NUTS: a review
Starting the year with a little intrigue
By Nidhiyaa Anagananthan
Images Courtesy of NUTS press kit
Of unnerving campsites and cute creatures, NUTS is a unique take on puzzle-adventure games. With a stellar team and impressive graphics, the game is a strong start to an exciting year for indie games.
As a recent graduate with high enthusiasm and low expectations, you find yourself stationed in the wide expanse of Melmoth Forest, researching the habitat of squirrels. Squirrels? you ask. Yeah, fluffy rodents that are seemingly leading normal squirrel-lives.
It’s only after a short bumpy ride, and a change in scenery, does the real objective of the research come to light — squirrels, but also other surprising discoveries.
Dr. Nina Scholz, your informant and your only human contact — besides the ever so lovely Simon, who arrives early mornings to deliver equipment and drive you around, whose face you never see — calls now and then to guide you through your research. Nina reveals her own involvement in the research decades ago and her own expertise in the field, consoling your initial apprehension of being stuck in a small caravan for months — though only hours in gameplay.
Even with regular instructions, the game offers the freedom to navigate tasks with up to three cameras and your very own station for recording and viewing footage of squirrels. Whether you spot anything interesting is up to your careful judgement of camera placement, or in my case, just dumb luck. And oh boy, are there interesting events to uncover.
There is ample amount of legwork and meticulous tracking of squirrels’ swift movements through the small TV screens — graciously delivered by Simon, of course. I admittedly found myself taking multiple breaks in between to ease the repetitiveness of tasks. While the gameplay itself is not challenging, the drill of arranging cameras and inspecting footage every night, only to discover that the cameras have to be rearranged in the morning, can be a little mind-numbing.
The art style, albeit a little jarring, is pretty with its color palates and is gracious in space for movement. Modelled in 3D, and outlined in whites, the days provide a less daunting outlook than the nights in the forest, with its darker tones and quieter sounds. The audio definitely makes the experience feel less lonely, whether it is the quiet sound of scribbling in the journal, or whir of the equipment. The game succeeds in casting the sort of eeriness that is both intimating and curiosity-evoking.
Alone in the expanse of Melmoth Forest with only the whir of machines and the company of squirrels, the static of Nina’s phone calls provides comfort. And despite the monotony of squirrel surveillance, I did anticipate the daybreak to unravel the mysteries of forest. Without giving away the intrigue of the game, it’s safe to say that not everything is what it seems, and the adventure is definitely beyond a recent graduate’s paygrade.
NUTS is a relaxing short puzzle game with a new take on nature-surveillance and an attractive art style to boast. It is now out on Steam, Nintendo Switch and Apple Arcade.