The squirrels in Nuts have secrets, I feel it in my bones. I've been following them for days now, tracking their movements at every twist and turn. They're smart, smarter than I first gave them credit for, and just when I think I'm hot on their cute bushy tails, they always slip away just out of view of my camera lens. Every single time I think I've placed my cameras down in the perfect positions to capture their route through the forest, they always find a way to outdo me.
But why the effort? This goes further than just finding where their nut stash is. They're keeping something from me—something big—and I need to find out what.
Nuts plays more like a hard-boiled detective game than a relaxing squirrel-tracking adventure. As a university research graduate, you've been given your first job in the field: to study and survey a group of mischievous squirrels and locate their nut stashes. Your observations will be used as evidence to prove that the plans to build a new condo in this woodland area would further endanger the squirrels. You need to set up cameras around the forest during the day and then survey the footage on a group of monitors at night, trying to find out what these critters get up to when the rest of us are asleep.
It's a puzzle game of sorts, where you need to keep adjusting your camera positions each day to keep tabs on where the squirrels are going. Tracking your furry friends is no easy feat, and it's going to take multiple days of trial and error to follow them throughout the forest. Thankfully, the squirrels stick to the same route every night, so it's only a matter of time before you find their well-hidden stashes.
These squirrels seem to know you're on to them. As the story progresses and the threats of the new building project draw closer, it seems the squirrels have devised their own plan of action. It's not just a case of following their movements on the ground: they'll jump from tree-to-tree, run behind rocks that block your vision, and try to give you the run-around by taking unexpected sharp turns.
You're given a set of equipment to help you in your squirrel pursuit. A GPS for tracking what trees you should be watching, a set of three cameras on tripods, three monitors that display what each camera has recorded, and a fax machine that doubles as a printer. Your tin-can of a caravan even comes with a notice board to pin all your printed photographs on, which is a great way for working out your next angle of approach.
It's a relaxing game at first, and exploring the forest and carefully placing the cameras is almost tranquil. Watching the footage at night time is a slightly different story. Nuts' fluorescent visuals echo the look of infrared monitors which allow you to easily spot the little critters. Each monitor has pause, rewind, and fast-forward functions, allowing you to scan the footage. As you further research by watching their movements, it feels like you've accidentally stumbled upon some bigger master plan.
There's something unnerving about watching back through the footage of places that are just footsteps away from your caravan's front door. But you've been told that there are only squirrels out there, so there's no need to worry, right?
Depending on how much thought and planning you put into your camera placement, days are anywhere from one to fifteen minutes, so the day and night loop is relatively short. When I first began tracking the squirrels, I was meticulous in my approach, placing my cameras and examining previous squirrel sightings with orderly intent, like the most methodical game of hide-and-seek ever.
But after the story took some unexpected turns and the mystery deepened, my discreet approach flew out the window, and I'm suddenly slapping my cameras down and high tailing it back to my caravan to see if I was correct in predicting the squirrels' movements. Often I'm not, and they've outsmarted me again. Who can blame them for not trusting me? With their home ask risk, these seemingly peaceful woodland creatures have decided to take some serious action, and they don't need me snooping around.
Nuts introduces its mysteries early and around an hour in I was hooked on its story. Deciding where cameras should be placed to get the perfect shot and trying to analyse where the squirrels will go next makes for some great detective work. It's a great mystery game and there are plenty of surprising twists down the road to keep you hot on the squirrel's trail, or in this case tail.
Nuts is out February 4th on Steam and itch.io.