and was an official selection in both the Leftfield Collection and Day of the Devs 2019. Melmoth and its inhabitants are calling, all you need to do is grab your recording gear and take the first step!
I give this game a 8/10 on our scale – everything from the visuals to the sound design was great but the only thing holding it back is that the gameplay sometimes feels repetitive.
SoonerEsports received a review copy of this game for press use.