metzomagic.com Review

Mr. Smoozles Goes Nutso

Developer:  Steve Ince/Juniper Games
Publisher:  720 Games
Year Released:  2006

Review by Gordon Aplin (September, 2006)

Mr. Smoozles Goes Nutso Screenshot Oh no! The Goragons — those dastardly, pink, three-eyed creatures from another dimension — have invaded the Earth and torn apart the whole fabric of reality (whatever that is). Worse still, Mr. Smoozles gets zapped by a Goragon mind-altering ray and, you guessed it, goes nutso. Mr. Smoozles, a ginger cat, is now armed and very dangerous, so you will want to steer well clear of him. Ahh, if only it were that easy.

In this arcade-style adventure game you play as a blue cat called Ed and you need to free your friends: Watford, Finny, Pepper, Zoran and Grik who have been imprisoned by the Goragons. You will also need to unzap Mr. Smoozles, defeat the Goragons, save all the Smoos, and sheep, and restore normality (whatever that is). But before you get too far ahead of yourself there are many obstacles to overcome including locked doors, robot guards, deadly mines, semi-helpful Smoos and force fields, to name just a few.

The introduction is presented in a delightful comic book style before quickly dropping you into the reality-altered game world where you will face the first of many challenges.

Feline enter-itis
Mr. Smoozles Goes Nutso is based on the cute characters in Steve Ince's online comic strip, Mr. Smoozles, and presents a unique combination of arcade and adventure game elements. There is lots of emphasis on exploration and puzzle solving in the context of a wacky story that wouldn't be out of place in one of the early LucasArts classics. It is keyboard controlled but navigation is easy as you steer Ed around the arcade-style settings by using the arrow keys. The 'Enter' key is used for most interactions, and if you have the correct item in your inventory then Ed will use it appropriately. Objects you can interact with, and 'exits', are identified by tiny floating pinpoints of light when Ed is standing next to them, and you can examine objects or read notices by pressing the 'Ctrl' key.

Some items require a specific key to be pressed to use them but you will be alerted to this in the course of the game. One of the features I found really useful was the information stations that appear in several locations. Here you can easily access information on the game controls and, more importantly, a list of your current objectives to keep you on track.

More lives than a cat
Mr. Smoozles Goes Nutso Screenshot Ed begins the game with three 'lives', and more 'lives' can be found as you explore. You can also pick up the odd shield or two for limited protection and you may also be lucky enough to get a health potion.

Of course you can lose 'lives' if you're not careful. In a few locations Mr. Smoozles will pursue you with his gun and your health will suffer if you get hit. Added to this there are other locations where robot guards will take pot shots at you and floating mines will explode if you step into their path. But even if you are not a fan of arcade-style games you shouldn't be put off by this as Mr. Smoozles Goes Nutso allows for three levels of arcade difficulty; easy, normal (default) and hard. It also allows you to choose additional hints for the adventure components.

Playing on easy arcade mode, among other things, slows down the movement of the floating mines but regardless of the difficulty setting the game wisely allows you to choose to continue on even if you lose all three lives. You are simply restored to the same place with three new lives and you don't need to replay huge chunks. Also, most adventurers don't need to be told to save often and this is the best strategy here. There are ten save game slots provided and it is important to save before entering new or dangerous areas.

Reality bytes or kitty litter?
As you move Ed around he will pick up reality shards and vortex fragments that are scattered around (once he finds the right equipment). The reality shards can be used to access computers and turn off force fields, etc. You can also use them to disarm and collect landmines which can then be used later to help you overcome some pesky annoyances so that your next visits to these locations are much less hazardous.

Having said that, I must emphasise that there are lots of locations you can visit where you are completely safe and you can explore without pressure so Mr. Smoozles Goes Nutso is far from being a frenetic arcade romp. In fact even some of the arcade-style elements are simply puzzles in disguise where you just need a strategy to overcome them. For example, there are three or four reality vortices you must stabilise in order to recover unreachable items and in one vortex there are multiple teleporters that will zap you around the screen. By carefully noting where each one transports you to, you can eventually work out how to navigate around.

Curiosity killed the ... no, we won't go there!
Mr. Smoozles Goes Nutso Screenshot Mr. Smoozles Goes Nutso is pretty much an adventure game with an arcade-style overlay. It has a fun and entertaining plot and the puzzles are completely integrated within the story. You need to find and use objects, power-up alien contraptions, and modify or repair some items before you can use them.

You will meet and talk to other characters who may tell you what you need to do or at least give a clue. Often they will want something before they are prepared to help so you may have several obstacles to overcome before you can move on. There are many locations to explore and some areas will need to be 'unlocked' either through finding the correct key, turning off a force field or learning the correct co-ordinates for teleportation.

Though there are no voices for the characters, the dialogue appears as text in speech bubbles and the often humorous comments allow the individual personalities to shine through. Even Ed's really useful Reality Enabler (much better than a mere PDA) has a personality all its own. Then there are the many identical Smoos you will meet with names like Stu, Lou and Hugh along with Gladys whose real name is Glu but didn't want to be stuck with it.

The game plays in full screen or Windows mode and the graphics and animations are colourful and amusing. Be sure to check out the comic strip pop ups when you find them. Josh Winiberg's original music score displays a subtle touch that raises it far above the usual arcade 'boppy' tunes and adds to the overall experience.

Mr. Smoozles Goes Nutso is really something a bit different. It's also a lot of fun. Rosemary and I played it together and we thoroughly enjoyed it. Play it first on the 'easy' arcade mode and you will find it quite forgiving, this will allow you to concentrate on the story and puzzle solving.

Mr. Smoozles Goes Nutso can be purchased and downloaded from 720 Games

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Copyright © Gordon Aplin 2006. All rights reserved.

System Requirements:
Windows