reality is upside down, but you can’t be me.” Ed to Yew
Quick! Tell me what these things have in common: an egocentric cat, a
room full of panicked sheep, a frog prince, giant red mushrooms, a
steadfastly fishing gnome and several three-eyed, two-fingered aliens.
“Nothing,” you say. Not so, at least not now. All are components of
Mr. Smoozles Goes Nutso, the first independently produced game from
Steve Ince’s Juniper Games.
Since 2004, Steve has been publishing an online comic strip called “Mr.
Smoozles.” It stars a free-thinking, outspoken, alien-phobic orange cat
whose world is “peopled” with quirky cartoon animals.
Mr. Smoozles Goes Nutso is the offshoot and culmination of the
comic strip. It is a third person, keyboard controlled, part arcade game,
part adventure game. It’s available as a 15.2 MB download from
“As a scientist, it
strikes me that all realities are equally valid.” Gladys, the Smoo
formerly known as Glu.
Nutso introduces (and ends) its story with colorful cartoon
graphics. The gang from the “Smoozles” comic strip watches the arrival of
the evil Goragons. These triple-snouted purple aliens are on a mission to
alter the “fabric of reality.” Everyone but Ed and Smoozles are captured.
Hit by a mind-altering ray, Smoozles begins hunting Ed. Thus starts Ed’s
quest (and yours) to find and free the others. You also must return
Smoozles’ mind to normal (at least, normal for him) and restore reality.
It isn’t easy to accomplish these goals. Ed has to evade Smoozles and
his big gun, stay away from the Goragon’s robots, and dodge various mines.
Ed interacts with sundry whimsical characters and explores multifarious
environments. These include my favorite -- the giant mushroom land, and
my second favorite -- the Men’s Corset Making Club.
“At least the Goragon’s
mind ray has cured his (Smoozles) laziness.” Ed
Happily, evading Smoozles is a small part of the game. In several
areas Smoozles chases Ed and fires freely whenever he catches sight of his
victim. However, you soon discover areas which are Smoozles-free. There
you can slow down, take a breath and explore. Nonetheless, you won’t find
lots of intriguing but irrelevant hot spots.
The hotspots in Nutso, with one significant exception, are
important to the game. That exception is the scattered cartoon strips
that decorate the walls. Viewing them (use the Ctrl key) does not advance
the game’s plot. However, the cartoon strips do give you some of the
Hotspots sparkle as you near them. They continue to sparkle after they
are no longer useful. This resulted in many unfruitful clicks.
“There is something wrong
with your reality.”
You can die anytime. Contradictorily, sometimes dying is a great
help. Initially, players have three lives, with bonus lives available.
As Ed is shot, he looses lives. When all his lives are gone, he spirals
away. The “Continue” button allows Ed to try again from the spot where
his “reality failed,” but with the addition of three extra lives. While I
prefer never to die in games, this system worked very well.
Nutso provides three levels of difficulty: easy, normal, and
hard. You can play with hints on or off. For this review I played on the
easy level with hints off. For evaluation purposes I played part of a
game using the in-game hints and discovered that they were extremely
There is no in-game map provided. It was helpful to draw a simple one
as I played.
There is one area in Nutso which dictates that you travel
between two points repeatedly. I did not mind the back and forth, but
having to repeatedly push one out-of-the-way button was tedious.
“…..Check that my
heffletimpleburpler is o.k.” Zoran
Nutso is an inventory driven game. Most of Ed’s missions
require him to find an item and use it in some way. In addition, there
are a few logic-type puzzles. My favorite puzzle involved helping Ed
revert to his normal self from a metamorphic state.
There are three puzzles with specific time limits, but the limits are
generous. Color-coded doors require a matching key. Since Ed announces
the color needed, this makes these puzzles solvable for those with color
discrimination difficulties. Nutso has no sound puzzles, sliders,
or mazes, unless you consider the various rooms and levels of the game to
be one colossal maze.
“Come here, Ed. I want to
introduce you to my gun.” Smoozles
Nutso utilizes easy-to-use keyboard controls. The arrow keys
control Ed’s movements, the Enter key performs most functions, and the
Ctrl key reads signs, etc. In-game instructions inform the gamer of other
keys as they are needed.
In light of the “Continue” button, the eight save slots are adequate --
though my preference is always for unlimited saves. You can save any
time. Saves are automatically named with the location and the time.
Inventory is picked up via the Enter button and is used the same way.
If you have the correct item in inventory, move Ed to the hotspot and push
Enter. The correct item will be used. No dragging inventory items around
trying them on every spot.
My favorite feature is the information screen accessible from many of
the “rooms.” You can refresh your memory by viewing game objectives.
These are automatically updated as they are acquired. No note taking is
Nutso is Alt+Tab friendly.
“Hey, that would make me
the Hero, the player character.” Ed to Rat “Yeah, don’t rub it in.
It’s bad enough that I’m a cliché.” Rat to Ed
Our hero, Ed, is a blue, slightly popeyed cat who serves as a balance
for Smoozles’ over-the-top, curmudgeonly personality. Ed’s flatfooted,
all-out run and his cute little wiggle won my heart right off the bat.
