Review: Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts
Rare + classic franchise = Peoww am cry?
This is a hard review for me to write given my well-documented love of the original Banjo-Kazooie and Banjo-Tooie games on the N64 but then again I needn’t worry it’s not like a respected developer like Rare to mess up a franchise by ignoring why people fell in love with it in the first place is it *cough* Starfox Adventures *cough* oh dearâ€¦
Time hasn’t been kind to Banjo and Kazooie in the eight years since their last adventure, Banjo has bulked out like a Vegas-era Elvis Presley thanks to non-stop pizza consumption and Kazooie is planted in front her Xbox 720 console. So when their long time nemesis Grunty the witch makes reappearance on one involved is cut out for action so L.O.G. the lord of games steps in to once and for all end the conflict and make some underserved jokes at expense of the Banjo franchise and a very few deserved jokes at the expense of Killer Instinct fans and the Frag Dolls.
L.O.G. restores Grunty’s body and slims out Banjo at the cost of ALL of his and Kazooie’s moves and gets them to once again collect jiggies, Jinjos and musical notes but this time it’s not going to be a platform game as L.O.G. says they’re old and boring so instead he sets them lose in his creation Showdown Town a freeroaming city filled with everything B&K will need to defeat Grunty like the worldsphere dispenser that will when filled with enough jiggies give you a sphere that B&K can place on a special plinth to open a new world filled with new acts and challenges.
To supposedly make up for the lack of platforming moves L.O.G. also gives Kazooie a magical key that she can use to manipulate objects in the world much like the gravity gun from Half Life but more limited as you have to have the object highlighted before you can lift it and sometimes despite being mere inches from the object you want to lift Kazooie will grab hold of something on the other side of the room, often the vehicle you were trying to put the object in to start with.
The vehicles are what Nuts and Bolts is all about with your basic Skip-on-Wheels Mark One given to you by L.O.G. soon being upgraded with new parts you can find in crates hidden around Showdown Town and the many unique parts you get as a reward for completing one of the many (over one hundred) challenges in the games six worlds. If you visit Mumbo’s garage you can use any parts you’ve collected to build a new vehicle with you having free reign in placement of everything from wheels, engines, fuel tanks, weapons, seats, gadgets, propellers and body parts from simple pre-fabricated buckets and skips to elaborate wedges, bumpers and even detachable ballast.
Once created you can save your mechanical Frankenstein as a blueprint to use in open challenges or even send them to your friends via Xbox Live. Pre-made blueprints can also be bought from Humba or won in challenges with once again early simple constructions like karts and taxies giving way to elaborate planes, helicopters and even armoured tanks.
Along with collecting new vehicle parts you also get good old golden jiggies that you can bank at Showdown Town to open worlds and new acts in those worlds with each act having one or more challenges to take to earn more jiggies and so on until you reach the final world of Spiral Mountain and your last (?) battle with Grunty.
The challenges repeatedly take the form of doing a job for one of the classic characters from previous B&K games with Mr. Fit, Humba, Bottles, Klungo and more appearing but more often than not its basic get from A to B or fetch X number of objects all set against a time limit with good times rewarded with jiggies and excellent times giving you a TT trophy. There is some variety later in the game as air and waterborne vehicles become available but if you don’t like being rushed you’re going to get frustrated as many of the challenges will have you clipping a pixel of scenery and going into a ten second flat spin ruining any chance of beating the target time and getting another jiggie for the bank.
Having free reign in designing your vehicles sounds amazing but you’ll quickly settle on a few core designs as the majority of the challenges can be completed with some manor of fast/flying/cargo carrying/weapon covered vehicle or a hybrid of the above attributes. The challenge is increased when you’re forced to use a particular vehicle design in some challenges but apart from the race challenges with its inconsistent IA and over sensitive collision detection you’ll blaze through to Spiral Mountain without much fuss leaving only your own tedium threshold the biggest obstacle to overcome.
Aaaah Banjo-Kazooie, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways. Here, ladies and gentlemen, we have one of the most witty, creative and basically fun games on the 360 and yet it falls just short of greatness. For all the creative challenges demanding intelligent solutions (and clever snipes at Rare’s sordid past) there are frustrating â€œL.O.G.’s Choiceâ€ challenges setting you up with a chicane and a barge to navigate it in (and all under 0:00:45 for a TT trophy).
But as much as I was repulsed by the annoyances, Nuts & Bolts always pulled me back in with the promise of more amusing little distractions and the greatest Meccano kit in the videogaming sector. Every time I missed the highest accolade by a narrow margin I was spurred on to create a better solution; after all, in a game like N & B the perfect solution is always right there waiting for you to build it.
All in all I thoroughly enjoyed this romp in Showdown Town and invested as much time in it as I have in Fable 2 or Gears of War 2. And can you make a giant rocket cock in either of those games? I think not.
Secondary Score: 8/10
Where as B-K was once a fun and exciting series built on platform exploration and subtle double entendres now it’s a repetitive, cynical and ultimately boring mess of a bad driving game and two move platformer. You could try and make the excuse that’s its aimed at kids but even my eleven year old nephew quickly became frustrated with the game as it spent too much time hand holding him through the early make-a-vehicle mechanics and then leaving him completely baffled and unable to open up the third world Banjoland (a homage to the previous B-K games that just serves to remind you how far the franchise has fallen) because he didn’t have a particular type of wheels that where won in a certain challenge.
There was nothing to tell him this and he spent hours trying get the world sphere to its plinth only to be thwarted by the crappy gravity key thingy controls and the limited one jump move set if you can call it a set. When I told him he needed to beat the Grunty challenge on world one and get the special wheels that would let him drive up the slippery slopes that box B-K into the first area of Showdown Town his response was to declare the game was bullsh- ahemâ€¦ poorly designed and refused to play any longer. I couldn’t blame him as less than an hour into the game I knew the Banjo-Kazooie I fell in love with all those years ago was long gone and replaced with a crappy focus group designed sandbox wannabe.
I can’t fault the graphics or sound as just watching the intro screen with its orchestral rendition of the Banjo Kazooie theme and the HD all singing and dancing version of Spiral Mountain makes me want to weep for how beautiful this game could be if they had â€œjustâ€ made another B&K platformer and not bothered with all this vehicle-sandbox bollocks. Talking to other people about nuts and bolts I’ve found out that at the end of the game L.O.G. restores all of B-K’s moves for the next game which makes me hate this game even more and leaves me thinking that this is quite possibly unique in being the only game released where the pre-order bonus (the XBLA version of Banjo-Kazooie) is actually better than the main game.
So there we go a great franchise wasted and ruined by the very company that created it just so they could try and keep up with the sandbox-Jones’ and make a game that was supposedly better than just a simple, honest and importantly fun 3D platformer.