Culture Trips

Nuts: a Surveillance Mystery review – squirrel snapper’s delight takes a dark turn | Games

Combine the acclaimed rural mystery game Firewatch with an episode of the BBC’s nature cam series, Springwatch, and you have Nuts, a stylish and involving new adventure from remote indie studio, Noodlecake. You start the game as a naturalist employed to watch squirrels in the picturesque Melmoth forest – this involves setting up cameras to record the little critters then tracking them back to where they stash their food.

The world is rendered in a lovely minimalist style, with scenic details washed in subtle shades of orange and maroon, and the ambient sounds of birds chirping and streams flowing is wonderfully immersive and relaxing. It can take several attempts to get the cameras set up correctly to capture the squirrels’ nightly activities, but this sense of slow progress and patient observation suits the game’s calm, impressionistic environment.

As you progress through the tasks set for you by your employer (who only ever contacts you via the phone and fax machine in your little mobile home – a la Firewatch), you begin to pick up on a wider, darker narrative. A construction firm has been staking out the ancient woodlands, proposing the construction of a dam that will have major environmental consequences. As you wander the forest you find evidence of their presence, and what began as a quaint exploration and photography game takes on deeper meaning.

On iPhone, there are some frustrating control issues, and often, the text in your journal and the icons on your GPS are too small to make out. On top of this, the game provides scant information on your objectives, which can be trying. Nuts is, however, a warm, stylish and contemplative little game, which makes clever use of photography and nature watching in order to craft a modest, meaningful ecological fable.

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