Monday, 28 December 2015

Mr. Nutz: Hoppin' Mad (Amiga) - Guest Post

Hello everyone!

It's a cold and windy winter night here in mecha-neko-land, so I'm back with a Christmas present of sorts to warm you all up. It's called Mr. Nutz: Hoppin' Mad!

This is a 90s platformer which I'd thought had fallen through the cracks and never got a release. I saw a few previews of it in Amiga magazines, tons of adverts and then nothing at all. There were Mr. Nutzes for the SNES, Mega Drive and even the Game Boy, so I thought the Amiga had just been left behind. But in fact we did get Mr. Nutz right on time in 1994, well after everybody knew the Amiga was toast, as a small gift for the loyal or desperate few.

It's an Amiga 500 game though, so you might want to pack up whatever few expectations you have left right now.

That said, this is one swish title screen. Uncompromising. Nutz in your face, followed by a fist.

Boy, I could have described that better for sure.

The music foams out of the speakers like so much cream soda! This is going to be the most platformeriest platformer ever!

It offers me a choice of save slots. Save slots? In an Amiga platformer? That's weird! Just plain weird!

They want you to save onto your Mr. Nutz Disk 1 which is such a terrible idea it boggles the brain. They've got a lot of very misplaced faith in the Amiga's floppy drive I think. The manual doesn't tell you to make a backup of the disk either, so one false move and your save is gone. And that's if you're lucky. If you're not, your copy of Mr. Nutz is dead, forever.

Make backups. Use backups.

Once upon a time in a 90s platform game world, tense music plays. Spaceship sprites glide menacingly over the five colour-coded archipelagos of Peanut Planet.

And then one ship silently lands, laying an oil-rig next to an innocent green forest-themed island. They've gotta be up to no good.

Mr. Nutz is happily standing there enjoying the view from his private island, when a bird drifts onto the scene and unleashes a torrent of capital squawks into the squirrel's brain.

Hello! I've got a message for you! Strange things have happened on the mainland! Chickens from outer space are trying to conquer the world! We need your help!

> I'm on my way

  How can I reach the mainland?

Dialogue choices! How about that!

On the shore there is a raft! It will bring you to the mainland! Push the fire button when are you are on the landing stage! Hurry up...

This is impressive stuff. Not many Amiga games have a world map. A few do spring to mind: Brian the Lion, James Pond 3: Operation Starfish, Woody's World and Pinkie. And those... they're stories for another time. If there's ever a mecha-neko live platformer playathon/somethingmiserablehere, that's where we're headed.

(And don't forget Puggsy...)

This must be Nutz Island, population One. And a bird.

Not much to do here. I can look around and inspect the very Pokémon-esque bushes, but "I can't find anything special!" is all I get.

No sign of any Mrs. Nutz to say goodbye to. Or anybody to save, come to think of it. He must have come here for some peace and quiet, poor guy.

Off we go, to save the world!

Here we are. The nexus. The fulcrum. The pivotal moment where the squirrelly resistance of Mr. Nutz (and a seagull) defend their world against the chicken menace.

Oh no, a chicken! A deadly random encounter! To arms, Mr. Nutz!

Hey! Hands off my chest!

Say what?

From now on the chickens rule the world!

Oh no! Too late! I've lost!

We hide our treasures in chests and bombs to blow up stones! Just stand in front of a stone and press the firebutton to set the bomb! But don't you get too close!

Huh? That was the most helpful threat I've ever received. It's like if an Imperial stormtrooper tapped Luke Skywalker on the shoulder and started giving him directions then sent him off with a 'Cheerio!'.

Maybe the chickens have a very forgiving kind of sportsmanship: handing Nutz as much rope as he likes, knowing that most platform game protagonists end up as a twitching mess in the gutter of the screen.

I'll show him! Nobody genuinely wishes me luck and gets away with it!

Up we go, finding...

A treasure chest, and a block. The chest contains a bomb.

I'm shocked.

The big mountain awaits. I'd show you, but this little window is all we get. It's making it a little hard to navigate. There are giant arrow signs about but they're a litle useless if I don't know what they're pointing to.

It's a bunny!

You're here at last! We have discovered where the chickens' base is.... on top of this mountain! Up there your adventure will start! And if one of those stupid chickens get too close to you, just jump on it!

This must have been a joyous place once, but for those on the run the war demands a heavy toll on the spirit. Even the poor Easter Bunny is on his last nerve. Violence is the only answer. He's not going to come with me; he's got his own troubles. Or he's just a slacker. Though to be fair not everybody is an anthropomorphic mascot like Nutz. I don't think the bunny even has a Mr. to his name. Compared to him I'm a great big giant chicken stomping machine.

It's a slime monster! It looks happy enough, so it's either going to dissolve me slowly and painfully or offer some more advice.

Hey! What's your name? I am a little hitpoint!

> I am Mecha!

  I am Little Mecha!

Oh you jokester, Nutz!

Huh, that explains what Mr. Nutz' first name is! It's whatever you say it is, like Commander Shepard!

So this guy is a hit point. As in a literal hit point that just bounces about the place. He's going to come with me on my journey and protect me from damage! What a nice guy. Lucky I found him really 'cause I started off with none at all.

