With its striking visuals, first-person perspective, and rural setting, you could easily mistake NUTS as a spin-off of the critically acclaimed narrative title Firewatch. Indeed, you spend much of your time free-roaming a woodland area, retreating back to the comfort of your caravan to sleep and chatting to a friendly colleague over the phone on a near-daily basis. So far, so familiar.
What’s different with NUTS, though, is that you’ll be spending a great deal of your time tracking the movement and behaviour of the local squirrels. Utilising up to three separate recording devices, you’ll quickly settle into a routine that requires you to set up your equipment outside during the day, then spending the evenings reviewing the footage within your caravan. It’s a unique concept that unfortunately gets awfully repetitive, despite the game’s relatively short run time.
On your first day on the job, you need to set up your workspace within Melmoth Forest, test out the equipment, then get to work tracking the squirrels. The game focuses heavily on carrying out small, menial tasks, like faxing photographs and ensuring your camera is pointing in the exact right direction. It can be a bit fiddly at times – particularly when moving your cursor to press specific buttons on your equipment – but much like the aforementioned Firewatch, there’s also something oddly relaxing about it all.
Actually tracking the squirrels is where the repetition really starts to scurry in. The furry little creatures only come out of hiding at night, so when you head outside during the day, you won’t see them for yourself. Only by setting up your cameras and viewing the footage at night will you be able to keep track of them. The problem, of course, is that your cameras can’t sprout legs and follow the squirrels; you’ll need to head back out in the morning and move the cameras around depending on which direction you think the squirrel has gone. That’s another thing; the squirrels make the exact same movements each and every day. To say the game feels a bit Groundhog Day is a slight understatement.
Despite the often exasperating gameplay, NUTS goes a long way in making up for this with its unique visuals. The blocky colour palette is genuinely quite striking, and the colours actually change from day-to-day; in the morning, the bright colours evoke a sense of relaxation, and at night the darker, more muted colours make the forest feel slightly more foreboding. It’s really well done, and it’s just a shame that such a unique setting isn’t quite used to its fullest extent.
The overarching story within NUTS is probably worth experiencing on its own, despite the repetitive gameplay. It’s reasonably well written and is just about compelling enough to hold your attention for its 2-3 hour duration. There’s nothing here that you’ll connect with on an emotional level, but the voiceover work really helps drive the mystery. Unfortunately, there also a number of framerate dips throughout the experience that will really hamper your enjoyment; hopefully, this will be ironed out in the future.