A few weeks ago I ranted against Banjo Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts (Or BK for this entry), well after hearing some recommendations and a $15 off sale of it I decided to pick it up, text problems and all. What I found was one of the more inventive titles this year and could be one of the better games I’ve played.
The story is a satire of the platform genre, a being known as the Lord of Games is tired of the same old fighting between Banjo and Grunty (evil witch of the series) and has created challenges to see who will win everything. This is all fluff however for the game play, the challenges themselves. Each world is made up of timed challenges which will reward the player depending on how well they complete them. However once you look under the hood so to speak, you’ll find something very different.
BK is not a platformer, I’m going to say that again so that it sinks in, BK is not a platformer, sure you run and jump but those skills will not be helping you here. Every challenge in this game is done with vehicles, some you’ll have to use a preset one, others you create your own. Each challenge has a time limit and three levels of rewards, basically bronze, silver and gold. Earning jiggies (BK world equivalent of stars) unlocks new worlds which are earned for getting a silver or gold rank on a challenge. You can find boxes in the over world that contain parts to be used in the editor or buy new parts and blueprints (already made vehicles) from the local shops, now then let’s head to the garage.
For those who want to see everything BK has to offer, you will be spending a lot of time in the garage. Most vehicle blueprints while good, will most often only net you a silver, to completely master a challenge you’ll need to either alter a vehicle or create your own. This is where BK shines, as the editor is incredibly powerful and allows users to create land, sea, and air vehicles and combinations as well. Using physics vehicles respond realistically no matter how unrealistic you make them. The part variety is astonishing from numerous engines, to weapons and even parts that let you drop parts of your vehicle like a space shuttle. In many ways the BK vehicle editor is similar to Spore’s creature editor , but I have to give the nod to BK. Changing your creatures in Spore will not change the game play, however in BK you will see almost immediate differences as you create your dream car/plane/boat.
The design of the worlds is amazing; this is what it means to have style. The first time I took my helicopter around the first world I was shocked with how good it looks. The bigger more open worlds are better then the smaller ones, but everything has that sheen to it. Credit has to go to the over world, filled with nooks and crannies where parts wait make it one of the more enjoyable places to muck around in.
Now I’ve been raving about this title for the last few paragraphs, but there are a few problems with the game. First the game starts off really slow and doesn’t ease the player into vehicle creation in my opinion. I would have liked to have seen more tutorials on vehicle construction and using some of the more advanced parts. You really won’t have enough breadth and depth of parts to build your custom vehicles until a few hours in. Then there is the text issue, as mentioned the text is close to unreadable on SDTVs a patch is in the works but no one knows when it’s coming. I would have liked to have seen challenges not built around a time limit such as building a vehicle for someone to use and being ranked for it. Still you get what you put into BK; gamers who like building their own stuff are going to love this game. I am amazed with the turn around of Rare Ware these past few years; first with Viva Piñata and now BK they have risen from the ashes of game mediocrity. If BK is proof of a new direction for Rare Ware, then I can’t wait to see what happens next from them. I haven’t thought like that since the N64 was popular.
Banjo Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts gets my entire line of J-vehicles, because if you can’t get to your destination without destroying everything in your way, then what was the point of going in the first place?