Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts

April 24, 2010 at 10:22 pm | Posted in Game Review, Xbox 360 Review | Leave a comment
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Rare have been responsible for some of gaming’s most beloved franchises and Banjo-Kazooie is certainly one of their better efforts. The new direction taken for this sequel on the Xbox 360 has caused a bit of a stir amongst faithful fans, but are they right to be concerned?

Title: Banjo Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts

Format: Xbox 360

Developed by: Rare

Published by: Xbox 360

Genre: Adventure

Rebooting a franchise can be a risky business, especially when your fan base is one of the most keenly dedicated in gaming circles. Even ten years after its release on the N64 Banjo Kazooie still has a massive cult following, with every line of code having been painstakingly analysed by the community in the hope of finding every tiny secret Rare had left in the cartridge. The rich worlds, memorable characters and challenging gameplay made it an instant hit and it still holds up as one of Rare’s (and the format’s) best titles. So surely taking a series that helped define 3D platforming and stripping out every gameplay feature that made it so memorable would be a pretty silly idea? Well that’s just what Rare have done – gone are the intricately designed levels and abilities; in their place are expansive worlds and customisable vehicles. So how does it fare against previous games and should the fan base ready their pitchforks?

From the time you first switch on the game and see the beautifully rendered Spiral Mountain it’s clear that this hasn’t just been a quick, cynical cash-in. Rare certainly haven’t lost their renowned sense of humour either (or their technical prowess for that matter) as evidenced by the hilarious story and the witty, self-deprecating dialogue that sees the bear & bird back in action against old-nemesis Gruntilda after 8 years of pizza and playing video games have taken their toll. The entire game is littered with clever references to Rare’s classic back catalogue and pokes fun at many of the traditional gaming clichés that Rare themselves have been guilty of in the past. The art style and sound design are also wonderfully evocative of the previous games, with some of the most impressive graphics on the 360 and a great musical score that updates many of the originals’ tunes with full orchestral composition.

In terms of game structure it isn’t really a huge departure from previous games, and in fact shares a lot of similarities with 3D platform king, Mario 64. Each of the six worlds are divided into several ‘acts’, slightly different variations containing a couple of challenges and a bunch of musical notes to collect. Jiggies won from these acts are dispensed near the world entrances in the hub-world of Showdown Town and these can be taken to the Jiggy bank in the centre of the town. The more Jiggies you have, the more acts become available. Within each world is a special battle against Gruntilda and if you can beat her you’ll earn a new part for your main vehicle, which you can use to explore more of Showdown Town. The set of challenges also feel very similar to previous games, with typical fetch quests, enemy battles and races making up the majority of the 100+ Jiggy quests. Each world also has a number of Jingo challenges, which are a bit more like mini games, and can see you doing anything from trying to knock down a set of dominoes, to sumo wrestling. They give some much-needed variety, as the main challenges can get repetitive after a while and the game isn’t the most difficult out there.

What will provide most of the longevity and variety is the game’s big selling point, the customisable vehicles. Pretty much any form of transport can be constructed using the easy to use editor which you can find in Mumbo’s garage (accessed at any time by hitting pause) and can be used in nearly every challenge in the game (some give you a set vehicle but most let you use whatever you like). Vehicle parts can be found across Showdown Town or can be bought from Humba Wumba in exchange for musical notes, with rarer and more complex parts made available as you progress. These can be snapped together like Lego bricks to create anything you can imagine. Rare have gone to great efforts to make this an essential part of the Nuts & Bolts experience and you are actively encouraged to experiment with your designs till you come up with something capable of beating particular challenges. The robust internal physics mean you need to put a bit of thought into each creation as factors such as the number of blocks used or the engine size can greatly affect how your vehicle controls in the game. If you don’t feel too creative you can use any one of Humba’s blueprints, which are ready-made vehicles you can use anytime, as long as you have the right parts. These are a necessity early on until you get used to making your own.

Not only can you use your creations to complete challenges but they can also be used in the excellent multiplayer. Rare have certainly tried to make a multiplayer experience that taps into the community spirit shown by its existing fan base and again, the vehicle creation is at the heart of it all. If you happen to spot a vehicle that catches your eye you can take a photo of it after a multiplayer match and the game will give you a blueprint so you can reconstruct or edit it as you please. Given the wacky variety of the multiplayer challenges you can expect to see some suitably strange constructions when you go online. There is an impressive number of multiplayer modes available, with races around the main worlds and sports-style challenges like football and darts, alongside more traditional arena combat games.

B&K: Nuts and bolts has very few pitfalls (the pointless and frankly annoying enemies being one of the only major gripes) and while it may not please those fans wishing for a HD platform game, any that are willing to give it a go will find a deeply enthralling adventure that encapsulates the spirit of the originals perfectly.


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