Over in another chest is a pocket that lets me carry another hitpoint and a 1up! Nutz even says '1up'!

Right up at the top of the mountain is a bomb and a conspicuous cube of rock that Nutz is way too polite to step around. And why not: there could be anything on that darker green piece of land! You know what they say: "Step on a crack, break your mother's back. Step on the grass, break..." nevermind. No, I don't think anybody says that.

So anyway, I'm obviously going to trundle back down the mountain and blow up a completely different rock!

Let's see what my mischief has wrought.

Chicken blocking the route!

Stop! I lose three of my magic feathers! They aren't important but I need them back!!!

Have you seen them? No? Hm, I should have known that...

These guys are the friendliest occupying force. Why bother being antagonistic when you're already won, I suppose?

Up we go, around the top edge of the island, finding... an extra bomb to replace the one I used up, phew.

Oh, there is another message from the seagull! 'This is a magic feather! (I thought it was a sword...) It will give you the ability to fly! Simply push the up and fire together after a jump with a run-up! To stop gliding, press down and fire together! But you need at least five hitpoints to use it!'

I can fly! Who'd ever heard of a flying... oh.

There's another rock blocking the path after the feather. Do you think the game is trying to tell me something about using a bit more foresight when it comes to my limited-use bombs? Nah! We're going right on through, and to heck with the consquences.



Well I have some hitpoints now so if it's going to come to combat, I'm ready for it.

No, Mr. Chicken, I did not steal the magic feather which I obviously stole and you watched me steal.

I can't believe I got away with that.

The chickens sure like to leave stuff lying around. Can't be easy looting when you don't have arms. I'm finding all kinds of things. Hit points, hit point refills, bunnies, fish, chickens, blue chickens, and lots and lots of treasure chests full of gems.

I'm finding everything except levels. Apologies to those in the audience waiting for the main feature presentation, I'm honestly stuck on the world map.

What does a secret base look like anyway?

And what's in this here box?

Well, that is good advice, after a fashion.

Let's go south, down the ladder, down the ladder, right a bit.

Nooo! My hubris and vanity have come back to haunt me!

The bunny helpfully tells me that the booth to the north is a teleporter and it'll take me to another island in the archipelago. Let's hit it!

More of the same, wandering, wandering.

Ah! This is a level! I thought it was, well, just a flag. I was expecting a level name or perhaps Nutz to sort of stick to it momentarily as I walked past it. You could easily walk over everything in the world and not notice you could activate it.

Ready or not, chickens, here I come!

Fade to black... and the music starts up! It's the most peppy thing I've heard in my life. Booming out the speakers with lush Stereo Sound! (YouTube link.)

So bright and lovely. A kaleidoscope of innocent goodness gushing out the monitor in a major key. The main melodies swirl between the stereo speakers, turning the stark black loading screen into a deep, lush wall of happiness.

It's nothing special. But at the same, it's everything special. It's everything I could want from first level platformer music... Put the kettle on though, I'll let you know when the game's actually loaded.

He's raring to go. Aw, isn't he adorable!

Whoa whoa, steady nelly. He sure likes to rush about. He starts slow but soon builds up a fearsome head of steam, bumping up a little too close to the right of the screen for my liking. Nothing can stop a powerwalking squirrel on a mission!

There's no enemies on this level, so I'm safe to flail around as much as I please, chucking Nutz around like a cuddly toy. Flying is a little underwhelming. Nutz slows right down to a crawl and it doesn't look like you can't really use it for much. For a so-called magic feather, all it's done is given me a feeble glide.

Oh hell, I'm Bubsy, aren't I? Here I was thinking I was going to be Sonic, but no I'm Bubsy.

Look at this. Look. Amiga games don't look like this. Amiga games don't move like this. Amiga 500 games definitely don't. If you were to look back through some of the crusty crap that Ray played through in the first few months of the site, all those games were positively avant-garde in their blatant disregard for playable framerates.

I thought that the height of Amiga swishness was the gloomy, mostly static worlds of Wiz 'n' Liz. I was watching Ray play Ruff 'n' Tumble and that's a rickety old zoetrope compared to this.

But this... it's beautiful. Layers of scrolling, bright, clear colours. This system came out in 1987 for heaven's sake. Three years before the SNES.

I'm in awe.

Well there we go. The exit was the word EXIT in floating golden letters in the middle of nowhere. Once I reached it, Nutz seemed satisfied enough and stood there until the screen faded out. Level complete!

I won! I made the flag blue. Wait, wasn't it already blue? I'm going to have to go back and check.

I'm confused... why didn't the flag change colour? Didn't I win the level? I'm a little concerned about that. I must have missed the secret base. It was supposed to be secret after all! All I saw were trees, gems, mushrooms and cheese. (This is a very realistic game.)

Hmm, I'm going to give that another go.

Nope, no secret base on this level. Either that, or it's simply too secret for this squirrel. There was no gem target like in Global Gladiators, no dangerous looking robotic device to explode Sonic CD-style, definitely no KEY-GLYPH.

Which must mean that the blue levels are bonus levels and...

The red flags must be proper levels!

I mean, I found a red flag earlier and this happened. So obviously whatever the flag was for I couldn't do it yet, right? No, I just wasn't standing on the exact right pixel to enter the level. I've finally found Level 1!

