It sure is hard being the main character of a video game. You can be enjoying the sunny weather on a pleasant afternoon with your friends one minute, only to have your planet invaded by powerful reality-altering aliens in the next. Before you know it, you might find yourself in the middle of an adventure to save the entire world! As if that were not enough, you will never find someone that will give you straight answers or help you out without expecting something in return.
Then again, the position of a video game main character comes with certain benefits. There is the tremendous potential for everlasting digital glory and heroism. There is the satisfaction of saving the world and serving the greater good. Unless that is you happen to be an anti-hero. And of course, there is the most important benefit of having a life that has a save-game function. No risk is too great when another attempt is just a load screen away.
Blissfully unaware of the impending doom, our main character Ed is perhaps enjoying the brilliant, sunny day. It sure looks like a wonderful opportunity to spend some quality time with his friends. But this is not the tale of a gray cat having a delightful picnic with his friends, because the evil Goragons have decided it is high time they try to invade another planet.
It begins as Ed and his friends see the Goragon ship fly over their heads. Being employees of the Galactic Council, Grik and Zoran immediately identify the aliens. The notorious Goragons most assuredly never arrive in peace. These diabolical aliens are known for altering the very fabric of reality. As if taking over planets were not bad enough, they have to shape existence according to their own will.
Unfortunately, Ed and his friends do not seem to have any high-tech gizmos to fend off the invasion. They do not appear to be particularly strong in the force either. In terror, Ed watches the aliens descend upon his planet. It is not long before the Goragons start firing at the crowd staring at the sky. Ed and the others try to get away. Almost everyone manages to escape the initial attack. Mr. Smoozles however is not as lucky as the rest of the group. The powerful blast alters Mr. Smoozles' mind. Picking up a gun with seemingly infinite ammunition, Mr. Smoozles starts to shoot at his friends!
Even as Ed tries to run away, his friends are enveloped by strange beams of light. Within moments, all of them disappear. To make things worse, a reality altering wave is headed towards Ed. Luckily, just when all hope seems sufficiently lost, the heroic cat figures out a way to get away.
Ed finds himself in what used to be the house he shared with his friends. Reality seems to be already altered here. The winding corridors do not look familiar. But Mr. Smoozles is right there to make absolutely sure that Ed will learn every corner of the structure. His impressive gun clutched in his paws, Mr. Smoozles starts to chase Ed around the house.
Managing to get into one of the other rooms inside the building, Ed realizes that his friends have been captured. He will have to find a way to shut down the energy fields and release them. But getting rid of the force fields surrounding his friends will not be easy. It will not be the only thing Ed has to do either. It will be up to the heroic cat to fix Mr. Smoozles' mind, find a way to restore normality, stop the alien invasion, and in general save the world from relentless death and destruction. After all, the main character has to have some serious responsibilities.
Thankfully, Ed will not be completely alone in his arduous journey. Before long, the cat will come across a truly exceptional gadget called the Reality Enabler. Chock full of highly useful functionality and fully packed with a lifetime supply of sarcastic comments, the Reality Enabler will be instrumental in Ed's quest to save the entire world.
It is not every day that we get a chance to play a game as charming as Mr. Smoozles Goes Nutso. The first game to be released by Juniper Games, Mr. Smoozles Goes Nutso brings together strong adventure elements and classic arcade style game play mechanics in what amounts to be a highly addictive game. If you enjoy a lighthearted game that will give you a few laughs, Mr. Smoozles can certainly keep you entertained for quite a number of hours.
The game opens with a comic-book style introduction sequence that shows the attack of the Goragons. These infamous reality-altering aliens are supposed to be imprisoned for eternity. Yet they have somehow managed to escape their prison and launched an invasion against Ed's world. With most of his friends captured, Mr. Smoozles turned into a furry orange death machine, and no super heroes in sight to save the day, it is up to Ed to clean up the mess and get everything back to normal.
Mr. Smoozles Goes Nutso is played from a third-person perspective and features an isometric top-down view. From the moment the application loads and you hear the music on the main menu, there is an unmistakable retro feel to the game. It is present in the graphics, the sound effects, the soundtrack, and the way the game plays. If you have spent any length of time with older consoles such as the Sega Master System, the game will most likely feel instantly familiar.
In many ways, its old-school charm is the greatest strength of the game. At first glance, Mr. Smoozles Goes Nutso can seem like a simple game best suited for casual gamers or children, and that is true to a certain extent. The game could easily be played for short amounts of time, experiencing the adventure at a relaxed pace. The cartoon-like style is free of content that might be considered inappropriate for younger audiences.
However, there is a deeper quality to Mr. Smoozles Goes Nutso. Packed within the eminent charming and relaxed tone of the game, there is a fairly entertaining storyline with plenty of twists and turns. There are also many nuances that are likely to be appreciated by the more seasoned gamers. Whether it is a joke about an older adventure game, a small jab at role-playing games, or a presentation style you may not have experienced in a while, Mr. Smoozles Goes Nutso has a lot to offer those who are willing to investigate all the details of the game.
The game features a fairly simple keyboard-driven interface. Players can move Ed around using the arrow keys on the keyboard. In order to pick up an item and put it in your inventory, all you have to do is walk over it. The Enter key is used to interact with other characters and objects. The Ctrl key allows you to examine objects or read notices that might appear on walls or computer screens. Keyboard shortcuts are available to give players easy access the load and save game screens. Additional shortcuts are presented throughout the game as Ed obtains a number of special items.
