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Author Topic: A Hoffy Review: Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts.  (Read 1162 times)

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A Hoffy Review: Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts.
« on: January 25, 2009, 12:24:17 pm »
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A Hoffy Review:
Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts

Developer: Rare Ltd.
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Release Date: USA: November 12, 2008, AUST: November 20, 2008
Genre: Platformer, Vehicle Construction
Rating: E10+ (ESRB), G (OFLC)
Platform: Xbox 360
Players: 1 (Local), 2-8 (Online)

And so we find ourselves strapped back into the world of the bear and the bird. It's been eight long years since the dynamic duo's last console outing, a little too long by some fanboy's accounts. Of course, when the game was revealed in 2006 it couldn't help but get fans excited - even if the title wasn't to be compatible with any Nintendo console, there was still that yearning to explore themed worlds, round up the Notes and earn the Jiggies. Of course, it wasn't until 2008 when Rare revealed the main gameplay mechanic, and fans became slightly turned off. Vehicles. Vehicles? In Banjo? Well, whatever. Might be good. Could suck, I guess. Such was the reaction by gamers and critics alike. It was a bold move by Rare - getting Banjo behind the wheel was something many fans would never have expected they'd have to do; but hey, anything to "broaden the demographic", right? Well, maybe. Let's investigate.

Welcome home, buddy.

Gameplay: 7.5
The interesting thing about Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts is that even though it appears like a relatively childish game, the skill you need to surpass majority of the challenges is overwhelmingly high, at least by the standard of a child gamer. Unless the child is some kind of engineering mastermind (at least for their age), they may have a lot of trouble getting by in Nuts & Bolts. Obviously, the fundamental game mechanic, and the salient point for this game is the vehicle design. Before you shrug off the game for being totally different to the other Banjo games, you should at least understand that this system is complex, robust, refined, plentiful and fun - albeit different.

"By the end of the game, properly and thoroughly designing one vehicle can take over half an hour."

Becoming the garage mechanic in Banjo's world involves taking into account several aspects of vehicle design. You can't just whack a couple of wheels here and there, add a propeller and place the engine wherever you damn well please. A little bit like Super Mario Galaxy, you need to take gravity into account with your vehicular platforming. Weight distribution in the car is incredibly important - otherwise, when you take your vehicles out into the big wide world, you'll find they'll be incredibly cumbersome to maneuver. This means, depending on what you're building, you need to find a balance between the number of fuel tanks and engines you're using, and where they are in relation to the body parts, the wheels, and of course, Banjo. Once you've actually got all the essentials on your vehicle, you need to protect all of it by adding body parts, and if you will, grenade launchers, flamethrowers, ammo, and so fourth. From there, you can add accessories like stereos, wings and windscreens, to other essentials like fuel replenishers and invisibility cloaks. And then you have the option to paint it, or take it for a test spin, and see for yourself if it goes and looks like you want. It's a system that becomes much more complicated as the game progresses and more parts are unlocked. By the end of the game, properly and thoroughly designing one vehicle can take over half an hour.

Drugs are bad, mmmkay.

For some, this system will be incredibly monotonous, laborious, frustrating and boring. The fact of the matter is, there are over one hundred challenges in the game, and very few of them actually provide you with a pre-made vehicle to drive. A lot of these challenges will require you to step back into Mumbo's Motors and design a new vehicle, or at least modify an older one. Rare have taken a few leaps to promise that these close-minded and annoyed gamers will never have to make a vehicle ever, with the inclusion of Humba Wumba's own pre-made vehicles, which can be bought and used freely. Though, many of these vehicles don't perform up to the standard that will make some of the later, harder challenges any easier, and they also take away the whole point of the game, which is to express one's own imagination and creativity in vehicle design. Basically, everyone's going to need to make a vehicle at some point. And if you don't want to, this game isn't for you.

"Kids may be overwhelmed by the amount of work they need to do to make a good vehicle."

I myself was actually very skeptical about the vehicle designing mechanic at first, but after really getting in there and setting out to make some really great, handy vehicles, I ended up having a lot of fun. With the amount of parts you can collect, you are really limited to your imagination in what you can create. I had an absolute ball, designing race cars, fuel-jet rocket ships and shuttles, helicopters, carrier jets, bi-planes, motorbikes, hovercrafts, trucks, taxis, battle tanks, and even some off-the-wall stuff that really can't be categorised as a rational vehicle. It is a lot of fun when you put time and effort into it, and it's incredibly rewarding to see your masterpiece perform better than expected, thanks to careful planning and design. Sharing your blueprints with friends over Xbox Live is also a welcomed, yet necessary feature.