Face yourselves, chickens! And prepare your consequences!

Let's gooooo- WHAT.

The very first enemy I encounter in the game and Conker the Plonker pratfalls right into it. What a complete dunce.

That red thing falling out of the top left of the screen is a hit point. They're chucked into the level when you get hit, so if you're swish enough you can go back and pick it back up! They say they're here to help me, but they could do with not running away from me while giggling in my face. Sheesh.

In turning Mr. Nutz from a nice stroll through the woods into a blinding blitzkrieg, they've taken Sonic's roll and turned it into a dangerous liability, then took Sonic's rings and turned them into something strange, shiny and new!

We might need to go to the Sudden Death version of the obligatory Platform Game Drinking Game. Take a drink of dishwater, bleach or whatever takes your fancy whenever I mention Mario or Sonic.

There goes my ability to fly, too. I needed full health to do it.

Chickens! They don't look very threatening... why can't we all just live in peace?

But they hurt you on contact. They can't be that nice if they're made of antimatter. A matter squirrel and antimatter chickens, it wouldn't work out, you know?

A rut that some Amiga games using tiled graphics fall into is to rely on straight lines too much; simply draw some ugly rectangles and call it a day. I always thought that Oil Ocean from Sonic 2 was a bit of a crappy looking level.

Sons of bitches! I was giving them some space, waiting for an opportunity to jump on them... and then this!

I don't know what the hell this yellow stuff is supposed to be. Cheese? It's everywhere!

The worst is that the game is inconsistent with which parts are solid walls, scalable platforms or completely intangible. Those dotted walls are solid elsewhere and these bright yellow platforms are untouchable.

That'll learn him!

Crikey, I exploded him. Look at all those little feather sprites. Coo.

Every sequence in this game runs like a dream. The real game isn't this choppy, even with all this stuff moving on screen. I had to do that to make the animation size reasonable. If I could get away with it, this post would be all GIFs.

This is a damn fine first level.

Except for this place. This place totally sucks.

I used a combination of expert timing and canny gliding to wrangle Nutz over a series of floating platforms onto a hidden area secreted away above and to the left of the starting point. A tall lift took me down to a hidden section deep below the main level and right into deep water. Muffled audio, ooh!

There's got to be something good at the end of this disaster! This place is way too cramped to do anything and there's no chance of jumping at the chickens properly. Those things that you can barely see at the bottom of the screen are springy mushrooms. Those things at the top of the screen obscured by the water line that you can barely see are spikes. Yep, those notches up there are instant ouchies even if you glance against them. Even from the side.

Ugh, it's a dead end. Tch. What the hell happened?

Oh that's lame. This is a secret area, I just did it freakin' backwards. I jumped in through the exit lift and got stuck trying to jump my way back up the entrance where you're supposed to fall in through a false floor. Now I've got nothing left except a couple of useless gems. I used up all the power ups geting through the first time and I've got to make my way back through the tight tunnel with barely any hit-points. Burp.

And, yes! The flag is GREEN! I have achieved something!

It was damn subtle about it. You get a victory fanfare when you reach the EXIT sign but nothing changes on the world map. No bridges rise up out of the water, no walls come tumbling down, no secret giant mecha-chickens explode into a million pieces. You're really supposed to have read the manual.

Level two complete! Wait, what happened to level one!?

I'm trying to figure out how I can get Nutz to spindash. He lurches into a roll when you touch certain slopes. Weird. Weak. I don't even know. Did somebody tell them they had to include rolling, but they couldn't really commit to it?


Woooah. What the hell killed me?

Oh, the bush had eyes for a split second and walked away from me. And then became indistinguishable from any other bush. And that killed me. Thanks. Great.

Come on, you're not allowed to have a disguise that makes you actually disguised! There's no fun in that! At least be a different colour maybe? Or have a silly cardboard cut out of a bush with a face drawn on it.

Back to the checkpoint...

The ships are back!

Sometimes when you leave a level, the nefarious chicken ships glide across the screen. Once, one of the ships landed and laid another oil rig next to the brown island which makes me think there could be a time limit to the game. I seriously hope not, for the poor bunnies' sake.

More wandering around the world map later.

Another message from the seagull! This feather will improve your flying skills! You can turn yourself up or down during a flight by pushing the joystick 'left' or 'right'!

Alright! I've graduated from Bubsy gliding to Super Mario World cape flight!

It's raining! Geronimo!

Uh... flying is hard.

The weather is changing mid level, and the sky is darkening! Amazing!

The only enemies I've found on these levels so far are the chickens and the wasps. And invisible bushes. Adorableness aside, the most dangerous thing here is Mr. Nutz himself! He powers around the level like a maniac, slipping off platforms and I don't-know-what. All of which I wouldn't mind if he had any means of defending himself. Sloooow down, Nutzy...

He's never not going to be the cutest thing ever!

Hmm, don't you think that ingame Mr. Nutz looks nothing like he does on the title screen? And absolutely nothing like the lives indicator?

Let's take a quick look at the secret origin of Mr. Nutz!

Mr. Nutz title screen (SNES)

There he is! That's the Mr. Nutz that I recognise. Two eyes, yellow (not white?) hat, big ol' tail, no legs.

