Posted by Dave Letcavage
Nut all that fun
With platform holders making it easier and easier for indie developers to self-publish in these modern times, it’s inevitable that we’re going to see a lot of games ported from mobile devices to current home consoles. The first game of this nature to come to Xbox One (outside of Halo: Spartan Assault, which we wouldn’t consider indie) is Nutjitsu. Hitting Windows 8 devices last year, this sneak-a-thon puts an extremely simplistic, time-killing style of gameplay on your living room television, at a bargain price. But the question of the moment is: how does this mobile-focused experience translate to a prime-time space?
In Nutjitsu you play as a squirrel that happens to be a ninja. Of course, just like a normal squirrel, you’re nutty for acorns. With a top-down view, you’ll sneak throughout maze-like pathways and corridors — like Pac-Man — and meet the objectives randomly attached to each stage. What is causing you to be so light on your toes, you might ask? Samurai foxes! They roam the landscape with an eye out for any suspicious activities. As you move around using the left analog stick, footprints will remain for a short amount of time, leaving a trace of your existence and a clue for your pursuers to follow. Meet the objective, earn XP, and then move onto the next randomly generated round.
Objectives range from gathering X amount of acorns, collecting scrolls, or standing in the marked zones for the decided amount of time. There is also a survival mode where collecting as many acorns as possible while avoiding the escalating presence of samurais is the key to setting high scores and placing on the leaderboards. Outside of using power-ups – which will need to be obtained by spending acorns in the shop – the game is so accessible that it can be played one-handed, since the analog stick is all that requires diligent manipulation. Movements feel alright, if a little sluggish, but the maps don’t always make it easy to see which way pathways go or where they end, occasionally leading to a little confusion.
Sounds like little more than a shallow time-killer, right? That’s because that’s exactly what it is. At its best, Nutjitsu is the kind of game you boot up to play to kill five minutes while waiting for your favorite television show to air. So whether or not Nutjitsu performs as it should isn't the main concern; the worry is that there isn't enough meat for this to serve as a satisfying main course. To summarize, it just doesn’t work all that well on Xbox One, and it doesn't appear that the developer has added anything new to better compliment a home console experience.
And there isn't really much else to say about the actual game that hasn't already been said. The visuals are okay for what a tablet/mobile phone is capable of, but they won't impress anyone on Xbox One hardware. Some of the stages are a tad too dark and, with a couple bleeding colors, things can sometimes get muddied. Audio is limited — as you might expect from a mobile port — with the occasional sound effect that's too high in the mix. And most importantly, the gameplay is bland at best. This is a game that is exactly what it appears to be on the surface, and nothing more. It's repetitive, with such little variation and depth, that we can't imagine it'll hold anyone's attention for long. It may be kind of cute and harmless, but that's not enough of a reason to slap a recommendation on it.
Note to owners of plasma televisions: Nutjitsu features a static border framing the action that never goes away. If you have an older model plasma TV, this could most certainly be concern for burn-in during long sessions. Just a heads up.
Games developed to be played on mobile devices are fundamentally simple experiences meant to be accessible to people with extremely limited or undefined amounts of time. That's Nutjitsu's biggest downfall. Being far too shallow to entertain as a main course, the repetitious gameplay — which lacks any real sense of progression outside of earning XP and leveing up — struggled to hold our attention for more than a few moments at a time. If you're alright with what we've classified as shortcomings in this review, then by all means, give Nutjitsu a look. However, if you're prowling for even a hint of depth, you'd be pretty nuts to put your acorns in this basket.