May 25, 2018

Aussie Indie Alley: Bar Nuts

There’s a lot of great stuff on the AAA games highway, but if you don’t take the scenic route sometimes, you’ll miss some real gems. In this section, we’ll take you on a guided tour of the indie back alleys you might not have noticed, and meet the local folk who deserve your spare change.

Do you remember that week when everyone went nuts for Tiny Tower? Being a fan of the sim genre, I excitedly gave it a go after hearing how everyone was getting addicted to it. It was doing a good job of killing my train trip home, and I was enjoying myself until suddenly the game got sick of me. “Okay, that’s enough for now. Come back in like, three hours,” it said.

“But Tiny Tower,” I pleaded, “I’ll be home by then! I have time to spare right now. Please let me play with you some more?”

“Nope. Sorry. Three hours. Go away.”

That constant pausing of sessions ruined it for me. Those free-to-play, time-delay games never let me get into a comfortable, addictive flow of play, and I never bothered with them again (until The Simpsons Tapped Out because, well, it’s The Simpsons).

Anyway, the point I’m trying (awkwardly) to make here is that Bar Nuts avoids that trap: there’s always something for you to do. At any time, you can serve your patrons, manage stock, host or crash parties, customise your venue or your avatar. The time-delay wall is unintrusive, as it should be, allowing you to expand your play sessions to however long you want, then set it to do some longer term tasks while you’re away.

Bar Nuts is the first game from the small, Melbourne-based indie studio, Crackerjack Games. It’s a little rough around the edges at the moment, with some small bugs and freezes, but they seem to be mostly standard first release, post-launch issues. That stuff will probably be patched out soon.

But there are other, more permanent moments of roughness. The music is serviceable if not a little repetitive, and the sound effects have a jarring, royalty-free feel to them.

But it’s not a deal-breaker, by any stretch. In fact, they kind of add to the crude personality the game wraps itself in, with the ironic charm of a dive bar. The women (particularly your guide, Doddy) are weirdly sexualised, you’re rewarded for continuing to serve extremely drunk or angry customers, and you can prank your friends by streaking through their parties, or vomiting or peeing on the floor.

Bar Nuts unashamedly borrows mechanics from the Zynga model, but it feels more adult and less exploitative. The pay wall is a little high, but it’s tucked away in the corner, so you don’t have to worry about slamming into it and being forced to either pay up and climb it, or grind away at it.

And most importantly, it’s welcoming. Actions that have real-time delays are either short enough or rare enough to not deter players. Sure, it might take an hour to extend your building with a new room, but it doesn’t tell you to go away in the meantime: there’s plenty to do while you wait.

I like to think my bustling Bar Nuts bar is right next door to my abandoned Tiny Tower tower – just to rub it in.

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