Ever since Rare was acquired by Microsoft a few years ago, the question has been asked as to whether the developer will bring their beloved franchises from their Nintendo years to XBOX gamers. So far we’ve seen Perfect Dark in an enjoyable yet flawed launch title for the 360, an all-new RPG franchise in Kameo as well as the charming and surprisingly addictive Viva Pinata and its sequel. With Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts, we get the second franchise to have appeared on a Nintendo console that has made the transformation over to the XBOX 360. With the first two Banjo titles, gamers got charming humour, fantastic gameplay and amazing environments. Have the loveable duo made a successful entrance onto the high definition stage, or should these forgotten heroes have been left in gaming history?
Platforming has changed dramatically over the years. The biggest jump has been from 2D to 3D, obviously, but we’ve also seen many of the basic elements of a good platforming title evolve and expand. What was originally a game that had you reaching for an end checkpoint and/or boss has turned into a genre that has you exploring, fighting, collecting and interacting. Some games have made a successful transition, while others have failed. It’s the ability to acknowledge evolution, take hold of it, take advantage of it and most importantly, implement it.
Thankfully, RARE have done that with Banjo-Kajooie: Nuts and Bolts. What they’ve done is take hold of a great – yet forgotten – franchise, maintain many of the popular and enjoyable elements and thrown in a simple yet deep and engaging vehicle creation tool, which furthermore makes up a grunt of the main gameplay. You’ll still explore, fight, interact and fly, but you’ll also become apart of an all-new experience that expands on the wonderful experience of the previous titles in the franchise.
The story in Nuts and Bolts is a bit farfetched but it maintains plenty of the RARE charm and humour that we’ve all come to love and enjoy. In his last outing, Banjo defeated the terrible witch Gruntilda, turning her into nothing but a whining head with no body. Since then, Banjo hasn’t had much to do, so he and his pal Kazooie have gotten lazy, munching on junk food and laying around all day doing nothing. That is until the Lord of Games appears, giving Gruntilda an all-new body and offering the two a sweet proposition: Banjo has to enter six worlds and complete them in his vehicles, while Gruntilda has to stop him. Whoever wins gets the deed to Spiral Mountain, while the other has to spend an eternity working in the Lord of Games’ game factory.
The major change in this title from previous entries in the series is that the exploration factor takes a back seat to the mission-based gameplay. The musical notes are still scattered throughout each of the six worlds and collecting them will unlock new parts for your vehicles. However, because you unlock new parts as you complete new missions, the notes aren’t at all a necessity to complete the game. For perfectionists who need to get 100%, they’re there all over the place to find and the platforming elements when it comes to finding them are just as good as they were in previous Banjo titles, but they’re not required. At first glance this might seem like a bad exclusion, but because of the inclusion of the vehicles and vehicle customisation, it offsets the lack of focus on exploration. You’ll still venture all over the land because the missions dictate it.
The vehicle workshops make up a large part of the gameplay. Each vehicle must have seat for Banjo to sit on, but beyond that, everything else is up to you. You can make a small plane, fitted with missiles and a large engine; you can create a zippy motorbike with large front panels and huge wheels. Creating and customisating vehicles are incredibly easy, thanks to the simple layout of the customisation screens. It’s not confusing or tedious and once you unlock a whole hoard of different items for your vehicle, you’ll become addicted to the infinite amount of ways you can customize.
The vehicles are implemented into the missions in a really enjoyable way. The missions are set out so that you can use your own creative mind to complete them. Some are basic race missions, but others have you completing tasks and protecting objects from oncoming enemies. Because the missions can be restarted at any point, you can edit your vehicle and add a whole bunch of weapons and contraptions to it so as to counter the attacks. For example, you can suck the enemies into your vehicle and then catapult them off into the distance, sucking them up like a vacuum. There are countless ways you can confront missions like these and the implementation of the vehicles and customisation into the missions must be applauded.
The only downfall of the vehicles is that the controlling can at times be a bit wonky. It all depends on how you construct the vehicle, but even if you perfect it with the right amount of weight and power, you’ll still find that the turning is over-sensitive and that it can be knocked over really easily. Sometimes real-life physics are implemented and this of course depends on how you construct the vehicle, but then another aspect of the vehicle will be inconsistent. This might all come down to the developers trying to make the handling as realistic as possible, based on how you construct it. It’s backfired, as a heavy bike will be hard to knock off its feet, but then its breaks and turning abilities will be downgraded severely, perhaps too much.
The multiplayer mode is surprisingly engaging and fun, where you can go up against seven of your mates across many of the activities from the single-player mode. The action is fast and intense, as you can rewind a mistake you make such as a crash and quickly fix-up your car. This is so the action maintains a quick pace and the competitive aspects of the multiplayer experience are of high quality. You wouldn’t have thought that this title would shine in multiplayer, but it’s actually a really fun experience.
Nuts and Bolts suffers from some occasional framerate stutter, but otherwise, the presentation is great. The colours are bright and vibrant and the environments each have their own charm and pulling power. The design team have down a great job of creating a unique and bright world with great textures and character design.
Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts is a welcomed return for the charming heroes. The story is outrageously fun, the gameplay is addictive and engaging and it still maintains plenty of the charm that the series is known for. There are some minor issues, such as a fluctuating framerate and controlling issues with the vehicles, but overall, Nuts and Bolts is a more than worthy addition to the franchise. Welcome back, guys!