Originally released on Apple Arcade back in 2020, Nuts: A Surveillance Mystery is now being released on the Nintendo Switch. Nuts presents a walking simulator premise with light puzzle solving to tell a compelling and mysterious tale of wildlife conservation. Its simple visual design is accompanied by storytelling via audio logs and one sided conversations that weave an engrossing tale of corporate espionage.
It’s impossible to talk about Nuts and not bring up Firewatch as the art style and interactivity are so similar, but the similarities end there. The story begins as you are a nameless protagonist tasked with joining a wildlife research outfit. You are to monitor the local squirrels using night vision cameras you strategically place to collect data on their nocturnal patterns and behaviors. Each mission objective is given via your handler Nina, who is part of Viago University, collecting data on the wildlife in the forest.
With each mission you are given a specific task, such as monitoring one squirrel and seeing where their stash is or taking video of the squirrel at different timestamps. Lucky for you, the squirrels follow the same route each night, but depending on who you’re following each night you’ll need to re-set up new camera angles to reverse follow a squirrels path or to follow multiple squirrels at once. The missions vary in structure and goal, keeping the gameplay unique without overstaying its welcome.
The environments are small sectional maps of a forest with space for possible hidden secrets waiting to be unlocked. The game keeps the missions short and tight, but there’s plenty of room for exploration if you feel so inclined. The music is sparse with a great natural ambient sound quality that feels at peace during the day but also creates an aura of mystery at night. The audio design is well done to pump up the suspense as the story progresses, giving an ominous feeling throughout. The color palette for the art change in each mission with new shader overlays making each forest section seem brand new.
While Nuts: A Surveillance Mystery does well to not overstay its welcome, it does so by somewhat sacrificing the story’s pacing. What starts as a simple wildlife job quickly turns into a tale of suspense with your boss Nina, working to take down the corporation responsible for polluting the forest. Your character’s role is to catalog evidence to use against the corporation, with twists that seem to foreshadow a bigger picture issue with threats looming. The issue is, they are only foreshadowed. The looming threats and suspense takes a backseat in the final act to a more straightforward survival element which feels like an unearned turn. This rushes the story to a quick conclusion with little to no pay off.
Nuts: A Surveillance Mystery successfully spins a captivating narrative regarding animal conservation and deforestation that is ultimately abandoned for a quick survival wrap up. Pacing issues aside, the voice acting remains top notch throughout and surveillance mechanics feel fresh. There is little issue with this port to the Nintendo Switch so it’s definitely worth checking out, especially if you are curious about the secrets of these feisty squirrels.
Nuts: A Surveillance Mystery is available on Nintendo Switch now.
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