Vrrrm vrrrm.

Rest assured, none of this stuff is Banjo at heart - but the space-stuff in Mario Galaxy wasn't Mario, and the sailing and wind control in Wind Waker wasn't Zelda. Again, this is new, and this is fun. Few games have managed to pull off such a system so well, and certainly if you liked this sort of stuff in F-Zero then you'll love it here. At the same time, it's certainly not for everyone, and especially kids may be overwhelmed by the amount of work they need to do to make a good vehicle. And honestly, I can't see many kids doing this right. I certainly would have sucked at it if I was five-years-old.

"There's not nearly enough platforming here to satisfy the purists."

Beyond the vehicle design, Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts is no different to Banjo-Kazooie and Banjo-Tooie. You've still got massive themed worlds to explore, of which there are seven including the hub world and the final stage (which is relatively smaller). And in these worlds, you're still expected to search out the Jiggies, the Notes, and the Jinjos. There are some changes, though. Collecting Jiggies is not the same in the themed worlds as it was in the past games. You can't just find the Jiggy, figure out how you're going to get it, and then unleash some platforming wit to do so. Rather than finding the Jiggy, you locate the cute, little character who has the Jiggy, in which they will initiate some kind of mini-game that will earn you the jigsaw piece, and then some. This system would be fine if it weren't for the extreme repetitiveness that came with the tasks - generally all challenges will involve racing, escorting, importing, exporting, ramming, defending, attacking, or a mixture. There isn't a great deal of variety to be had, despite some small twists that keep things slightly fresh. Over time though, players will definitely get bored and frustrated with the abundance and ever-increasing difficulty of these challenges, before they can round up all 131 Jiggies. It's hard to stay attentive when the game refuses to offer something new.

One little bear and bird balancing, step by step on a piece of string, thought it was such a wonderful stunt...

Something that may toss up some veterans is the lack of traditional platforming... every single challenge in every single world requires you to use a vehicle. The exception to this is the Note-collecting, which usually forces you to take a step out of your car for a couple seconds. There are also around fifty crates of vehicle parts that can be collected in the hub world, most of which require some balancing on tight-ropes, some climbing, and some good ol' fashioned jumping to obtain. Though, at the same time, there's not nearly enough platforming here to satisfy the purists, and for that, you're going to have to get to know your vehicles. Whether that's a disappointment really depends on what you were expecting.

"Rare can still uphold the tradition of crafting some excellent eye-candy."

There are plenty of challenges to keep you coming back, plenty of things to collect, and a difficulty level that's unrivaled to anything Mario can spit out. The controls are also very tight, though this will depend on how well you've designed your vehicles. The length of the game will vary on how dedicated you are to collect everything... there are 131 Jiggies, but you only need 75 to finish. With those numbers, the quest can range between 20 and 50 hours. Adding to this, the many little extra things there are to do around Showdown Town including Jinjo Bingo and a 2D arcade game designed by Klungo himself... there's definitely lots to keep everyone satisfied.

Bad bears, bad bears, whatcha gonna do...

Graphics: 9.0
It may be true, Kazooie said so herself. "All of the real talent at Rare left ages ago." But even with that, the new guys can still uphold the tradition of crafting some excellent eye-candy. Nutty Acres looks lush, Showdown Town is bustling with useless NPCs and Disney-styled architecture, and Banjoland brings classic worlds like Clanker's Cavern and Freezeezy Peak back to life in glorious high-definition pixels. Characters animate fluidly, the particle effects (especially explosions) are wonderful, the real-time lighting is nice and the water effects are second to none. The art style is also nothing to scoff at, as Rare deliver something true to the old Banjo games, as well as some new twists. Keeping true to the building aspect of the game, themed worlds are set inside "game globes", so all aspects of the level have been built, rather than looking natural. This means steel grating with a layer of green paint instead of grass, and television screens depicting the sky, in stead of... well, the sky. This is likely also a means to keep players from flying away in their new hot-air balloon and running into that oh-so-dreaded invisible barrier. It's a cool, new spin on the old, boring method, and there are certainly a lot of other graphical tidbits to inspect along the way. The all-too-often framerate drop brings the score down, though.

"This game relies on the old-school sound to work it's magic."

