Banjo Need…Vehicle! We Help
Other than its portable appearances on the Gameboy Advance and mobile phones, it’s been quite a while since we last saw Banjo and Kazooie. It’s been so long that the duo has even changed its tune, going for a very different kind of gameplay that will be sure to draw in at least a few gamer souls. The question is, will it be able to “rescue” old Banjo Kazooie fans?
When you think Banjo Kazooie, you automatically associate it with platforming. Who knew this title would be so different? As we’ve been able to see in the last few months, Rare has invested a lot of time and effort in developing this game, making sure it’s known for its innovative approach and exciting challenges rather than for bringing back the franchise. In fact, the BK franchise works more as a base for this game, providing a nice background story and an incredibly detailed world that makes the title more impressive than expected. That said, I’m not sure that’s quite enough to make this title work for everyone, as it goes so far away from the original BK premise that old fans may feel betrayed.
It’s not all bad news, of course. Banjo Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts brings back our favorite protagonists of the series, embarking them into a new and authentic BK story that ties in nicely with the challenge-based gameplay. The plot is on the lighter side this time around, but at least it will get players more involved in the game and also take care of old BK fans. It looks like Banjo and Kazooie have given up on themselves and become true couch potatoes. They’ve even lost their abilities, perhaps as a result of all the years they’ve spent doing nothing. L.O.G. (aka The Lord of Games, a Pong-playing TV screen with legs), is sick of this laziness and decides to make them work for a goal. Maybe that’ll prevent them from being the slobs they’ve become! Gruntilda Winkybunion, despite her last defeat, can’t miss this party! She comes back, beheaded and all, ready for a new battle against her archenemy duo.
Technology works wonders with the handicapped witch, so she’ll be ready to fight in no time, and Banjo & Kazooie quickly slim down and get back to their old look. However, the fight will be different this time around. L.O.G. doesn’t want more of that repetitive action-packed violence. Instead, he’s created a world hub called Showdown Town where these characters will face a number of challenges in order to obtain the grand prize: Spiral Mountain. These challenges can only be beaten with a proper “ride,” and they include competitions to see who reaches the finish line first, who can knock the other out of the ring, who’s faster at picking up and dropping off objects in a specific area, etc.
The game’s packed with over 100 challenges and offers great variety. There are often multiple ways to beat each challenge, some more efficient than others, making time records a big part of the game. Results are uploaded to the leaderboards, and you can even download a video to see how the top player managed to beat the challenge so fast! Oftentimes, you’ll realize you took over 50 seconds to do what someone else did in 2 seconds, and you’ll wonder how they pulled that off. That’s when motivation comes into place, and with motivation comes great creativity.
Not all the time is spent participating in these challenges. In fact, you’ll spend an incredible amount of time creating and fine-tuning vehicles that are proper for each challenge. The game offers its own pre-built vehicles and blueprints, but a lot of the fun in Nuts & Bolts is found in the creative aspect of it. There’s nothing more rewarding than creating a cool vehicle that works like a charm in the new face-off against Grunty. Mumbo is now the owner of a car garage, and here’s where you can go and tweak your rides until they’re up to snuff. You can also test them out to make sure they’re exactly what you’re looking for.
Using different vehicle parts and how these parts are distributed will make all the difference. Throughout the game, players will come across pink boxes full of new vehicle parts. Therefore, the further you go, the more exciting your vehicles will become. You’ll be able to use powerful engines rather than weak ones or install two instead of just one. Wheels will have more grip, hence providing more stability, fuel will keep your car running, springs will launch you in the air when it’s time to fly, etc. It’s really all about physics and aerodynamics, although they aren’t right on par with reality.
I found myself creating certain vehicles that looked really good and promising but didn’t work so well for the challenge. This can be a bit disappointing and make the game too time-consuming and repetitive. The menu interface is not extremely user-friendly, and adding and deleting parts of a vehicle can become a bit tedious at times. Even editing already saved vehicles or copying parts of them was fairly confusing! It’s something you get used to with time, but it makes the game somewhat inaccessible for the younger ones, despite its obvious youthful appeal. Vehicles usually control well, but the control layout for other numerous tasks is not as user-friendly as we could have hoped for.
By beating each challenge, you’ll earn jiggies, which will then open up new worlds and challenges. If you were really good at the level, you may even obtain a trophy, which is a nice reward for the hard work. You can also pick up musical notes throughout, which are the game’s currency. These notes are sometimes placed in tricky sections you may have to access on foot, leading to a bit of platforming action in an otherwise challenge-based game. A few side quests will become available as well, extending the replayability for gamers with a completionist complex.
The multiplayer options are also varied, allowing players to team up with others or simply compete on their own in different challenges. Some modes allow you to use your own vehicles, whereas others require players to use specific in-game rides. These online features will be fun for many, but I feel there’s enough time spent making vehicles that the online competition won’t be too fast-paced, just as it happens with the game overall. After all, if you don’t have the proper ride, you won’t stand a chance against your opponents!
One of the most impressive aspects of Banjo Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts is the visuals. While these characters may not be uber-popular and their environments incredibly familiar (other than to those who’ve played previous BK titles), the inventive worlds within the game are full of nice details, vibrant colors, and powerful, life-like textures. The characters look smooth and their animations are fun and decidedly cartoonish, holding a nice appeal for young players and cartoon fans alike.
The sounds, on the other hand, are not quite as remarkable as the graphics. There’s a nice, lighthearted soundtrack and cool sound effects library based on the classic Banjo Kazooie, but nothing is too exciting per se. There’s no voice work either, which could have been cool for the game. Instead, some characters just mumble unintelligible words while you read the fast-flowing text at the bottom of the screen. In occasions, text will advance by itself, not giving you enough time to read everything. To top it off, they speak in a strange way, which is difficult to understand sometimes, especially when it goes fast. Mumbo will say things like these: “Bear bring crates; Mumbo put pieces in the garage; Bear build car with pieces.”
All in all, Rare deserves an A for effort. However, this is one game that unfortunately won’t reach the hearts of all gamers. It’s difficult to determine who the intended audience of the title is, as it may be too difficult for kids and too colorful and bubbly for adults, as well as too far from the original Banjo Kazooie series to appeal to old fans. If you can get past the cutesy visuals and enjoy creative and time-consuming games with lots of challenges, you should probably give it a try. On the other hand, if you’re looking for a fast-paced, adventure-filled experience, this may not quite meet your expectations.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.4 Graphics
The visuals are incredibly vibrant and detailed, portraying Banjo’s classic environments like never before. 3.8 Control
Vehicle-handling physics are not very realistic, but overall the game controls quite well. Garage menus make the task of building vehicles a bit hectic, and the game’s not easy to pick-up-and-play. 3.8 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Fun and lighthearted music along with classic Banjo Kazooie sound effects make a good team, but they don’t impress. 4.6 Play Value
Banjo Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts has many things to offer, from endless hours building vehicles to numerous and fun challenges, item collecting, and multiplayer matches. 4.0 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.