Mr. Smoozles Goes Nutso is a proud new addition to the indie game scene, written by Steve Ince who is also the author of the webcomic the game is based on, "Mr. Smoozles." The webcomic is as kooky as its name suggests and stars Mr. Smoozles himself.
Mr. Smoozles Goes Nutso is essentially a puzzle-slash-adventure game with some RPG, arcade, and point-and-click elements thrown into the mix. The game, unlike the webcomic which follows Mr. Smoozles himself, will feature Ed, the geeky gray cat of the series.
The story starts when Ed's planet is invaded by the Goragons, a pinkish, blobby, three-eyed race. Not only have they altered the entire fabric of reality of Ed's universe, but they've also captured all of his friends.
Or maybe not all of his friends. They didn't capture Mr. Smoozles; instead, they mind-zapped him and now all he wants to do is blow Ed into smithereenies with his gun! (Well, judging from his character in the webcomic, we've always known Mr. Smoozles to be trigger happy with his gun anyways.)
In order to save the world, his friends, and reality as he knows it, Ed has to stop the Goragons and their fiendish master. Oh and he has to save Mr. Smoozles too. Probably. Well, he has to anyway.
On his mission he'll meet old friends and make new friends, including a race of Smoos (all with names that rhyme like Hugh, Stu, Sue and Gladys, formerly known as Glu) and a frog prince. (It's a weird cast worthy of the title Mr. Smoozles Goes Nutso.)
Much of the style and humor of the game gives you the impression that you're reading a comic (naturally, since it's based on one) and you're just flipping the pages. Like a comic, much of the punchlines are one-liners, and you'll often have conversations like this:
Ed: Why do you love Mr. Smoozles when he treats you so badly?
Finny: That's nonsense! He just doesn't like to show his feelings!
Ed: He was the one that spent the ransom money when you were kidnapped.
Finny: That must have been a misunderstanding.
Ed: I'm pretty sure he paid the kidnappers in the first place.
As indie games go, Mr. Smoozles Goes Nutso is pretty well made. Since the author is an animator himself the game is rich with hand-drawn characters, custom sprites and tilesets. The game also has an original soundtrack from Josh Winiberg that's perfect for the nutty world of Mr. Smoozles.
Fans of the comic get an extra treat when they see familiar friends and elements in the game. The hallways leading to the characters' rooms, for example, has a wallpaper that was used in the comic. Steve Ince, like a lot of the characters he has written, is a gamer himself so you'll also find some jokes that reference pop gaming culture.
Much of the gameplay in Mr. Smoozles Goes Nutso involves a lot of puzzle solving, a bit like Monkey Island but more similar to that in Chip's Challenge. You pick up clues and a number of items as you go along the story and you have to figure out what they do and where they go.
You're going to have to do a lot of running back and forth in the game to proceed with the story and collect items, most of the time being chased by Mr. Smoozles, who's wielding a big laser gun.
Controls are pretty simple. The two major keys you'll be using are the Enter and Ctrl keys. You'll know when to use them when you're beside an item that sparkles.
As a puzzle game, Mr. Smoozles Goes Nutso is fun but demands a lot of your brain's memory cells. At first, the game starts out small so you have a fair idea of where to go to find or use a certain item, but once you get further into the game, watch out. Get a pen and paper.
One of the more challenging aspects of the game is its refusal to give you any hints other than what it's willing to give. You're going to have to do a lot of guesswork in proceeding with the story if you forget what you have to do since characters that give you hints will usually only give it once. When in doubt, press Enter or Ctrl at everything that shines.
The game also has two difficulty modes for brain drainage. Normal mode will mostly leave you the barest of clues to move along in the story while "additional clues" mode will give you the option to admit that you just can't hack normal mode (you are not alone in this).
Much of the game is kind of like Pac-Man, as you have to avoid Mr. Smoozles in claustrophobic, maze-like rooms. The game has three difficulty modes which will set how fast Mr. Smoozles will gun you down (run, cat, run for your life!).
The combination of running back and forth in a Pac-Man-like setting can be fun, challenging and frustrating, all at the same time. As a Pac-Man style game, the character is required to run only in one type of pace throughout the entire game.
In rooms where Mr. Smoozles is chasing you and where you have to dodge floating mines (among other things), the singular pace sets the challenge of the game. However, when you're just running between rooms to look for items, the pace can get a little dragging.
The game will get pretty engaging over time (being chased by a cute orange cat with a huge gun can get pretty engaging). The script is peppered with witty repartee and well, just plain insanity. And although the elements of the story are crazy, they're interwoven in a way that makes sense (does that make sense?).
Mr. Smoozles Goes Nutso for the PC is available for US$ 9.99 at the game's website. Fans of the webcomic may find this a worthy game to see all of their favorite characters dive into action.