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Because People Don't Want a Collect-a-Thon Anymore
Ah, Banjo-Kazooie, how long has it been? Let me count the years - yes, it's been 8 long years since I've seen the bear and bird duo that originally debuted on the N64. Back then times were simpler - platformers were simply 3D levels filled with useless trinkets to collect in the hope of obtaining a cooler ending, or maybe even getting to a useless part of the hub world (here's looking at you, Mario 64). But that's enough reminiscing, people back then didn't know what "Halo" was or even that they could demand that a game have more substance for their 60 bucks.
Fast-forward to today, when people know all these things and readily demand them. Rare (the developer) knew that they couldn't just make a rehashed platformer, for two main reasons:
1. With the exception of Super Mario Galaxy, the action-platforming genre is in desperate need of a reboot by third-parties. It can't just be business as usual, or people won't buy the games.
2. Their last attempt at a successor to a popular N64 game, Perfect Dark was met with mixed reviews and considered by many to be a step backwards for FPSs everywhere.
Rare knew that if they were going to bring Banjo and Kazooie back into the spotlight, they'd need a hook that's better than just scaling a mountain to collect a giant puzzle piece.
Enter Nuts and Bolts, a surprisingly refreshing reboot for the series. The game is unabashedly self-referential, which is a good thing, as Rare pokes fun at themselves, Nintendo, and everyone else along the way. The humor may not be laugh-out-loud material, but I found myself chuckling more than once at the cleverness of the writing.
The main thing that makes Nuts and Bolts different from other platformers is its inclusion of vehicles along with an editor. You use these vehicles in the worlds that the game presents branching out from the hub worlds. Don't get me wrong here, the presentation, for all that it tries to be different, is absolutely like the platformers of old, which is sometimes good, other times bad. In a game where walking around without a vehicle feels like crawling at a snail's pace, you'd expect good vehicle creation and movement, and Rare delivers on that for the most part.
Unlike LittleBigPlanet or other DIY-type games, the vehicle creation system does have a few...rules that need to be adhered to. For instance, your car cannot be built without an engine and fuel source - which makes for a more immersive experience, but can at times be difficult to handle if you're trying to build something cool and out-of-the-box.
The levels work well together and deliver the sort of experience you've come to expect from Rare - the cutesy characters, the clever dialogue, and most of all, the versatility in finding the path to a "quest's" endpoint. The first level, for instance, is a large forest level that seems to be encased in a mechanical dome. the sides of this dome are painted with clouds, but you can tell that it isn't the sky. And the ground appears to be made out of patchwork. All these things add to the appeal of the game - especially amongst the demographic of kids who have an Xbox 360 and very little kid-friendly titles to play.
The game does fall apart on some levels for me though. The vehicle creator, while inventive and innovative, could stand to be a little less rigid - at times, you'd probably feel more at home soldering together a radio from spare parts in your garage. Also, the game suffers from slow-down now and then - making the experience extra-annoying when you can see the texture pop-in as well as the slowdown. By slow-down, I don't mean a momentary fall in frames per second (FPS), I mean a noticeable fall for a few seconds during a cutscene. For the most part though, the game runs well overall.
So, assuming you have an HDTV (or are patient enough to wait for the patch that fixes the text size), and have a child or are a child-at-heart yourself, this game is a no-brainer to buy. For all its quirks, it is still probably the most friendly game you'll find for a younger audience out there, and it feels nice to play such a fine game this holiday season that doesn't involve guns or dismemberment.
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Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts
- Vehicle Creation and Execution
- Back-to-the-Basics Platforming Segments
- Some Fun Side-Questing
- Slowdown at Times
- Small Text Size (Patch is on the way though)
- Annoying Vehicle Creation Times
More Banjo and Kazooie articles.