Mr. Nutz was a SNES game first, but it also came out on the Mega Drive and was pretty much identical. How? Because Mr. Nutz was made by a group of supreme, august, committed professionals.

Still, Hoppin' Mad is the second game in the Mr. Nutz series so the original must have had a couple of rough edges, right?

Mr. Nutz (SNES)

Well damn. No, it's just plain pretty. It makes the Amiga version look like a colouring book gone terribly wrong. Nutz himself is so brightly coloured he suits both games, but seeing both games side by side hurts the brain.

Makes you wonder who this imposter is on the adverts, stomping down the barrio with his 90s attitude. He's lost his distinctive mustard-coloured vest and decided to stash his (teeny tiny) 90s shades in a pocket in his body instead.

Mr. Nutz TV Advert

This Advert Nutz is one hell of a motormouth! (YouTube link) And why shouldn't he be? If I were Nutz, I don't know what I'd be more proud of: my very own game starring me, or my own ANIMATED FREAKIN' ADVERT.

I don't care that it's 10 seconds long, 5 seconds of which are in-game footage. Look at him move. I can imagine the character designer grabbing folks by the shoulder and pointing them at the screen shouting "Voilà mon écureuil! Mon écureuil!". And how many game adverts these days have the balls to show actual game footage?

I'd guess Ocean had something to do with this guy, since...

Many, many months before Mr. Nutz was released, he certainly had a lot more of Chip and Dale about him. (External link.)

Can you imagine that guy trying to sell you his game in an advert? He'd put on the big eyes, asking if you'd pretty please buy some scout cookies, pleeeeeaseeeeee?

And where this pretender came from I have no idea. Strange how the little things like making him brown instead of red and drawing him..., well, let's be generous and say in a hurry, makes him look completely different. (A dead ringer for Titus the Fox in fact.)

He's a man of any faces, Nutz. A real chameleon, insofar as squirrels go. They could all be brothers!

Mr. Nutz (SNES)

Here's SNES Nutz showing off his moves. Ocean reused some of his sprites for Hoppin' Mad Nutz, but his signature tail sweep attack is no more. And his mustardy vest has turned red and white.

Mr. Nutz (SNES)

And he's lost his old ability to throw nuts at enemies, which is something any self-respecting platform game squirrel ought to be able to do.

SNES Nutz is a much more chilled out individual and likes to take his time traipsing through the Woody Land as he defeats the evil... plums? Grapes? If they re-released this alongside Hoppin' Mad, maybe they could call it Mr Nutz: Raisin' Hell!

In return for losing most of his frames and his two unique attacks, Hoppin' Mad Nutz gets a world map, 400% colour saturation, rocket speed and Bubsy gliding. Doesn't sound like a fair trade when I put it like that. I wonder what the hell happened?

Back to the Amiga!

I'm trapped in this tiny pit of a level! It's just two screens across.

I guess I'm going up? But those platforms in the central column aren't tangible? Oh boy, I'm going to have to fly. Directly up. Sure, that sounds easy.

To get Nutz to fly, you've got to jump then hold fire and yank up into flying mode. Angle him downwards diagonally. Wait for the frame where he's at maximum speed, then turn him vertical. And then when he stops, do it again. I can lope in two broad J shapes from the left side of the level to the right. He's one heck of a physics defying squirrel, but then again they are magic feathers. There are ledges on the far sides of the level... Crikey, this is difficult.

Back and forth I go, refusing to be beaten by this stupid level with its stupid platforms at the edges of the screen that you can almost reach. And the music, that damned music! The twee pipes thumping into my brain and through my grinding teeth!

I've reached the top and had to stop. Here's what's bothering me: I can't find the freaking exit!

And I don't know how to quit the level. If we were playing with Mario rules, I wouldn't be allowed to abort until I'd won the level but at least I'd have the timer. Sonic as well. But I'm trapped! Forever!

This is what I get for underestimating those chickens.

It was only by virtue of getting the two feathers that I managed to get this far up the tower. Was there a third I missed?

EXIT located! And with incredible precision, I manage to swoop right between all four of the 1ups flanking the EXIT symbol. And then Nutz strikes a standing pose and lodges there until the screen fades to black. Not quite got the ceremony of the traditional flag or signpost, I have to say.

I am so lucky I got 2nd level flying before I entered here.

With my 99 gems in hand, the level end screen congratulates me and hands me my first shiny star. Shiny stars let you save your game in the save machines, but you can also trade them to helpful floaty ghosts in return for a trip to the Warp Zone!

Back to the ghost we go, for guts, glory and treasuuure!

Whooosh! Using the power of the magic star, Nutz leaves the illustration of the world far far behind. What could possibly... not go as well as expected?

Well okay, this IS unexpected. I mean, I completely expected this. I just didn't expect them to pull it off. Almost.

It looks like... that. Sonic 1's special stage. But it's not. You control Nutz' thrust forwards while the level gently rotates to one side. But you can still control it! So what's the point of it making it automatically rotate?

There are blue gems and red gems and you've got to pick 'em up. That's about it. There are bumpers that bump, time bonuses, untime unbonuses. It's all rather kinda dull. At the time it would have blown your hair back for sure, but if the only thing to do here is pick up gems I don't really see the point of it. There aren't any Chaos Emeralds in Mr. Nutz, right?

