App Reviewed on: iPad 3
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When former Rovio (Angry Birds) developers mention that they’ve founded their own studio and are releasing a game, it’s hard not to take notice. It’s also hard not to worry about it turning into some sort of rehash of flinging avian creatures at rickety structures occupied by gangrenous pigs. Fortunately for everybody, Noble Nutlings has nothing to do with birds, swine, or slingshots. Also fortunately, it has lots to do with plenty of casual fun.
A trio of misshapen squirrels has taken it upon themselves to wreak havoc across the countryside using an old vegetable cart. Yup. Players must race the rowdy nut-hoarders through over thirty topographically unlikely levels as they gather nuts and aim for the fastest possible completion time. Holding a virtual button causes the cart to accelerate despite lacking any noticeable form of locomotion, while adjusting the angle can be done either with another set of buttons or by tilting the device. Knowing how to direct the cart in order to make the most of the mountainous terrain can make a big difference in performance, as can outfitting it with various wheels and beds that affect acceleration and weight. Of course all the customizations come with a cost, so replaying some levels for extra cash is important.
Noble Nutlings utilizes a very casual-friendly approach to its gameplay by essentially removing any real possibility of failure for the player. Simply finishing a level earns a single star, no matter how long it takes or how many spills happen along the way. However, nabbing the always-coveted three stars requires a bit more finesse. It’s a system that makes the occasional slip-up far less frustrating. It’s also impressive that the various wheels and such have such a noticeable impact on the cart’s performance. This added level of depth gives players the option of creating a “vehicle” that suits their own playstyle as well as one that looks patently ridiculous.
The finer points of the customization pieces could use a little adjustment, however. There are visible stats that players can use to compare with their current loadout, but it’s not readily apparent as to what these values really mean in terms of handling. A little experimentation takes care of this problem but when a new set of wheels costs several thousand coins it kind of discourages trying everything out systematically.
Noble Nutlings is the kind of casual iOS game that’s over way too soon. Not because it’s lacking in content but because it’s so easy to plow through everything in big chunks thanks to all the wacky fun. The upgrades could use a little more pre-purchase detail and having to pay to refill boost fuel is unfortunate, but none of that keeps it from being a great little physics racer.