Format : XboxOne, PS4 (tested), PC

Released : May 2014

nutjitsu01
Pacman Meets Samurai squirrel

As one of the more simple and iconic games, I’ve always been surprised at how Pacman hasn’t had too many obvious clones. Certainly consoles stay away from the yellow wonder but Nutjitsu replaces out circular man with a ninja squirrel. So far I’m totally onboard but a mix of weird design choices and a lack of funneling make Nutjitsu a quick diversion with little to return to once you’ve seen it all.

Where Nutjitsu does spice things up is with its theming and game modes. Set in the outdoors of Asia, there’s some lovely temples, forests, shrines and so on to have maps built around them. The maps themselves are not simple geometric shapes either, they include at times zigzagging paths and turns a plenty. What is initially a bonus becomes a set back at times with the controls making turns a bit clunky in the really twisty sections as you need to be lined up properly to take the corners. Instead of just collecting everything on the screen as well the game varies things up with different goals. Sometimes its staying in a set area of the map for a certain period of time, defeating guards, collecting scrolls or jewels of certain colours that change. It’s not a ton of variety but it’s something. What I also appreciate is the sliding difficulty too. You can choose your target count or time limit out of 5 tiers before starting a level and that also determines how many AI guards will be in play and how nimble they will be.

nutjitsu02
Each mission can be tailored in difficulty but nothing is ever very taxing

What it also does though is highlight the lack of game progression. Each level completed earns you XP and you’ll level up. Doing so unlocks new maps every couple of levels and the ability to add more power ups to your arsenal which you can stock up on coins. The powerups are great for if you are in a tight bind if you’ve taken a wrong turn and got stuck. However I found that after I’d spent time on the medium difficulties I often understood the maps quickly and knew where not to go for a dead-end death. With no story mode to speak of, once you’ve got all the maps you can keep leveling up to get all your power slots but you have nothing to aim for. There is a survival mode with an online leaderboard but that didn’t really grab me either. The AI guards are fine, they don’t feel unfair like sometimes the Pacman ghosts do, but then you’ve got lots more places to run to and hide – AND powerups. I wasn’t challenged and in a game that relies on quick thinking and forward planning – I did not feel taxed or pressured to do so.

nutjitsu03
You can have too many powerups if you keep your coins making each level a walkover

Positives

  • Nice music and theming
  • Simple to pick up and inoffensive to play
  • Good 5 minute time waster…

Negatives

  • … but you’ll forget it when you turn it off
  • Too easy
  • No progression structure beyond getting a few new maps to keep you returning
  • Feels like local multiplayer should have been here and it’s not

Conclusion

Ultimately Nutjitsu doesn’t have enough charm or test of skill for me to recommend it. It’s a competently made game, bug free (which is a good thing these days!) and perfectly playable – but as there’s no challenge to it and nothing to progress to story wise, I was left wondering why I was playing it in the first place. This isn’t the nuts.

You can watch a live video review below:

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