In general, going through Mr. Smoozles Goes Nutso, players will engage in two primary activities. The exploration portion of the game will have you speaking to other characters, searching for important items, and looking for clues as to how you might be able to put an end to the alien invasion. In the meantime, players will also have to watch out for Mr. Smoozles' relentless attacks. In several of the game's environments, the crazed cat will chase Ed around the screen. You will have to make good use of your surroundings to avoid getting hit by Mr. Smoozles' gun.
The orange cat will not be the only threat you will face either. You will have to watch out for deadly mines and robots bent on blasting away Ed. For the most part, you will have to use your surroundings to avoid getting hit by your enemies' attacks. However, Ed will not remain completely defenseless in his quest to save the world. With some exploration, you might find a couple of things to help you survive the journey.
It is also worth noting that Ed is quite a durable cat. You will start the game with a full health bar and three extra lives. Each time you get hit by an enemy attack, a portion of your health bar will disappear. When the entire health bar is depleted, one of your extra lives will be spent to refill it. If you lose all of your lives, the game will be over. Fortunately, there are a couple of things you can do to help Ed stay alive. You might find extra lives scattered around the environment. You might also find energy shields that offer Ed some protection.
Throughout the course of the game, you will have an opportunity to visit plenty of interesting locations. It will not be long before you make your way out of the initial building. Among other places, your quest will lead you into the sewers and a factory covered with high-tech equipment. You will also have a chance to visit a number of reality vortexes. A result of the Goragons' attempts at altering reality, these vortexes make up pocket dimensions that play as mini-puzzles. You will have to figure out a way to seal them if you want to restore normality.
While the game world is not massive, it does feature a good number of places to explore while giving players plenty of challenges to overcome along the way. Whether you are trying to avoid a series of mines or looking for an essential item, the game is fairly good at giving you individual objectives gradually leading up to your ultimate goal. As long as you examine your surroundings carefully and pay attention to details, you should hopefully not spend too much time aimlessly wandering.
Ed will also encounter a number of interesting characters during his adventure. Mr. Smoozles Goes Nutso is not a game that is extremely heavy on dialog. However, you will still get to have a number of fun conversations full of lighthearted humor. You will get to learn what it truly means to be a patient fisherman in one scene while meeting very unusual creatures called Smoos in the next. Through the comic strips available on the walls, the references to other video games, and plenty of sarcastic comments from Ed and the Reality Enabler, it is very clear that Mr. Smoozles Goes Nutso does not take itself too seriously. That underlying humorous yet unpretentious attitude adds to the appeal of the game.
In general, the puzzles featured in Mr. Smoozles Goes Nutso deal with finding the correct items and using them in the right spot. You will also frequently need to consult other characters for information pertaining to your current quests. In addition, players will have to occasionally figure out how to operate a series of buttons to unlock a door. For the most part, a careful examination of the environment will reveal the answers. One nice thing about having a tool like the Reality Enabler is that the machine remembers critical information for you. When you recover an important code, you do not need to make note of it on a piece of paper. When the time comes to use that piece of information, the Reality Enabler will automatically remind Ed.
The only real complaint about the game's challenges is the need to go back and forth between the various locations. While the world of Mr. Smoozles Goes Nutso is interesting to explore, players will occasionally have to traverse the same screens multiple times. This is not a huge problem, but it can slow down your overall progress and sometimes feel a bit tedious as you wish Ed would run a little faster. A map feature to simplify some of this navigation could have been useful.
If you are concerned about the arcade sequences, it is worth noting that Juniper Games has given players the ability to select the difficulty setting at the beginning of the game. There are separate settings for the arcade portion of the game and the puzzles. While the game is quite manageable on the normal arcade difficulty, you can set the level to easy in order to make Mr. Smoozles and the other enemies less of a problem.
Players can also choose to receive additional clues with the puzzles. These extra clues should make it significantly easier to overcome many of the game's challenges. Since Mr. Smoozles Goes Nutso is not too difficult in the first place, it might be recommendable to at least try the game under the normal adventure setting.
Playing Mr. Smoozles Goes Nutso can certainly be an entertaining experience. Sure, the game is not a testament to the latest achievements in 3D graphics. It is not filled with the most creative ensemble of puzzles and it does not feature an exceptionally intricate plot. However, the game has an inherent charm that makes it quite memorable nonetheless. The look and feel of the game, the sound effects, and the music are almost assured to bring back memories to the seasoned gamers.
There is something immediately appealing about the cartoon-like presentation and the colorful, vibrant environments. The soft tunes of the game's soundtrack feel extremely appropriate for the underlying retro tone. They also manage to successfully set a mood for each scene that is appropriate for the environment you are exploring or the events that are transpiring. The storyline remains sufficiently interesting throughout the game, giving some depth to the initial premise while staying on the humorous side and giving Ed plenty of tasks to accomplish. Though not exceptionally difficult, the puzzles do require players to pay attention to the environment and examine things carefully. The arcade sequences add some excitement to the game without shifting the focus away from the storyline or disrupting the casual tone.
Mr. Smoozles Goes Nutso is a truly charming game that can be easily recommended to players looking for a lighthearted and relaxed gaming experience. Between the old-school feel and the humorous tone of the game, there is definitely something to enjoy. Besides, how can you possibly dislike a game with a name like Mr. Smoozles Goes Nutso and a primary objective that literally asks you to save the world?
The final grade is 83/100.
Visit the official Juniper Games Web site to purchase the game.