Banjo Hits New Notes
May 19, 2008 – Banjo-Kazooie originally pleased fans of 3D action platforming on the Nintendo 64. After Rare became an exclusive developer for Microsoft, many fans hoped we would get an Xbox 360 sequel to this classic franchise. The wait has been a long one, but finally a Banjo sequel was announced and playable at the recent Microsoft’s Gamer’s Day. This was the biggest new game to get revealed at the event and was, in my opinion at least, easily the best casual game at the show.
The folks at Rare started off by giving us a guided demo of the game. This mostly consisted of showing off the platforming action that everyone has come to expect from a Banjo title. During this section we saw Banjo jumping around, walking tightropes, sliding down hills, and then it happened. As Banjo walked across the landscape, he came upon a vehicle. Much to my amazement, he got in and started driving around the world.
This time around, Rare said they wanted to evolve the 3D action platformer much in the same way that Super Mario Galaxy had: by giving players a completely new experience. The integration of these vehicles is well done and should certainly make this game feel unique among its peers. There will be vehicles in the world that players can use to help them accomplish goals differently. The game may ask you to collect a certain amount of objects in a limited time. You then have several options of how to best achieve this goal. You could take each object on foot, use a vehicle to collect multiple objects at a time, or even use a vehicle to move the collection destination to where the objects are located. The use of vehicles really opens up the gameplay to what seems like limitless ways to complete missions.
Nuts and Bolts will also come with a virtual Erector Set with which to fully customize your own vehicles. By fully customize, I don’t just mean different colors or variants of the same vehicle either. In the game, there will be a massive number of parts that can be found, earned, collected, and then used to build just about any kind of vehicle you can think of. You will get to build your vehicles from the ground up, installing them with wings, weaponry, ammunition, tires, engines, power, propellers, a self destruct switch, and just about anything else you could possibly imagine. We were shown a wide variety of different vehicles that had already been created, including some pretty bizarre creations like a fully functional space shuttle.
With an excellent use of physics, Nuts and Bolts’ vehicle creator allows you to be limited only by your own imagination. If you have a vehicle that roughly looks like a car and place a propeller on top of it, it will be able to take flight like a helicopter. Take the same propeller and stick it on the back of your vehicle and you’ll get a nice boost in the speed department. You can take just about any vehicle, slap a pair of wings and some jet engines on it, and the vehicle will actually achieve lift and take off like an airplane. The options here really are incredibly deep if you are willing to tinker around with them a bit. We were shown a vehicle that was a large, odd-looking flying machine. While flying around, this vehicle suddenly dropped from the sky, leaving Banjo in what seemed to be a crash-landing cage. After falling a short distance, wings extended from each side of the vehicle and an engine on its back roared to life, making for an extremely sweet escape pod vehicle within a vehicle.
Players will definitely have fun creating and trying out a variety of vehicles. This feature was made even better by the fact that you will be able to take your unique machines into the game’s multiplayer modes as well. Nuts and Bolts will allow for 1-8 player online competitive multiplayer and co-op experiences. Unfortunately, the co-op will not be based on the game itself but will instead be goal-based challenges created specifically for co-op gameplay. While this may be somewhat disappointing, I’m sure these challenges will still provide plenty of co-op fun when the game is released.
Being on the Xbox 360, Nuts and Bolts has gotten a graphical upgrade over its predecessors as well. Although the game is still under development, the worlds we were shown were quite expansive. You really get a good sense of just how massive these worlds are when you take a vehicle into the air and can fully appreciate the view. Despite its large scale, the game seemed to maintain its framerate and unique look at all times. The world shown to us in the guided demo looked like it was made of fabric that was stitched together, with the stitches included. With several months of development still left, I can’t wait to see just how good this game looks when it is finally released later this year.
This will be perhaps the first title from Rare that will finally justify the money Microsoft has paid for exclusive rights to publish Rare’s games. Nuts and Bolts should definitely be a stellar exclusive title for the Xbox 360 this holiday season. The game fits perfectly into Microsoft’s plans to get more casual gamers playing the 360 with its easy to pick up gameplay, while more hardcore gamers can still appreciate the deceptively deep vehicle customization and online play. Either way, fans of the Banjo-Kazooie franchise are in for a real treat and newcomers to the series will most likely have a blast as well. Check back for more information about this title as it is becomes available.