Float like a breegull, sting like a honey bear.
Back in the mists of time when 3d platformers were still all the rage Rare managed to bring us the fantastic Banjo-Kazooie, and following on from the massive success this achieved they released a sequel. Unfortunately Banjo-Tooie was released near the very end of the N64’s lifespan and as such it never really gained the widespread recognition it deserved. Hopefully the re-release of it on Xbox Live Arcade will allow a wider audience to appreciate the fun it has to offer.
In this game you play a bear called Banjo who has a red breegull bird called Kazooie hidden away in his backpack. Viewed from a third person perspective you run, jump, swim and fly your way through the various levels with the aim of reaching and defeating the evil witch Gruntilda who is threatening to drain the life force from the game world.
Compared to the first game this sequel is massive. Everything about this game is bigger and this is non more evident that in the main world map the Isle o’ Hags which is a much larger and more intricate world map than Grunty’s Castle from the first game. The Isle o’ Hags also feels much more like a coherent world with larger and much more varied locations as opposed to the interconnected rooms of the first game. For the most part the individual levels are also more varied and intricate than those found in the first one, with particular highlights being the split fire and ice world and the underwater seaside cove level. Each level takes the form of an open plan playground with the main goal being to find 10 jigsaw pieces, or jiggies, which are scattered around the level and hidden away as prizes for various puzzles or tasks. Obtain enough of these jiggies and you can progress to the next level by solving a simple jigsaw minigame.
Progression through the levels isn’t just limited to the collection of jiggies, in fact you’ll be collecting so many different items all the time that there is a menu screen solely dedicated to tracking the items you’ve found. Along with the various items you’ll collect during your journey you’ll also collect many new moves and abilities, ranging from the ability to separate Banjo from Kazooie through to the ability to enter a first person mode to help you aim your eggs. These new abilities allow you to gain entry into some previously inaccessible areas of the levels, and in turn enable you to find more jiggies.
Overall the game handles pretty well with the analogue sticks being used to control your movement and camera as is the norm. However the control you have over the camera is limited compared to many modern games and this perhaps belies the games N64 routes. In particular I found that the camera never quite zoomed out as much as I would have liked and there were a few occasions where I found myself running headfirst into the camera, which is never ideal. Also for some bizarre reason the controls for underwater swimming have been reversed from that of the first game. But these minor niggles aside, the game handles very well and the platforming is highly enjoyable with some great obstacles to navigate round.
Many of the puzzles in the game also span multiple levels and there are shortcuts and pathways between the levels which add a surprising amount of depth and before you know it you will be travelling across the maps looking for answers to the earlier puzzles. This really adds to the replayability of the game and makes for a much more engrossing experience than the original.
Well here we are again with another HD remake of an underrated Rare classic but is it worth the 1200 M$P? Well if you liked the original N64 games or the XBLA remake of Banjo-Kazooie it’s a no brainer instant purchase but unlike Banjo-Kazooie I would urge you to try before you buy as there’s a few catches.
Yes after over a decade of speculation and source code study we’ve finally got Stop ‘n’ Swap but it wasn’t really worth all the anticipation with no sign of devil Bottles or new areas to play just more smoke and mirrors. The game design itself is ever so slightly lacking compared to B-K with some areas either too barren or too cluttered and there’s a big increase in the amount of backtracking needed with all kinds of barriers to revisit and pass be it by finding hidden switches to open doors or learning a new skill to jump higher or swim deeper etc.
It’s not a bad game by any means and thanks to this remake looks even better than ever with the new HD textures all looking crisp and thankfully free of the occasional slowdown that plagued the N64 version on the later areas. Just don’t expect it to do anything particularly new or original. It’s best to think of it as a kind of ‘best of 3D platforming’ and just enjoy the ride down memory lane to help forget Nuts & Bolts *shudder*
Secondary Score: 8/10
One of the selling points of this is the addition of the Stop n Swap feature which was missing from the original. Now with the release of both the games on the Xbox Live Arcade Stop n Swop can be fully realised. In order to use Stop n Swop you’ll need to take Banjo back into the first game and collect a series of eggs hidden away in the levels, once you got these eggs you take them over to Heggy the Hen in Banjo-Tooie and she hatches them to unlock their secrets. It seems like a bit of a cop out though as many of the items you get add no game changing features, in fact two of the items are specific to the 360 and are clearly not what was intended when the original Stop n Swop was mooted. In fact it almost feels a bit like a back handed compliment considering that in order to get the most out of Stop and Swop you will need to buy two games.
When this first came out I admit I was pretty upset with it, I found that all the little things I enjoyed from the original game had been removed. Gruntilda no longer rhymed her insults, Bottles had been replaced by an obnoxious new character and there was some terrible slowdown. In fact I pretty much played through without searching out the extras or enjoying the experience. However now with its re-release on xbox live I’ve really gotten round to relishing the experience, yes the game is still a little bloated with a confusing amount of collectables and moves, but the conversion to live arcade has been very kind on it. It no longer suffers from the appalling slowdown issues and the whole game has been treated to a nice lick of paint and gloss. It is expensive as far arcade games go but in my opinion it is worth forking out the funds for this glorious piece of gaming history. I heartily recommend it for everyone whether you played it first time or not.