One of the ideals of Microsoft’s connected ecosystem of Xbox consoles, Windows Phone, and Windows 8 and RT is easy portability between the various platforms. Make it easy for developers to write one game and release it to more than one Microsoft platform and consumers win too since they get more software to choose from.
Last December the Xbox One saw its first port from Windows 8: Microsoft’s Halo: Spartan Assault. Now NinjaBee/Wahoo Studios (nobody can say the difference between the two labels) has brought their own Windows 8 game over to Xbox One as part of the ID@Xbox program: Nutjitsu. This one is basically the exact same tablet/PC game but with Achievements.
If playing a tiny retro-style game on your expensive new console doesn’t hurt your pride, you might want to give Nutjitsu a try. Read on for our full review with video!
What does the squirrel say?
Nutjitsu explores the ancient rivalry between squirrels and foxes. It turns out that foxes are part of the corrupt ruling class of feudal Japan. The cruel canines invade a peaceful village of ninja squirrels and steal all of their acorns, presumably for nefarious purposes. Players take on the role of a heroic ninja squirrel who must steal the acorns back for his clan.
The basic gameplay of Nutjitsu is quite simple and wouldn’t have been out of place in an arcade game from the early eighties. During each level, the ninja squirrel appears in a maze populated by several fox samurai. Touching a fox means instant death, so you’re constantly on the run as you seek out acorns and other items. So far, I could be describing any number of classic maze games. But Nutjitsu also adds a stealth element that makes the game even more challenging…
Our squirrel hero leaves a short trail of footsteps behind him. These represent either footprints or the sound of his steps. If a fox comes across the squirrel’s steps before they disappear, he goes on alert and starts to give chase. You’ll have to navigate corners, twisting and turning in your path if you hope to escape. Much like in the Pac-Man games, these enemies seem to outpace the protagonist when moving in straight lines.
The longer you play during a single life, the more foxes show up to hunt you down. And new types of enemies appear, such as one that leaves a stink cloud in its path. A skunk maybe? Get the stink on you and your movement will slow down for several seconds, making it all but impossible to outrun aggressors. The gradual but constant escalation of enemies feels similar to endless running games. No matter what you do, eventually the baddies will catch up and end your acorn collecting spree.
Our stoic squirrel assassin has no way to kill enemies, slightly betraying the concept of being a ninja. But he does at least get a few power-ups to work with after leveling up a bit. Eventually he’ll be able to carry two types of power-ups into a level, activating them with the A and B buttons. These include smoke bombs, freeze bombs, flame shields, and shadow clones. None of the power-ups prove fatal to enemies, but they grant temporary invincibility or stun the fierce foxes.
The downside to the power-ups is they must be purchased with coins earned from playing levels. You don’t pick up coins during gameplay, but you’ll gain some based on your score when the level ends. The coin to power-up ratio is fair enough, as long as you don’t buy the power-ups that stun all of the enemies on-screen. Those will eat through your coins awfully fast if you use them very often.
Buying limited-use power-ups with currency you earned feels like a free-to-play mobile mechanic, which makes sense since Nutjitsu is free on Windows 8. But the Xbox One game isn’t free and doesn’t offer the ability to purchase coins with real money, so the game’s economy feels a bit off on this platform. That said, power-ups are only really necessary for a few Achievements and earning high scores. You’ll probably ignore them outside of that.
Nutjitsu offers two game modes: Ninja Missions and Survival. The latter plays most like a classic arcade game, with our hero simply scavenging for acorns and dodging foxes for as long as possible in search of high scores. Players get to pick the stage they play on in Survival, but not the difficulty or anything else.
Ninja Missions add a bit of complexity and variety to the fox dodging. The game assigns a random combination of level and objectives for you to play. You can “re-roll” for a different level and objective if the current one doesn’t suit you, as well as select from five difficulty levels. The higher the difficulty, the more of the objective you’ll need to complete.
The Ninja Mission objectives include:
- Collect a target number of acorns – the simplest objective.
- Gather the specific color of acorn. The target color changes after a set time.
- Collect acorns and drop them off in a drop zone. The squirrel can only carry eight at a time, so he’ll need to make multiple trips in order to complete his deliveries.
- Stay within the magic zone for a set period of time. The zone moves every so often, forcing you to relocate. It plays like king of the hill.
- Gather the target number of magic scrolls. A single scroll appears on-screen at any time. If you don’t collect it quickly enough it will disappear and reappear somewhere else.
Look, Nutjitsu isn’t exactly pushing the Xbox one hardware to new heights. But it has one cool trick up its ninja sleeves… This is the first game that can be snapped to the side of the screen like an app. That means you can hop back and forth between watching a video or live TV and playing the game. Nutjitsu will just pause while it’s snapped. And the game is perfectly playable with an app snapped at its side since it doesn’t take up the full screen anyway.
Downloadable games can launch with 1,000 GamerScore on Xbox One, a big step up from the 400 GamerScore limit on Xbox 360. Nutjitsu only offers a paltry 10 Achievements. But with so much easy GamerScore up for grabs, who can complain?
The Achievements basically involve completing games on every map (which must be unlocked by ranking up), using power-ups a certain number of times, and achieving the highest rank in the game. That last one is the most time consuming, but it actually unlocked a few levels early for me. And if you use the grinding trick in this Achievement Guide, you can complete the whole game in 3-5 hours. Talk about easy Achievements!
Pac-Man fans will have a lot of fun with Nutjitsu. The variety of missions is nice, the snap feature is handy, and the Achievements don’t put up a fight. Still, this appears to be a verbatim port of the free to play Windows 8 game - except with ads and in-app purchases removed, and the price increased to $6.49. You get literally nothing extra here except for that thousand GamerScore.
The developer should have added some new content (such as a story mode) or improved the graphics (which are awfully simplistic and tiny) when bringing Nutjitsu over to Xbox One. Halo: Spartan Assault at least added online co-op levels, remember. But being a lover of old school games and Achievements (though I don’t worship them like some people), I can’t complain too loudly since six-fifty is still the cheapest price yet for an Xbox One game.