If I were one of the guys at Boomlagoon - a Finnish startup comprising three ex-staffers from Rovio - this would be the last game I'd want to make.

After almost three years of making nothing but cutesy physics-puzzlers, I'd need a change.

I'd make an FPS or a strategy game or just run away to some distant place that has yet to been infected by the Angry Birds phenomenon. Mars, I guess.

I definitely wouldn't make Noble Nutlings, which is just about the closest you could come to building a new Rovio-style game without actually collecting a Rovio-style paycheck.

Its visual style, fuzzy cast of characters, and dependable three-star scoring system makes it feel like a prototype Angry Birds spin-off. Albeit one that didn't get the greenlight for full development.

Bad Squirrels

Noble Nutlings is ostensibly a mix between Snuggle Truck and Bad Piggies. In each stage you've got to ferry a trio of squirrels across bumpy terrain by carefully navigating the level's various dips and jumps in your off-road jalopy.

At the start of each run you're invited to tweak your vehicle, but that only extends as far as choosing a new chassis and swapping out either wheel.

Plugging in a new wheel rarely seems to make a huge difference to your cart's performance.

Then again, I think this part of the game is more about the thrill of seeing a giant clown shoe being propelled by a pufferfish and a watermelon, rather than Forza-esque tinkering.

Oh, and then there's the chilli-powered nitrous. This stuff is practically essential for clearing big jumps or - more importantly - getting to the finish line fast enough to bag more than one star.

It's quite a precious commodity, and keeping your tank full can be tricky. If you don't have enough in-game currency, you'll have to use real cash to stock up.

And a game in which you literally piss away your money by holding down a big orange button is some horrid dystopian nightmare that I want no part of.

Squirrel Truck

The actual driving is frenetic, and fast, but the physics can spoil the fun. I kept getting stuck on bits of scenery, having my front wheel inexplicably start riding up in air, and having my squirrel passengers spill out onto the scenery for no obvious reason.

Also, trying to earn three stars on any given level can be a real chore. The time limits are so harsh that you really can't afford to make a single mistake, and you absolutely need to use the nitrous. Moreover, seeing as you don't get spent n2o back if you restart a level you'll be running on empty in no time when trying to three-star a stage.

In a nutshell

Noble Nutlings is a well presented entry in the side-scrolling driving genre, but it makes several key mistakes before finally toppling over and dumping its squirrel-shaped cargo onto the floor. It's riddled with ridiculous monetisation and soured by finicky physics.

So I say bury this one far below the ground, and don't bother digging it back up in winter.