Welcome to the first Why Wasn’t this a Hit: Mr. Nutz. This is not going to really be a review but more of a retrospective editorial looking into why the game in question didn’t become a hit. Mr. Nutz not quite the name you would expect to see on a game from 1993 (SNES) and 1994 (Mega Drive and other ports), maybe more recent someone in marketing would have gotten away with this naming but back then it was definitely an eye catcher if you were browsing the shelves at your local videogame store.
Ocean, real big in Europe brought Mr. Nutz to all of the popular Nintendo systems at the time (Gameboy, Gameboy Color and Super NES and at a later date, the GBA) and also to the Mega Drive(only in Europe for some reason) Mr. Nutz is a squirrel (much like Conker who starred in a Nintendo released game later) who wears a cap, gloves and shoes, just your normal forest attire for a video game. The story involves some Yeti creature trying to take over the world and turn it into one big iceberg and it is your job to stop him (as usual, this is not conveyed very well in the game once you start playing and is left in the manual and on the Wiki). For this editorial, we will be focusing on the Genesis and Super NES versions of the game, just suffice to know, there are other versions available if you like what you see on the 16-Bitters.
A little history on Ocean real quick, short and simple, they are a part of the new Atari, check their Wikipedia if you don’t believe me. Now that that is out of the way (meaning maybe we will see a re-release on the various online services available with this generation) on with the article.
Game control is spot on, Mr. Nutz jumps when you press the jump button and you have a couple of attacks at your disposal, pull down and hit the attack button and MN will swipe at the enemy with his tail, while standing the attack button will throw nuts, if you have been collecting them (the SNES version you have a run button-may be in the Mega Drive version but I was using a 3 button controller, I know, for shame). The levels are pretty well thought out, give them a couple of run throughs and you will be memorizing the enemy placement, where nuts are located and what stumps you can jump in to warp around (stumps are the new pipes, well at least in the forest anyhow). Very rarely did I find myself thinking that the placement of enemies or bottomless pits (yes, another cue from Super Mario Brothers) were in a bad place, most obstacles make you think of more than one way to get by it. You can throw nuts at enemies, squat and swipe your tail, jump on their heads or simply jump over them and avoid them altogether. Mr. Nutz is not a one hit and your dead affair like Sonic and Mario and most of the action platform games out there (thank goodness, there are plenty of cheap hits that you are going to have to endure here), you get upto 5 hits before dying and replenishing them is extremely scarce, simply completing a level is not going to do it either. You will need to grab the red dot in a black box or die to replenish, those are the only two ways to get more health in this game.
Animation is also great, as par for the course, Mr. Nutz employs “edge” animation. Edge animation is simply a visual cue that you are close to the edge and are about to fall off. Sonic the Hedgehog made this artwork a necessity in the 16-bit games that followed (32-bit 3D games kind of forgot this but most of the 2D sidescrollers employed it). MN will stand there and breath in and out when you are not making him go, but there is no “standing” animation other than that, no attitude animation like Sonic tapping his foot and crossing his arms while waiting for you to come back.
Everything is drawn extremely well here, some enemies (like the apple looking creatures have two forms ofanimation depending on how they are dispatched) are huge (the bosses obviously) while others (the fleas) are annoying as possible with their speed and difficulty in eliminating from your path. Back to those apple looking enemies, why, in the SNES version are they a purplish color while in the Mega Drive game, they are clearly red? This is fixed after level 1 in the SNES version which really makes you wonder. What were the developers thinking? While on the glaring differences between these two, both have a world map view to plot your progress on (nothing like Super Mario World) but only the SNES version scales in using Mode 7 technology, the Mega Drive version simply drops you in the level.
Comparing pic to pic, you will see there are the usual differences in graphics quality (Mega Drive is on the left, SNES on the right, single pics are of the SNES version). The SNES backgrounds in the first world, Woody Land Journey, are slightly more colorful and eventually turn down right amazingly colored as you progress (check out the bridge shots for a good comparison of the color deficiency the Mega Drive version suffers from). Purples are more dominant on the Mega Drive version, starting at the title screen right up to the backgrounds of the levels (you did take a look at the bridge shot right?). This isn’t bad, just as long as you like purple. This is strange as most of the rest of the game is pretty similar across the two platforms (other than a little bit of shading going on in the SNES version like the spider webs in the background of the first boss battle).
The audio seems different as well between the two versions, the SNES music is slower paced while the Mega Drive audio is faster and suffers from the quality limitations that it’s sound chip can produce (there is a noticeable difference here folks). Sound effects are about slightly different too like the jumping sound, collecting coins (just like SMB but seemingly only for points here) and other little things that usually get ignored.
I won’t ruin the later levels for you since they are quite difficult to reach and well, to see them you have to earn the right (that is how it used to be), just know, they are pretty good and just as difficult as you would expect a game like this to be as you advance.
Mr. Nutz has all of the elements of a successful game (hindsight is 20/20 you know) but for some reason wasn’t
much of a commercial success. This could be due to many circumstances, the most prominent of which, I think, is the time of release. See, when Mr. Nutz came out, most people were getting tired of sidescrolling action games like this as there were quite a few available by this point with many more coming soon. Had Ocean dropped Mr. Nutz a year or so earlier, it may have been a franchise hit for them, much like how Ubi Soft was able to run with Rayman a few years later. There is a version of Mr. Nutz that was released on the Amiga computer that changed a lot of the levels, your ability to defend yourself and also got a different story along with a level style similar to Super Mario World, with a world map. The Amiga version at one point was scheduled to be released on the Genesis as Mr. Nutz 2 but for whatever reason, Ocean/Atari dropped the ball on it.
Sad as Mr. Nutz is a great game, if you agree, contact Atari and make sure they know there is a market for this game to be re-released in some form on the newer consoles (this is only one of many original titles that Ocean published that wasn’t licensed in some way).
This article was originally posted on UnNamedGaming.com, a site that is now defunct and only available on Waybackmachine. This was one of my earliest articles to have published over six years ago.