Noble Nutlings has perhaps the best pedigree an iOS game has ever had. Developed by former members of the Angry Birds team, Noble Nutlings attempts to recapture the fervor that surrounded its spiritual predecessor while adding something new to its formula. Does it succeed?
For the most part, yes. While the gameplay isn’t as fast and furious as the trailer might make it seem, Nobile Nutlings’ collection of tracks do twist and turn in ways that are surprising and interesting. The primary hindrance to the fun, then, is a lack of a real sense of speed. The game is controlled primarily by holding a button on the screen and tilting the iOS device left and right to adjust weight and angles. It’s similar to XBLA’s Trials Evolution, but not nearly as demanding. There isn’t really a physics model in play, and the tracks aren’t designed for precision. They’re designed for speed.
The stock vehicle does an admirable job of completing the levels in a reasonable amount of time, but in order to gain more stars (which unlock levels), players will have to upgrade the vehicle with new wheels, a new cabin, or other assorted accouterments. These upgrade the vehicle in various ways, whether it’s the rubber wheels providing better acceleration to the vehicle, or a heavier cabin making it less susceptible to bouncing and shaking. These upgrades are purchased using in-game currency, which is where the game’s free-to-play model comes in.
Players can earn coins in game by finishing levels and collecting acorns, but currently it feels like it’s a little too difficult to earn coins. There’s not a great deal of skill involved in hitting certain acorns, just the necessity for more speed, but the speedier unlocks are expensive. This creates a situation in which the game becomes a bit of a grind as players will have to replay levels repeatedly to earn enough coins to purchase better upgrades to make themselves go faster. Of course, this can be side-stepped by purchasing coins using real money, which can make the ostensibly free game an expensive one relatively quickly.
There is an alternate path to progression, though. Players can simply purchase the levels locked away by star requirements, and this costs about five dollars. For most players, this will be the way to go, as playing the same levels repeatedly can get old, quickly.
Noble Nutlings looks and sounds good on an iPhone 5. The music is appropriately silly, and the nutlings and their vehicle are striking in their appearance. Unfortunately, the level design suffers from a sense of “sameyness,” which contributes to how quickly the feeling of grinding sets in.
With a couple of tweaks, Noble Nutlings could be a star on iOS. If it was a little faster both in terms of gameplay and progression, the game would make good on its promise of chaotic fun. As it stands, it’s infinitely recommendable at the low, low price of free, and players who find the gameplay fun and addictive will certainly be better off plunking the five dollars down to unlock all of the levels. It’s a very good first effort from developer Boomlagoon, which has established itself as one worth keeping an eye on.
Noble Nutlings Review Score: 7.0/10
A copy of Noble Nutlings for iOS was provided to the reviewer for the purposes of this review. The game was played on an iPhone 5 using iOS 6.0.2.