A decent but largely unremarkable iOS outing.
Noble Nutlings is being sold on its pedigree, it is the first release from a group of developers who left Rovio – the development studio famous for bringing the world Angry Birds. Much like Angry Birds, Noble Nutlings is a game that plays on familiar mechanics, while sprinkling cute, babbling characters throughout the experience.
Nutlings takes elements from Tiny Wings, Rayman Jungle Run, and many of the other platforming games in which the player is constantly moving forward. Players tilt the device (or use buttons) to carefully balance a small cart of squirrels and guide them safely to the end of the level. Challenging geometry provides a hurdle for players, and there are opportunities to collect coins along the way. These coins are used to purchase cart upgrades- which in turn can be used to speed through levels and obtain higher star ratings. As you may have guessed, there is a maximum of three stars per level, and players must obtain sufficient star counts in order to unlock all of the in-game levels.
For me, the game started to feel a bit like a grind when trying to unlock the fourth block of levels. I found myself going back to the currently unlocked levels and playing them repeatedly to save up enough coins in the hopes that I could boost my in-game performance. In a traditional game, the developer would have been accused of placing an artificial point of resistance as a form of padding of the game’s content. While many people may well spend the time needed to unlock all of the levels in Noble Nutlings, I definitely felt that the driving factor behind the friction was the game’s freemium system. Playing enough of the game to progress through the upgrade path can get old fast, although I freely admit that I could just be terrible at the game. The most recent update to Noble Nutlings takes steps towards giving the player more gold, so it is apparent that the developer is still grappling with how to handle the in-game economy. Having a “tip jar” like system (see Hero Academy, Letterpress, and Spaceteam) can put a much lower ceiling on potential spending in the game, but it also removes financial choices from the game itself.
I wouldn’t mind paying a few bucks in order to unlock a level block (one star is equivalent to 1000 gold, and the game has a typical tiered gold pricing scheme), but I wasn’t inspired by the game’s mechanics in the first place. Noble Nutlings feels more like a remix of already released games, with characters that don’t particularly resonate. I enjoy the physics based driving, but I found myself getting caught on physical elements of the world far too often (e.g. logs). Tilt controls work well enough, but those of you not wanting to tilt your iPad will be aggravated by the touch controls. The game also suffers from mild Sonic syndrome, requiring the player to anticipate level elements while moving at high speed forces cautious play that is counter-intuitive to the game’s primary motivation. The game’s soundtrack is grating, and the visuals are nice but don’t push the platform (nor do they need to).
Players who like runner type games can certainly enjoy Noble Nutlings, and the game is a free. I felt that the game stumbled in its implementation of the freemium model and how it is balanced with progression, but that isn’t a problem everyone will have. Noble Nutlings does little to stand out in a genre filled with stellar titles, but that doesn’t make it a bad game.
Noble Nutlings is available as a free Universal download