I've got 99 red gems and I've got 99 blue gems. Let's hit it! There's an arrow pointing me somewhere, so let's go.

At the end of the trail was a little circle labelled EXIT, but it didn't work and I failed the level and it took all my gems off me. Gits.

And so Mr. Nutz repeats the last level, wondering why there doesn't seem to be any change in the flag colour from winning the level fair and square. No enemies there, tons of gems. The only danger is your brains turning to spaghetti beneath the synapse-melting rays of the Nature music. He receives another star as a reward for getting 99 gems. Goes back to the special stage... reaches the exit... and...

I got four hit points, and four lives. Gee whiz. That's not exactly something you'd trade in the ability to save the game for, is it? I've had extra lives chucked at me constantly since I started!

But it did zap me to another island... Ooh, I bet its full of amazing secrets. Maybe a sneaky scroll with a message from the developers saying 'vielen dank für den kauf unserer videospiel! - neon'. That'd be nice. That's exactly the kind of thing they should put in the place where you'd normally find the Chaos Emeralds, right?


It was another extra life and a teleporter back to the main game.

Abject disappointment.

Back to the main game we go! I've got five red flags to make green.

But why not yellow to red? Because the chickens are yellow and Nutz is red? Right? It doesn't make sense.

Whee! I've gotten used to flying. After escaping that damn pit tower so many times, it's second nature. Nutz isn't invincible when he flies, but he does kill most enemies in one hit. Third level flight lets me spin Nutz upside down completely. It's terrible. Now I can't be sure how far Nutz will turn when I pull left or right so I'm twirling all around the place like a madman. To bad there's nowhere interesting to fly to.

Screw it, this level's boring. Full speed ahead. Let's play it like the adverts make you think Sonic is played.

Not that there is a way to play this 'properly'. When you're playing Mario or Sonic, you can settle into a groove: a way to steadily move forward while you can still anticipate all the things in front of you. You can't do that in Nutz: he's too close to the screen and he lurches into a run like Bubsy. And now I've got his fully upgraded flight to battle against. Nutz is simply too clumsy to play his own game.

Five green flags means that I can finally reach the boss door. The large, ominous door. Perfect. I step through there my life changes forever, I can feel it.

I've only got one hitpoint to hand but I can't be bothered to go back and get more. When you win a level, your gems are converted into hitpoints and world map bombs, but doing that takes so damned long. Not counting the time it'd take to find one of the earlier levels. I'd rather die quickly. In the game, I mean.

Oh. It's just more of the world map. This here is the Chickens' Secret Transport System. It links to and from all of the previous levels I've already beaten. The levels are so hateful and featureless that you don't WANT to go back to them. They don't have names. That's where it all starts going wrong. If they had names, the level designers would have tried to put something like landmarks or features into them.

There are teleporters to the other worlds in the game here, but they're not switched on yet so there's no skipping the boss. You're winning this game in order, mate.

A helpful bunny leads the way and the seagull is waiting with some advice. Turns out the chickens are sucking the atmosphere from the planet. No rush.

This is the Techno City of the Nature world. Topple this tower and the chickens' plans will be foiled, and the poor bunnies will no longer need to wander the streets giving advice to squirrels.

They took my bombs away when I went into the level. Well, I couldn't use them in any of the levels so far, but I would have thought that high explosives would have been a great idea against the boss.

The awful colours mean there's more than couple of unfair deaths in the technozone.

I think that if you're moving fast downwards and you approach an enemy diagonally, it really should count as an impact from above. I don't think I survived this one.

I don't really like how this place looks at all. It looks like an above-average Amiga game, which isn't saying much.

Oh yeah, it SAYS down, but it's easier said than done. This isn't the only problem. There's awful, awful switches that look like springs and don't tell you whether or not you've pressed them.

Do your best and muddle along, there's no way to really tell what's going on here. Lots of check points, but the level is nothing but a bunch of tiny rooms and barely-fair obstacles.

Onwards and downwards through a maze of unpredicatable dangers that you don't have nearly enough screen space to see. Everything blending together in terms of colour. My flight is useless here, my speed a complete liability. It's near impossible to recover lost hitpoints since they usually end up jiggling through the ceilings or floors out of reach. Getting shot by things you can't see it. Just want it to be over.

Despite that, I'm kinda enjoying this level for some reason. Helps that I like Nutz, I suppose.

And, after a tower of hidden platforms obscured amongst the blinding background, we're through!

Whoa. What the hell is this?

Whatever this nightmare zone is, it's slick. They've used the scanline raster effects to create a 3D tunnel of sorts. And goodness gracious it's HIDEOUS.

This level would have terrified me as a kid. The strange red background coming through the blackness, the inscrutable squiggly spaghetti, the way giant jagged rectangles of vomit fill the screen whenever you get to close to a wall. That grey image in the centre is Mr. Nutz from behind by the way. He's not animated in the game, either.

Good luck trying to find the correct route. It's all completely unmarked except for the hideous wires and manky stuff its got going on. There's no penalty for going the wrong way, except you have to repeat sections. Don't be fooled by the up arrow that you see there. It's a trick. I followed the arrows for a while and ended up travelling around in circles. Imagine how long it took me to work that out.

