In my eyes, party games have to deliver one thing – fast, frantic fun. After all, it’s what has made the leader of the genre, the Overcooked series, so damn good. From the outset, Save Your Nuts from Triple Scale Games provides that. But then, just as quickly, the fun starts to wane as limitations in the game modes, along with total and utter repetition, start to come to the fore.
Save Your Nuts comes across as a delightfully fun little party title. Working either for the solo player who gets their kicks from going up against the AI, for a group of sofa-based mates, or for those looking to frequent the online scene, the gameplay found within is very fast, and hugely frantic. However, with that ferocity comes issues.
Telling the tale of a group of squirrels attempting to test themselves against all manner of other local wildlife, Save Your Nuts promises to see you making the most daring of plays, as you go about utilising power-ups and attempting to save more nuts than the opposing team.
This plays out across three different game modes – Capture the Nut, Thieves and Battle – with each bringing something slightly different to the party table. Capture the Nut allows two teams fight it out for an acorn, taking it back to their own safe zone for a point, whilst Thieves twists that up slightly, letting you fight to steal nuts while protecting your own. Battle meanwhile is an altogether different matter – a constant fight to be the last animal holding their balloons; button-mashing party gameplay at its finest. Unfortunately though, no matter which of the game modes you prefer to get acquainted with, after a few matches and battles of each this party experience starts to wane, with players no doubt beginning to look for another intense hit instead.
A decent tutorial lets you get to grips with the basics of Save Your Nuts, but ultimately all you need to understand is how to move your animal, jump over obstacles, beat back your opponents and grab your nuts before taking them off to safety. And once you do get to grips with the uniqueness of this game, you will be able to find a little fun in each of the three modes available.
All of these pit you and your team up against another like-minded set of foes, with up to eight players able to be present in any one match at any one time. Now, obviously grabbing eight friends for a odd little party title could well be an issue for many so it’s great to see that Triple Scale have taken the time to include a decent raft of AI options too, letting you set their skill level to suit yours. For that reason alone, even though this is certainly something that deals with a cooperative/competitive aspect, pushing friends both together and against each other, the solo player will also be able to spend time saving their nuts. This in itself is a welcome change to many other party titles that seem to ignore the individual player, forgetting to include any form of AI companionship.
When in game, things are pretty fast and fluid. There are six different characters who can be picked from – squirrels may be the stars of the show but if you prefer to play as a dog, a raccoon, a beaver, a wolf or an armadillo you can. Each of these has a slightly different skillset too; some faster than others, some a little stronger in the tackle, whilst all can be customised in a few minute little ways – sticking a hat on their head and changing their colour mostly. From there, you are thrust into an arena of your choosing. Save Your Nuts does well in this respect, providing no less than 10 different arenas to host the action, with the likes of a park complemented well by a space station, dungeon, pirate ship or football and basketball pitches. Again, credit has to go to the developers for ensuring that each of these areas has been created well, with multiple obstacles in place and a variety of strategies needed in order for you to get one up on the opposing team. In fact, the arena styles – whilst not in any way as unique as something found in the likes of Overcooked! 2 – are probably the best bit of Save Your Nuts.
There are also traps to dig up and utilise and power-ups to grab and make the most of. The latter of these come in the form of donuts which give extra strength, a hotdog which works as a shield – obviously it’s got plenty of onions added – and cups of coffee which give a little speed boost. The traps meanwhile provide the likes of bombs, pretty useless canons (yep, spelt with just the one n), crazy jetpacks and more. Honestly, across multiple games against both AI opponents and real-world folk, I’ve yet to really feel any need to hunt down any of the traps or power-ups, instead intent on grabbing nuts as fast as possible. It’s not helped by a few bugs either – the likes of AI animals refusing to move, and the occasional change of an arena being unattainable.
It’s all pretty decent visually though, with bright and colourful play areas drawing in the eye. But then this is also where things go awry. See, the distant camera angle that some of these maps use ensures that things get a little too hectic, and a whole load confusing, especially when multiple players and AI bots are all present. Whilst no slowdown or lag ever seems to appear, when you’re throwing eight characters together as one, it is far too easy to completely lose track of who you are meant to be controlling, and what exactly is going on.
This is definitely most prevalent in the Battle game mode, as the overriding aspect of this is to get up close and fight it up, punching your opposition without a care in the world. It has to be said that it’s a little less of an issue on the other modes, as for the majority of it you’ll be trying to keep away from pesky opponents, yet it’s still a problem that inflicts the game whenever any more than four or so players are included.
And that’s a real issue for a party game: an experience that by its very nature tries to get gamers together. That is a shame too, as could the confusion be turned down a little – along with the massively overenthusiastic controller vibration on winning a round – and if there were just a few less players present, there is every chance that Save Your Nuts could be added to a party playlist, if only for it to try and provide a bit of warm up action for the main event.
At the end of the day, Save Your Nuts on Xbox One tries its best to provide a fast and frantic nut-fuelled experience, and while it does that for a limited time, it doesn’t take long for total repetition to become the ruling factor. By all means give it a bash if you are looking for a new timewaster, but don’t expect to be playing it for much longer than a few evenings.