A squirrel and their nuts are not easily parted, so when the ninja squirrels have their stash of acorns stolen by a band of samurai foxes, it's up to one of their number to venture forth and retrieve their supply from right under the snouts of their enemies. In Nutjitsu: Reforged on the PlayStation 4 you'll be guiding a lone squirrel on this vital mission, tackling a variety of 2D mazes where you'll need to outfox your enemies like some sort of furry Pac-Man.
With a couple of game options available, you'll probably spend most of your time with the Ninja Missions mode, which offers up a random objective for you to complete in one of the game's mazes. These objectives predominantly have you collecting acorns – as you'd expect – though there are couple that add a touch of variety by instead having you pilfering secret scrolls or trying to spend a certain amount of time within a specific area of the maze. While any variety is always welcome, it doesn't really change the gameplay much, so you'll still be spending your entire time evading the fox samurai patrolling each stage.
Before each mission you have the opportunity to tweak the difficulty level depending on how confident you are. Cranking this up brings greater experience rewards to help level up your ninja, however it also changes up the mission objective. So, while the lowest difficulty may only ask that you retrieve five nuts, the hardest setting would need you to collect thirty.
The higher the difficulty the more foxes there will be right from the start, and, as you spend time running around each level, more and more will appear. Their ever growing numbers makes it vital that you think on your feet if you want to avoid getting cornered, and with three different types of foxes on your tail, you need to always be aware of how many of each type are in your immediate vicinity.
Your common or garden samurai fox isn't much of a threat, they plod around each level and can be easily avoided. However it's the poison and spear variety that you need to keep a close eye on, as they'll either leave a poison trail – that'll slow your ninja's movement for a short time – or dash between junctions of the maze at a speed that your squirrel just can't match.
As you move around each maze you'll leave tracks in your wake, and though they disappear quite quickly, if a fox comes across your trail they'll start to follow your route as they attempt to chase you down. Should a fox catch you it's all over for your furry thief, though as luck would have it your ninja has a few tricks up their sleeve which can help get them out of trouble.
As you gain experience and level up by completing missions – or by lasting as long as you can in the survival mode – you'll not only begin to unlock new stages, but also items that can be used against your foxy foes. These include smoke bombs, shadow clones, freeze bombs, and fire shields and can all be used to get you out of a tight spot, whether they make your ninja disappear – or freeze all of the samurais in the maze for a short time.
Once you've unlocked and purchased a power up – using the coins that you also accumulate while playing – you'll start each stage with a supply of that item. Not only can you upgrade this starting stock by spending your hard earned currency, but you can also upgrade the duration of their effects. Fortunately, any stock that you expend in the course of a mission will be automatically replenished before the next, which encourages you to make regular use of what amounts you have as get out of jail free cards.
But while running circles around your enemies is fun for the first 30 minutes or so, it becomes clear very quickly that not only is this quite an easy game, but there's also very little depth to its mechanics. Outside of the upgrades to your items and some online leaderboards, the only thing that makes any difference to the experience as you progress are the new mazes that become available for you to sneak around. While these do the job to begin with, changing the painted background and layout of the paths just isn't enough to keep you fired up for long – especially when you'll be encountering the same enemy types, using the same items, and taking on the same missions.
The fact that Nutjitsu: Reforged started life as a phone game is plain to see right from the start, and it's this legacy that infuses every aspect of the experience. With its single screen mazes taking mere minutes to complete, the bite-sized gameplay falls firmly in the time waster category, and it's subsequently better suited to the bus stop or waiting room than at home on your PS4.