And what's the point of showing gems and bombs on this screen if you can only get here after going through a 'no bombs allowed' teleporter? And what's the point of collecting one or two gems here and there if you need 30 of them for a single hit point? The way the interface look subtly different on the different levels gives it a sort of incoherent ambience, like it's a few different games jammed together.

Which, come to think of it...

As we know, back in the distant, distant past, there was a SNES game called Mr. Nutz, and the world as one said 'Blimey, that's not bad at all. Not half difficult though.' And Ocean was glad, for they were the Publisher, and they liked Money.

Meanwhile, a German company by the name of Kaiko (makers of Apidya II) also liked Money, but they weren't as good at it.

Yet they Persevered, because they are Awesome. Sometime among making Gem'X, Apidya II, Software Manager, totally not making Adventures of Quik 'n' Silva and Metal Law and almost making Super Gem'Z, they were working on a couple of other games like Record of the Elf Saga and Miss Honeybee (External links)


Timet The Flying Squirrel (Amiga), pictures taken from Unseen64 and Kaiko History

Timet The Flying Squirrel!

Look familiar?

Timet The Flying Squirrel (Amiga), pictures taken from Unseen64 and Kaiko History

By sinister machinations, Ocean and Neon Studios (which was co-founded by one of the original founders of Kaiko) got together and thought 'You know, we already have a squirrel... we don't need two of them...' and went to the original creators of Mr. Nutz who, also being fans of Money, said in not so many words 'Sure, go nuts.'

Timet The Flying Squirrel (Amiga), pictures taken from Unseen64 and Kaiko History

And so poor Timet vanished without a trace, leaving only these few pictures as evidence of his existence, while Mr. Nutz silently stepped into his place as if nothing had ever happened. Much like the case of Eric Stoltz, the original Marty McFly. (external link)

After publishing this post, I got in contact with Peter Thierolf (previously of Kaiko), who corrected me on a point - Timet was always a Neon game, never a Kaiko game. My misconception was based on a number of magazines at the time attributing the game to Kaiko because of confusion, and Peter being common to both Kaiko and Timet.

Timet The Flying Squirrel (Amiga), pictures taken from Unseen64 and Kaiko History

But it seems that a lot of Timet's space chicken story and level design was kept, so a better example would be the 'cool story, but let's stick John McClane in it instead' method of making Die Hard films.

The original Mr. Nutz folks had nothing to do with this. And that is why it's somewhat gaudy and rank.

Oh hey look, the awful tunnel sequence has finished! Back to Peanut Planet for us!

Boss Music! Giant enemy crab! Look at all that scaling... gosh. It's a little bit like Bowser's mode 7 effect in Super Mario World (external link). The Amiga can't really do that kind of scaling by itself. It can help, but it takes setting up. Lots of setting up. Notice the parallax background is gone here. There's some serious Amiga custom chip magic going on on this screen.

Off he goes, zooming in and out of the screen, and there's no way to tell whether he's in the plane of the screen or not. You can sail right through him and then suddenly 'aaiiee'. Or perhaps you'll get a point in. It's not as nice and chunky and mechanical as Robocod's bear boss.

Defeated. That was straightforward. Leap on his head. To be honest, it just felt like luck to me. All Nutz' abilities are useless here and HPs dont come out of you in the boss room. There was no way I won that through skill.

When defeated, the boss sprite explodes a little but it's very unimpressive.

One rig down, three more to go!

Unless they keep putting them down faster than I can destroy them... in which case Peanut Planet is on its own.


Don't mind if I do... n't.

Not tricking me like that, Nutz.

Here's a little nasty trick the game pulls: if you use the save game machine, it takes a star off you. When you go to the save game screen and decide you don't want to overwrite your precious Mr. Nutz master disk 1 after all, you go back to the world map but it doesn't refund you your precious star! Gyp!

World 2! Underwater world! Or perhaps CGA world.

"I have installed some signs and you should always follow them." says the seagull. Resourceful blighter. How'd he even manage to hammer them in with wings?

Good grief, this island is huuuuuuge. Time for a map from the Hall of Light! (That's a big Amiga game database website with credits and box shots and maps and all kinds of useful whatnots.)

Where...? What...? Ugh! I can't stand to look at it! Hey, there's a robot up there.

-BEEP- All chickens clear this island within two hours! -BEEP- Exhausting of atmosphere completed in 2 hours 36 minutes! -BEEP-

Woah, steady on! I've only got two and half hours left? Shift your butt, Nutz!!

After almost quarter of an hour of desperate searching, I finally find a combination of boxes and bombs that leads to a level. Let's go!

What an ugly ass level. It's very clean and professional, it's just ghastly as well.

That's one creepy chicken. I can't tell what's wrong wtih it. Is it a mummy? With glowing purple eyes? Yikes!

And those spikes on the right need to be GREY, damn it. And spike-shaped. They don't look dangerous. A canny squirrel like Nutz would effortlessly pivot in mid-air and land safely on those no trouble at all.

I hit the mummy chicken and it turned into a skeleton which could still walk and it hurt me.

Okay, I'll roll into it and... nope. I'll throw a shell at... no. I could fly into... there's no space. Tail swipe? How about my yo-yo...? Gun? Throwing blob? Fists?

