Nutjitsu Review (Xbox One)
Nutjitsu represents one of the first freshman class graduates of the ID@Xbox program. ID@Xbox is meant to offer full platform access and development tools for small-time developers to let them create Xbox One content for little-to-no cost, hoping to round-out the console's indie offerings in the long run. We were actually surprised to see that one of the first titles to be released from the program is Nutjitsu, which debuted for Windows 8 and Windows Phone in 2013.
A similar launch to Nutjitsu happened with Halo: Spartan Assault, which was also ported over from Windows Phone and Windows 8 as well. Halo: Spartan Assault offered the same frenzied entertainment for gamers on-the-go on Xbox One as it did for its tablet-intended original. While Spartan Assault was optimized for the Xbox One in the form of its graphics and twin-stick controls, Nutjitsu feels like it did not get any of this polish or adjustments going from Windows 8 to Xbox One. In fact, the only thing both games may have gotten added to them while going next-gen was the addition of Xbox Live achievements. Setting it drastically apart from Spartan Assault, Nutjitsu looks, plays and feels like it was designed as a quick-and-dirty port, without any form of optimization done to differentiate it from its original version.
Our first reaction with Nutjitsu was a surprise due to the simplicity of both its gameplay and animated style. As one of the first games to come out of the ID@Xbox program, we were rather let down by what we saw and experienced. Unfortunately, Nutjitsu's unembellished graphics do absolutely nothing to warrant its exclusivity to the Xbox One -- it looks like it belongs in the 360's Xbox Live Arcade library. When compared to the Arcade's repertoire, Nutjitsu fits right in based on its visual mediocrity.
We would occasionally encounter frame rate issues while playing Nutjitsu. In particular, whenever a major graphics effect would happen on the screen, such as multiple acorns spawning at the same time or a new goal box being created, we noticed that the movement of the squirrel ninja we were playing as and its enemy foxes would all display the occasional, minor hiccup. Whether or not this happened on the original version of the game does not matter, a game with graphics this simple should never have any form of lag or frame rate issues on the Xbox One, yet it occurred in every round we played.
Nutjitsu's soundtrack is filled with a cluster of tracks that are nothing but cliche Asian riffs. Throw in some stereotypical gong sounds and 'Naruto'-esque sound effects, and it's rather hard to tell if Nutjitsu's soundtrack was inadvertently offensive, annoying, uninspired or a mix of all these traits. The sound effects of Nutjitsu are just as also basic, but more in line with the queues of a flash game. Once you get all of the ninja sound queues mixing together over Nutjitsu's soundtrack, the overall sound throughout every level just bleeds into something we can't describe other than the audio of 3D Realms' 1997 Shadow Warrior with the offensive, vocalized caricatures removed.
If Nutjitsu looks familiar, that is because its gameplay has Pac-Man written all over it, which isn't necessarily a bad thing depending on how its delivered. Nutjitsu draws direct inspiration from the yellow pellet-eater in terms of its overall premise. As a ninja squirrel, you must evade enemy samurai foxes who will give you the Pac-Man ghost treatment if they touch you. Your character leaves a short trail of footprints on the ground wherever he goes. If any foxes locate this trail, they will speed up their patrol and chase you until they lose your prints. Instead of eating every pellet on screen, each level has a set objective, such as collecting acorns of a specific color or standing in highlighted areas until a timer reaches its quota. All the while, you must evade the multiple types of enemy foxes. You also have a handful of ninja tools to use to help escape, such as flame shields, clone spells, smoke bombs, ice traps and speed potions. The gameplay of Nutjitsu is rather solid and practical, but something that hinders this experience greatly are its controls.
The gameplay of Nutjitsu is rather solid and practical, but irregularities in its controls just take away from an experience that should be so easy to enjoy. For a game that plays like Pac-Man, you would expect that its controls would just be just as solid. Instead, both the analog stick and the control pad of the Xbox One have sporadic moments of input lag and unresponsiveness while playing. Since there are many twists and turns mixed with numerous foxes to avoid, control hiccups in a game this basic are a letdown to find. Mixed with the random moments of graphical slowdown, inaccurate controls are greatly detrimental to the overall enjoyment of Nutjitsu. This is a shame because we expected that a port of a simple-looking title that plays decently on Windows 8 and Windows Phone would provide seamless, 100 percent accurate gameplay.
Nutjitsu added its own flair and twists on the Pac-Man formula, but paid a few noteworthy prices in order to make the jump to next-gen. For one of the first titles to come from the ID@Xbox program, Nutjitsu was a letdown. On the other hand, its rather low price may absolve Nutjitsu of some of its faults for the sake of affordable, simple entertainment gamers of all ages could potentially enjoy. The fact that this title is originally meant to be played on a tablet but has noticeable blemishes on the Xbox One is a rather poor start for the ID@Xbox program.
This review is based on a download code for Nutjitsu provided by the publisher for Xbox One.