Even those few times I was clueless about what to do next, Ed’s movements
brought a smile to my face.
Familiarity with the “Mr. Smoozles” comic strip is not needed to enjoy
the game, but will provide a better understanding of the relationships
between the characters.
For example, Ed’s mission in the game is to rescue Watford, the monkey;
Pepper, the cat; Finny, the flop-eared dog; and Grik and Zoran, aliens.
Some information about these characters is revealed during game play. But
by reading the online comic strip, I learned that Watford is a computer
geek partnered with Ed making a computer game. Smoozles is enamored of
Pepper, who is not infatuated with him. Finny is smitten by Smoozles (who
detests her), and Grik and Zoran are representatives of the Galactic
Nutso is littered with Smoos, small orange creatures from a
different reality who all have rhyming names. You’ll meet Yew, Troo and
Roo to name a few.
My favorite non-player characters are Cecil and Cyril, a couple of odd
ducks -- actually a dog and a squirrel –
whose longstanding friendship is hidden behind peevish gibes.
“Yes, but if I were you, I
wooden worry” Ed to Yew
There is no spoken dialogue in Nutso. Text boxes display
conversation and there are no dialogue trees. The player simply hits
“Enter” to talk. Occasionally, I thought the conversation was over
because the text box disappeared, but I soon discovered there may be more
to be learned. Keep hitting “Enter” until you no longer get a response.
The dialogue is not extensive. It generally sends Ed on a mission or
provides needed information. There are humorous moments sprinkled
throughout. The story is not deep or dark. Instead, it gently amuses the
gamer with teasing revelations and ironical plot twists.
“That’s because it’s a
real world reference and you’re just a character in a video game.” Rat
Befitting the cartoon genre, the 2D graphics are bright and vivid.
Each of the 60 plus locations
has a unique look. There are no shadows and the background is,
with a few exceptions, static. I noticed a few flickering flames and some
rippling water, but this was the exception rather than the rule.
Both the dialogue and the settings pay homage to some well-known
adventure standards such as the Box Room’s nod towards Broken Sword 3
and the “Don’t push this button” room.
The angled overhead perspective caused a problem for me a time or two.
For example, I had difficulty discerning which walkway Ed was on when
paths crossed over or under each other.
“Oh yes, there are screams
but my fur has never curled.” Boo
Background music (rather than ambient sounds) creates the mood in this
game. Even so, you’ll notice some environmental sounds -- such as the
transporter ray zapping, Smoozles’ gunfire, water dripping and elevators
rumbling. However, Ed’s feet make no sound as he runs, doors don’t creak
or slam, and most areas are quiet except for the enjoyable background
Josh Winiberg’s original score provides tension and atmosphere.
Ranging from lively to lyrical, it sets the emotional tone for the game.
“Reality Vortex is stable
and will now close.”
Game support can be crucial. Juniper Games’ support is excellent.
I e-mailed Steve a few times seeking help. Each time he answered
within twelve hours, frequently much sooner. That is first-rate,
considering we live on different continents. I notice he regularly
supplies hints in the GameBoomer forum. Also, he hosts a hints page at
There are no patches for this game as of this writing.
“Earth creature very
Nutso installed and ran with very few problems. The first and
biggest problem was the opening screen. For some reason, the
instructions: “Press Enter” are too far down to be seen on my monitor.
When I first ran this game I thought I had a glitch. Finally, in a flurry
of random button mashing, I hit the magic one. From there the game played
Nutso is not a large game or a graphics intensive one, but for
some reason it takes a long time to launch.
Other than these two small aggravations, Mr. Smoozles Goes Nutso
“See ya later.” Ed “Ah,
sense future. Wonderful gift.” Barbul
I wasn’t sure about playing Mr. Smoozles Goes Nutso, but I’m
glad that I did. I loved the humorous nods to gaming classics and
standards. The keyboard controls are easy to learn and soon take a back
seat to the game play. I think this game would be a great starter game to
introduce new gamers to keyboard controls and small bits of action.
On the easy level, the action is fun and very doable with only a few
places calling for quick movement. Even those have a generous time
limit. And who doesn’t love to save the world?
Third person, keyboard
controlled arcade/adventure game
Save any time
Saves limited to eight slots
2D, angled overhead perspective
Puzzles mostly inventory and
No sound puzzles or sliders
A few areas need color
recognition, but this can be worked around
Some timed action with generous
Text dialogue only
Original background music
only by download (15.2 MB)
You can die, but the “Continue”
button takes the player back to the spot just before death
Three difficulty settings to
Hints can be turned on or off
Many varied and colorful
Excellent support provided
Minor introductory screen
Slow launching and loading
Stable, no crashes
No patches available
Mr. Smoozles Goes Nutso was played on:
OS: Win XP Professional SP1
Processor: 3.2 GHz Intel
Mem: 1 GB Dual Channel DDR400
DirectX Version: 9.
Video Card: NVIDIA GeForce FX
5200 Ultra 8xAGP
Sound card: Creative SB Audigy
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