To hell with it. I got an extra hitpoint holder on the world map earlier, I'll just run through the punk.

Stuck in this pillar place now. Horrible colours. Horrible level. Can't see a damn thing. Where has that nice parallax background gone? This place could have looked cavernous and eerie and deep, but it's all the same brightness so it looks flat. Those flanged pillars are platforms. Or are they?

And guess who wins in this picture, the chest or me? Seriously, there's something really, deeply off about the hit detection here.

Still, somehow this is better than Plok! That game was kind of revolting, but I'm fascinated by Mr. Nutz. It's very much like a prototype, everything is lining up wrong. It's so weird and unusual and I love that.

What kind of competition would Hoppin' Mad have had on the A500? It's hard to even think anything else that approaches its level. What about Mr. Nutz: Hoppin' Mad vs. Superfrog?

The thing about Superfrog, right, is... hmm. There's nothing particularly wrong with Superfrog, except it does tons of things wrong, and the first world gets pretty boring when you've won it tons of times. So Mr. Nutz wins just for originality. And graphics. And music. And having saves. And secret levels. And having a cute squirrel in it.

If Superfrog had those things, it would be much better. I'm at a loss for how to fix Plok though.

Well that's plain lame.

Nutz can barely walk up the slope as it is, so there's no way I can avoid these. Getting hit by them flings me back and the damned hitpoint giggles as it flees down the left chute and disappears.

They've taken a character who can run really fast and can fly and put him in an underground labyrinth full of spike traps. But not bottomless pits, come to think of it. I don't think there's been a single instant death pit in the whole game so far.

This level centres around a large vertical shaft with a raft in it with the water level controlled by switches hidden around the level. You've got to ride the lift, hit the right switch, get back to the raft so you can alter the water level, and head to the next storey.

But you're going to fall off the raft. Or jump straight through it. Or you're not going to notice the useless switches. And poor Nutzy is going to wander around in the dark, drowning indefinitely while hitpoints repeatedly ping out of him and get picked back up again.

I love his optimism about it all, though.

Timet The Flying Squirrel (Amiga), pictures taken from Unseen64 and Kaiko History


I wonder how much of Timet was scooped up into Hoppin' Mad. I'm very curious to see some playable code of Timet.

Timet The Flying Squirrel (Amiga), pictures taken from Unseen64 and Kaiko History

The skinny sod would've had a time limit, something I probably would have welcomed in Hoppin' Mad, since it would have meant that the level design would have tended away from the labyrinthine and more towards the action packed and improvisational. No parallax background yet, but plenty of evil chickens.

Meanwhile, back in reality, Mr. Nutz takes on a camoflagued mummy chicken in a confused, confined space. That diagonally-striped pole to my right? Solid wall.

This limited palette is making the level much more of a trial than it has to be. Bright blue and pink is not a good look. Seriously. It really isn't.

I could look around a bit trying to find some secrets but I've had plenty of this horrible level and I really want it all to stop. Even if I did try to poke at the walls of the maze trying to find secrets (and I bet some of these very solid-seeming walls are secrets), there's really no point. There's never anything of substance in Hoppin' Mad's secret areas. Nothing that changes the game in any way, at least. No secret levels. Nothing but lives, and more of the blasted squealing hit points that you'll need to replace the ones you lost getting there. That is if they haven't seen you coming and ran away.

Brrr... wait, is that the EXIT over there? Mercy, I'm saved!

That was level FIVE? Where the hell is level ONE?

Screw it. This is my house now. I don't want to go outside. I'm staying here forever.


And that's the end of my Mr Nutz: Hoppin' Mad post.

I told a fib before. You can't really play Mr. Nutz on a stock A500. Not enough RAM. What you'd need is the very common half megabyte expansion that fits into the Amiga 'trapdoor' slot on the underside of the machine.

The machine didn't do itself many favours. The A500 has little bit of everything to make it a clever little development computer, but not the typical game things you need to show moving pictures efficiently, like tiled backgrounds or loads of hardware sprites. It has its own tricks, but they're little fragments of ideas of features. That's why most Amiga games suck, on a technical level at least.

It's a garish mess, but it's the best garing mess. It single-handedly justifies the system's existence as a games machine. All but the best Amiga games slink away in shame at the mere mention of Mr. Nutz. I'm glad I played it last, because if I played it first then the entire Amiga library would have been a monsoon of disappointments. If they'd made it just six years earlier, all eyes would have been on the Amiga. It probably wouldn't have resulted in any better games being made, but at least folks would have felt more ashamed of the pants they were churning out.

Basically, I'm saying Mr. Nutz: Hoppin' Mad is magic. A magic game, written by magicians.

Whatever happened to Mr. Nutz himself in the end?

In the ending credits of Hoppin' Mad, he passes the mike over to his alter-ego Dr. Nutz who shares some of his secret, delicious-sounding dessert recipes. No really, that's what happens!

It's my pleasure to present to you DR. NUTZ FINEST QUARKBÄLLCHEN, and DR. NUTZ FINEST NAPFKUCHEN. Click on the Nutz faces to see the recipes from the game! I've never had a quarkbällchen or a napfkuchen before, but from pictures online they look like delicious cakes! If it's good enough for squirrels, it's good enough for me.