Sound: 9.5
The music in the older games were terrific, bringing an orchestration-type feel to the N64's MIDI capabilities. This time around, Rare have actually used an orchestra - wouldn't you believe. The strings, percussion and brass really add a new dimension to the background music in the Banjo universe, as many theme songs are sure to evoke a little bit of movement in your hips as you sit on the couch designing your new race car. Also expect a few songs to send some shivers down your spine, as you do battle with Gruntilda and explore the wonderfully weird Terrarium of Terror. Hearing the old tunes of Treasure Trove Cove, Mad Monster Mansion and Hailfire Peaks is sure to make old-time fans fall in love with Banjo-Kazooie all over again, as the classic tunes reel in those feelings of nostalgia. Though, a lot of the new themes are nowhere near as melodious, and are mostly forgettable... rest assured, this game relies on the old-school sound to work it's magic. Sound effects in the world are also very responsive, and the animal voices never get too annoying like in the old games, which is indeed a plus. The lack of voice acting is also very much appreciated... no, really.

Not your daddy's Banjo-Kazooie.

Story: 4.5
It's been eight years since the Bear and the Bird went out into the world and ultimately saved the day. Now reduced to obesity, the pair haven't really been doing a whole lot, and instead have been immersing themselves in Xbox games, fatty foods and... well, mostly just lounging around. Their lethargy is broken at the sight of Grunty's disembodied skull, and a quarrel ensues. Thankfully, L.O.G., the lord of all video games (yes, even the ones that don't sell, like Ghoulies) turns up, and on his arrival, returns the bear and bird to their original state, and devises the game that will ultimately determine who owns Spiral Mountain - Grunty versus Banjo and Kazooie. Using vehicles, the familiar couple will need to collect Jiggies, and Grunty will need to try to stop them. It's a battle to the very end!

"Everyone would have been happier with something more akin to Banjo-Threeie."

Not only is this plot overly simple, which is by no means a bad thing, but it doesn't evolve until the very end of the game - and even then, there's not a lot of driving force (no pun intended) for the player to actually push through the adventure to see what happens next.  If there was anything about the old formula that should have stayed the same, it would have to be the fairy tale-esque narrative. Admittedly, the addition of vehicles into the mix has to revolutionise the plot somehow, but not so much that it just becomes boring. It reminds me of Super Mario Sunshine, in some sense. On the other hand, the characters in the game are as funny and as expressive as ever, with quality, satirical dialogue and excellent character choices. Oddly enough, it was this attribute alone that really made Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts feel like a Banjo game. Though, compared to its predecessors where there were new characters to meet in every world, players will only find the same old roster of about eight or so characters to go back to, all of whom do become less interesting over time. There's no talking camel, no over-joyed monkey, no angry vacuum cleaner... just the mole, the shaman and the polar bear. More variety would have been nice. Trophy Thomas is also really annoying.

That wasn't flying! That was falling with style!

Overall: 8.0
Orchestrations rock, graphics are amazing, vehicle design is deep and rewarding, characters are humorous, worlds are large and well designed, it's Banjo-Kazooie.
Vehicle design can become tedious, few characters, framerate issues, uninteresting narrative, too different from predecessors, Trophy Thomas.
After the slightly "meh" efforts that were Ghoulies, Perfect Dark Zero and Kameo, Nuts & Bolts is a step in the right direction for everyone's favourite British developer. Don't expect Rare to ever get the same mojo back, because it is true, many of the original employees have long since left the company to pursue other interests. With that though, Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts is a solid, robust platformer experience. Obviously, everyone would have been happier with something more akin to Banjo-Threeie, but this works too. The vehicle design is well done, even if it is difficult for children to manage and sometimes tedious, and the classic Rare humor is all over the shop - it's hard to miss and easy to fall in love with. Yes, there are a few issues here and there that Rare are surely aware (too much Grunty rhyming for me), and rest assured the company will learn from their mistakes as they climb that ladder once again to gaming perfection. For now however, this is as good as it's going to get, and if you're a fan of the bear-and-bird duo, you should at least give it a rent. Itsssssss almossssssssst asssssss good asssss Masssster Chef.
« Last Edit: January 26, 2009, 05:15:48 am by Hoffy »

A Hoffy Review: Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts.
« Reply #1 on: January 26, 2009, 03:56:44 am »
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I have played and realy liked the first two games, I just love collecting stuff, and different challenges to get it. After hearing about this game, and it's step away from the two original games, I had(And still have) my doubts about this game. Tho, after reading your review I MIGHT get into buying it. I think I'll go download the demo tomorrow, and maybe figure out if it's worth the money.

Very good review, hope to see more of these in the future =)
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