Platform: Xbox One
Review Copy Provided by: NinjaBee
Release Date: May 8, 2014
Just one more time.
That’s what I was saying until the unspeakable hour of 2 am. Until I was just hitting retry on autopilot. I wracked up 30,000 points alone just trying to beat a collect-the-scroll challenge on expert without using any power-ups. I tried to stay in the magical location for 120 seconds roughly 120 times. My squirrelly quest for nut-corns was unstoppable (although, I, apparently, am very stoppable).
Enter the squirrel, friends. Developer NinjaBee has recently released the nutty arcade title Nutjitsu for ID@Xbox. Nutjitsu is a Windows phone app that was converted to an ID@Xbox title. While Strike Suit Zero was the flagship title released for the independent developers publishing program, Nutjitsu marks the first sub $10 title available for ID@Xbox. It’s also the first title available to be snapped. Playing a game in snap mode allows for picture-in-picture play, meaning that you can watch GIZORAMA’s Twitch channel while you stealthily track gemified acorns. Or at least that’s what I did with it; you can watch whatever you want.
Nutjitsu offers 5 difficulty levels, 15 different, hand painted landscapes, and 25 ranks to work up to. Navigate your stealthy squirrel through a labyrinth of samurai (little foxes!) who are always hot on your tail to collect the sacred acorns swindled from your clan. Like a cuddly Pac-Man but infinitely more frustrating, this simple concept is curiously addictive. Enemy samurai track your ninja’s scent–visible as little footprints trailing behind you, making evasion a challenge. Fear not–you have a bag of tricks. Collecting acorns (or acoins…awww!) earns points, and these can be redeemed for stealth-enhancing tools. Smoke bombs cover your scent and make you invisible to enemies; ninja speed, as the name suggests, gives you speed to outrun your enemies (which can backfire if you don’t plot your course carefully). Shadow clones initiate a ninja squirrel clone, a likeness of your character that runs in a separate direction to distract enemies. Freeze bombs and flame cloaks are both effective, disabling enemies and allowing your squirrel to pass undetected and unharmed.
Playing in Survival Mode entails running through one of the 15 unique, pagoda, bamboo-bridged and stone-stepped mazes to collect acorns of varying color and value. While endurance and longevity is the focus of these maps, Ninja Missions are where the hours slip away from you. Missions such as “collect x number of acorns”, “collect x scrolls” and “remain in the magical area for x seconds” (and others) allow players to select their difficulty level of choice and go to town.
The music in Nutjitsu is somewhat repetitive, but also appropriate given the low purchase price of the game and it’s limited functions. Eastern sounding with a touch of arcade, the music is complimented by the cute fox-bark enemy guards sound off when they pick up your scent. Step on the green poison trail of the fox with the dripping dagger and your squirrel’s steps are accompanied by burping, bog noises. Die, and your squirrel changes to a log and drops to the ground with a funny little clunk. You get the idea.
While I really enjoyed this game, there was one bone of contention that I have to speak to. Arenas are not straight, but rather “jagged”, full of tight corners that make getaways difficult once spotted by other ninjas. For a joystick-abuser like myself, I was growling at intervals when my squirrel didn’t seem to go where needed. Okay, maybe two bones for picking, actually. The mazes were detailed and beautiful, but they also didn’t have completely clear paths to follow. Where it looked like your squirrel might be able to slip between two huts or sneak under a pagoda, there was an obstruction. It could be just me–I do wear glasses, after all. None of the title’s downfalls, however, could overshadow it’s high points.
Nutjitsu is a great investment for a timeless concept with impressive replay value. (As I mentioned initially, I spent a whole hour trying to remain in "magical areas" for 120 seconds.) This is a great time filler, and being the inaugural title designed for snap, I recommend giving Nutjitsu a go. (Even if you're too cool to play a game about cute cartoon squirrel ninjas, Nutjitsu offers players another exciting opportunity to see just what all Xbox One can do. Minor annoyances aside, this is a game that I really enjoyed, and which I plan to pin right next to Trials Fusion and Hulu.