Noble Nutlings is a new iOS game from Boomlagoon, a company made up of ex-Rovio employees. The game is already available in selected territories around the world, and launches today worldwide as a free-to-play app. Noble Nutlings is a physics-based racing game somewhat similar to the popular motocross stunt-racing games that have been popular on the Web and mobile for some time. Players take control of the titular squirrel-like Nutlings, who are all riding in a rickety wooden cart. Playing the game consists of pressing the on-screen accelerator button to accelerate forwards, tilting the device to balance the cart when it is in mid-air and, if the player has any remaining, using a chili-powered boost for a surge of forward momentum. At the conclusion of each level, the player is rated between one and three stars according to how quickly they reached the finish line, and awarded in-game currency according to how many nuts they picked up. This currency, which may also be acquired via in-app purchase, may be used for a variety of purposes — topping up the chili tank, buying new wheels for the cart (which affect its acceleration and top speed) or buying a new chassis for the cart (which affects its balance). Spending in-game currency is the only means of topping up the chili tank, so if the player wishes to attain the highest star ratings — necessary to unlock certain levels — they will have to budget for this regular expense when considering whether or not to upgrade the cart. Every so often, the player will be challenged to complete a level using a non-customizable unicycle instead of the cart. This is much more difficult to maintain balance on, and gives the game a nice occasional shakeup. Otherwise, the gameplay on display here is not really anything we haven’t seen in numerous other physics-based racing games before. The customizable nature of the cart is a nice touch, but in gameplay terms it doesn’t seem to make a huge amount of difference to its performance, even when the statistics show drastic changes. The game is well-presented, with clear, crisp Retina graphics and high-quality (if repetitive) sound. The colorful, simplistic design of the Nutlings is clearly an attempt to create figures as iconic as designer Tuomas Erikoinen’s previous brainchilds the Angry Birds, but they just don’t have as much character to them. This is perhaps due to the fact that they are mostly passive characters who just ride along in the cart — they don’t really “do” anything as such, whereas the Angry Birds distinguished themselves not only visually, but in their unique abilities that directly impacted gameplay.The game does feature good integration of social play. By connecting with Facebook, users may challenge their friends’ best times on each level, making for plenty of replay value even once all the levels have been three-starred. The game is overly-pushy about this feature, however, taking over the entire screen to demand the player activate Facebook connectivity on occasion. This even made the game unplayable at one point, as I tapped the “store” button at the same time this popup appeared at one point during testing — this caused the Facebook connection button to disappear from the screen, but the “Invite Friends” message to remain and monopolize the interface, meaning I couldn’t tap on anything and thus had to quit the app completely from the iOS multitasking bar to pick up where I left off. The “play with friends” button is already obvious and prominent on screen — it doesn’t need to be pointed out quite so obtrusively, and social play should be the player’s choice rather than an apparent expectation. This issue aside, Noble Nutlings is a decent game, albeit a relatively straightforward and unremarkable one. There is relatively little here to distinguish the game from other physics-based racers, though the developer’s Angry Birds connection will likely stand in the game’s favor and encourage people to check it out where they might not have done normally. On the whole, the game seems to play things rather safe, with its predictable three-star challenge-based system, cartoonish visuals and the exact same menu icons seen in Angry Birds. Objectively it’s a good enough game — it’s just not particularly pushing mobile gaming forward in any meaningful way. Noble Nutlings launches worldwide today. You’ll be able to follow its progress through the App Store charts with AppData, our tracking service for mobile and social games and developers.
A decent physics-based racer, but a game which plays things rather safe on the whole.