The bird and bear duo return to a new platform of gaming with the highly imaginative Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts. Embracing changing times, Rare has started to come out of their shell with this ambitious revival of one of their classic franchises.
Rare bounces back into their own groove by experimenting with a new formula from one of their most popular franchises, Banjo-Kazooie. Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts keeps the main characters from the N64 adventures and throws them into an imaginative world that could have only been created on the next-generation platforms. The tale, like before, is about a bear, a bird, and a witch. If you have played the original Banjo-Kazooie (1998), or its follow-up Banjo-Tooie (2000) then you will fall right into place within Nuts & Bolts. Picking up ten years after the last game our two heroes have become nothing more than a couple of bored slobs, a new character is introduced, the Lord of Games (L.O.G.). The mysterious L.O.G. brings the three main players back into the game for one final confrontation, however this time the rules have been changed.
Nuts & Bolts and so much more
Nuts & Bolts bends the expectations of the platform adventure games into something unique with its dynamic approach to action adventure storytelling. Even though Banjo might sound confusing, it is kept simple. How far you want to jump into the games surprisingly in-depth mechanics is totally up to the player. Wading in the shallow end, or driving into the deep end will provide a fun experience now matter how wet you want to get. At Banjo’s core it is an adventure game with vehicles, vehicle creation, platforming, and exploration thrown into the mix. Banjo is a modern action adventure game that is an expanded version of what Rare probably planned for Banjo in the past. Without limitations Rare can fully bring out the best in its trademark gameplay that has followed other series such Conker. Nuts & Bolts is a solid game all around and could even be compared to Rare’s first action adventure game on the Xbox 360, the underrated Kameo: Elements of Power.
The writing in Banjo is as clever as ever. This insanely comical adventure uses a lot of clichés from the world of gaming including stabs at their own games. The Lord of Games is the obvious reference to this because the character is basically a monitor with the classic game Pong for the head, a cape, with computer mice crawling all over him. Immediately from the beginning Banjo kicks the humour up a notch with a familiar tone that could only be accomplished by Rare. Few games tackle humour at this level because of its difficult nature in gaming, however Rare knocks "the funny" out without a thought. The constant barrage of laughter helps make Banjo a little more interesting as you plug away at the game.
Showdown in Showdown
The classic adventure style is alive and well in Nuts & Bolts. Banjo operates off a central hub which the town called Showdown. In Showdown you can search explore the surrounds of the town or warp into new levels created by the Lord of Games. In a completion race against Grunty you will participate in various number of mini-games focused on collection. The winner of this laughable epic match up will gain the deed to Spiral Mountain while the looser will be banished to work in the Lord of Games’ video-game factory. Ouch! Each world is larger than you would think with a lot of care and detail given to the aesthetics along with the gameplay. Aside from the mini-game competitions you can go exploring in each world to pick up the over 5’000 music notes which is totally optional. You can breeze through Banjo if you’re not keen on exploring each world, however you would be missing out on some fantastic scenery.
Gaming Basics 101
The controls are simple to use and the learning curve can be conquered within a half hour of playing the game. Interacting with objects is done with a magical wrench you acquire in the begging of the game and the rest is gaming basics 101. Nuts & Bolts is also a vehicle heavy game which will require you to dive around for the majority of the game. Vehicles have a fuel gauge and an ammo gauge to worry about and the rest is basic navigation. The triggers are used for the gas and breaks, again, it's all in gaming basics 101. If you have played a driving game in the past, or a 3rd person adventure then you will be able to pick up and play Banjo with ease.
Banjo-Kazooie: Monster Garage
Vehicle creation helps to pick up the pace for the lethargic bear, giving Nuts & Bolts an unexpected element of creation. It’s not necessary to build vehicles, or even spend time in the garage working on an innovative mechanical monster of transportation, but it’s an open concept that is fun to explore. Blueprints are handed out during the game which allows you to access any vehicle via its blue-print. There are a lot of the vehicles in the game you might never use, or only load up once or twice. Hidden parts can be found by exploring the game world a looking for hidden crates and new blueprints can be purchased. This includes everything from bikes, to hovercrafts, and more.
Nuts & Blots doesn’t force the garage on the player which is nice for gamers with little patience to sit through the stages of making your own ride. In the garage it is laid out in a gamer friendly way with simple navigation menus and an invisible grid system to lock in parts. It is easy and fun to mix and match parts to make your own unique vehicles. There are a few ground rules when playing in the shop before you can get up and running. Your vehicle will need at least three main components being a seat for Banjo, an engine, and fuel storage. Odd body shapes and parts are fun to throw around, although you have to be aware of the game physics are very lifelike powered by the familiar Havok physics engine. Part distribution is important for any vehicle to operate properly and even one small step like adding a wheel or taking one out can make a ride react drastically different. There is a test track where you can experiment with your creations before you roll them out for Banjo to use. After you have built your personal traveling vehicle, you can snap a picture in game of your rides and share them with the only community. I have seen everything form wacky hovercrafts to giant sized mechanized robot type vehicles.
After the arcade
Aside from looking for the absurd about of hidden musical notes, replaying challenges, or hanging out in Klungo's Arcade, Nuts & Bolts also invites multiple players compete in some multiplayer activities stolen from the single player game. The best part about hooking up with other gamers is simply to show off and see all the created vehicles. This is when your vehicle creations have time to shine, and impress others when you perform well in the online challenges. You can also share blueprints online by sending them through your friends list. Lending a helping hand, or simply sharing content is an excellent way to spend time in Nuts & Bolts, it is also addictive.
The graphics Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts are lifted from a modified Viva Pinta engine. Keeping the development homegrown allows Rare to fine tune their distinct style that can be classified as "Rare-like". This unique style is a amalgamation of cartoonish characters put into a colourful fantasy world. The worlds are impressive and interesting with bright graphics and lots of detail. This patch worked playground is themed around a mechanic made up world, so you will see a lot of alternative versions of real life items like metallic clouds handing from the sky, instead of fluffy pancakes hovering in the air.
The soundtrack created by Robin Beanland, Grant Kirkhope and Dave Clynickstrong is very suiting with individual scores added to each level. The only disappointing aspect to the rocking tracks is the decision to stick with the old standby "gibberish". Falling back into a Nintendo-esq groove, Nuts & Bolts has a limited amount of voice work and a lot of mumbling. Looking past a little bit of gibberish, Banjo looks and sounds a million times better than the N64. Banjo still looks and feels like a Banjo game which is a nice accomplishment.
The old king of Nintendo might not turn out as many hits as in the past, but ever so often when Rare releases a game it is instantly special. Rare is a one-of-a-kind developer that can make a new game look and feel new while keeping an old feeling at the same time. Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts fits into this familiar spot creating an experience that is extremely fun and definitely RARE. The fun exploration and light-hearted gameplay is a throwback to the original which will make all old-school Banjo fans happy.
Beyond a recycling of game ideas, Banjo also adds an in-depth and unique vehicle creation tablet to Nuts & Bolts which is almost limitless in what you can add to the game space. For any gamer who has loved building something with Lego in the past you will appreciated this brick by brick science applied to staggering real-life physics of vehicle creation. Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts is worth picking up this holiday season, and would make a great gift for any level of gamer who has a Xbox 360.
Reviewed by Downtown Jimmy | 12.05.08