Squirrels are some seriously weird animals. Sit down and watch them for a little while, you may see something absurd and ridiculous when you do. NUTS takes this to an extreme. You play as an isolated scientist whose job involves studying, provide information, and taking pictures of squirrels. The concept is cute, and the game is rather striking with its two-color art direction. Is this enough to make it worth playing? I hopped into the Steam Game Festival demo to try it out.
The demo sees you playing through two tracking situations, having you try to figure out where squirrels are going. Each day brakes into two sections. During the day, you place cameras, using a GPS to find the tree that you need to start watching and then trying to set a couple of cameras up so that they'll hopefully record where the squirrels will go at night. You have a few cameras you can move around, along with a map to help you not get lost, a fax machine to harass your co-workers with, and some random physics objects that serve no purpose but I still always enjoy throwing cans at rocks and downhills.
When you hit the night phase you get to see your hard work pay off. You'll sit in front of some television cameras and watch the squirrels move about. This should give you a better idea of where the squirrels are going, and you can use these movements to adjust the cameras and find new places to observe the next night. If you find what you're looking for then it's as easy as adjusting a printer to the correct TV, printing a photo, and faxing it to your boss to complete the assignment. You'll have successfully captured the squirrel in its habitat! Or wherever.
There's always this feeling that there's something wrong with the forest, and the squirrels that occupy it. They certainly seem more clever than they should be. When they're hoarding gasoline and matches with their nuts, that's a new problem entirely. What's the deal with that boat in the middle of a jungle anyway? There are so many strange things going on in the world of NUTS that I'm already totally sold on the story and can't wait for the full game just to see what these insane squirrels are up to.
It also helps that the whole game is made in this strange yet absolutely eye-catching art style where it only uses two colors. During the day the entire game is green, with items you can interact with being orange. During the night the game takes on softer lime greens and faded yellow colors. It makes the whole world super lovely to look at, and also has the advantage that the things you need to interact with are very clearly shown and easy to spot. No more running around like a headless chicken hoping I would find the correct item to interact with somewhere in a pile!
NUTS feels like a great concept that's already showing quite a bit of promise. The simple task of squirrel watching doesn't sound like it would make for much of a game, yet to my surprise, I just couldn't tear myself away from those TV screens. I know there's something strange and weird going on in the world of NUTS and I need this mystery solved as well. The demo hit all the right buttons for me, and the full release can't come soon enough.
TechRaptor played a preview of NUTS on PC during the Steam Game Festival. The game is set to launch on PC sometime in 2021.