And finally, the game closes with an invitation to a cookery competition where you can win fabulous prizes (such as a Sega Mega Drive, Neon Studios T-shirts, and lotz of peanutz) and Neon have an excuse to eat lots and lots of cakes! Clever devils!

Nutz didn't get another game. The original Mr. Nutz got Game Boy Color, Game Boy Advance and mobile re-releases, but that's about it. He's hanging with Bubsy, Aero, Zero and Zool in wherever that place is where mascots hang out. (External link. But seriously canon!)

Hoppin' Mad was going to be ported to the Mega Drive. According to Peter Thierolf of Kaiko and Neon, they almost got away with it too. And then came those meddling kids with their source code... (external links).

Neon Studios went on to make some PlayStation games. Got bought, stuff happened. They still make games, one of which being SAiG Gold Star For Not Being Crap winner Santa Claus Jr. Advance from many years ago, as well as PS2 cat-beat-'em-up Legend of Kay, which got a HD rerelease this year from the same folks under different names (labelled in trailers as being made by Kaiko of all things, just to confuse the hell out of me).

Mr. Nutz concept art by Philippe Dessoly

What would a proper Mr. Nutz on the Amiga have looked like? Not much better, I think. There's only so many miracles the ageing wedge can perform at once.

If they'd gone to PC or PlayStation, anything would have been possible. Something along the lines of The Adventures of Lomax and Rayman wouldn't have been too far off.

On the far right, the Essai ("test") sprite shows a design the original artist Philippe Dessoly created for a possible very late maybe-Amiga Nutz sprite. (External link.)

On the mobiles, there's a special guest appearance by a crinkly-tailed Mr. Nutz, a phase he went through for a while in 2003.

After the strange mush of Hoppin' Mad, I'd have thought that Nutz himself would have been trapped in the legal non-space between dimensions, forever lost to us. Everybody involved would have been left scarred and full of seething rage, pulling in different directions, as is the way of this unfair world.

Hell no!

The original Mr. Nutz team, programmer Pierre Adane, musician Raphaël Gesqua, and artist Philippe Dessoly, went on being their usual awesome selves, making lots of cool games and music and all that kind of stuff.

Philippe is mighty fond of the old Nutzster, and his Facebook and personal gallery site are full of all kinds of wonderful art like this that makes me melt inside whenever I see it.

He also worked on a HD remake of Toki, full of intricate sprite work... which was never released, sadly. And also this guy:

"Hi I'm Zaps from iPhone edutainment game Mon Premier Jeu and mobile platformer Zaps! I am totally not Mr. Nutz and anyone who says so is a big fat meanie liar."

What's even more interesting is that Philippe apparently has the rights to the character!

Mr. Nutz concept art by Philippe Dessoly

And he's gauging interest for a brand new Mr. Nutz!

If platformers that look like this are your bag, check out Mr. Nutz' Facebook page!

If they're not, well then you're probably a washing machine or something.



  1. That flying level is terrifying. It's like something out of Hellraiser, only with a squirrel.

  2. I suggest You Kelvin to try Megadrive version, it has fixed bonus levels. While it was not officially released it was done and should be somewhere on the net.

    In my opinion Nutz is very good game, fast and colorful, great example how much You can squeeze from amiga hardware. I like idea of map level where You travel between stages and talk to different characters to learn story. Bad idea was that later those map levels are too big and over-complicated. Also game could fix sprites palette or outline those chickens, they blend too much to first plan and sometimes are too hard to see.

    1. Megadrive version is good, but lack of the impressive zoom effects of the Amiga bosses.

  3. I love reading about all these obscure Amiga games on this site. And, I must say, this is one of the best write-ups I've seen and it's great that you researched what the creators have been up to since.

    In regards to the bushes looking Pokemon esque, I think that they (and other sprites) were "inspired" by A Link to the Past. I made a comparison:

    Those platforming environment tiles look very similar to various Sonic games, too.

    Thanks for the fantastic article, Neko :)

    1. Thank you very much for reading, Roger! I'm very glad you liked it!

      I'd've liked to have better shots of Timet rather than the same magazine pictures that folks might have seen before. I'm still working on that...

      And you're right about the bushes. I couldn't figure out what they reminded me of the most, I was stuck on Pokémon Ruby but I might have been thinking of Link's Awakening. I've never played A Link To The Past (PAL Nintendo games cost £3,482 each, more or less.).

  4. A special MEGA LENGTH post from Mecha Neko to see in the New Year, what a treat! Surely there are still some untapped 3DO shooters out there that warrant a write up...

  5. Long time you didnt make game review, Mecha-Neko
    I hope that you will make review about FPS game called "Painkiller"

    1. I don't think you'll be seeing much of Mecha-Neko in the near future I'm afraid, he only strikes when he's least expected and then disappears back into the shadows for months at a time.

      Painkiller though... it's possible you'll be seeing that in the near future.

  6. You can see me talking about the game, sorry, is in spanish, try to activate the translator.

  7. I've edited the post to include a correction from one of the Hoppin' Mad programmers regarding the relationship between Kaiko, Neon and Mr. Nutz!


Semi-Random Game Box