Many years ago, in a land far, far away, two heroes were born. The forces of evil were planning world domination, but were not prepared for what was about to happen; nothing could stop the pairing of one bird and one bear. The epic story that changed the world forever was born.
Ok, maybe that was a little dramatic, but we can’t deny that the first two Banjo-Kazooie games were a huge success. Yes, we know it wasn’t THAT long ago. In fact, 1998 was the first time we were introduced to the comical pair, when the the Nintendo 64 game was released to rave reviews. Super Mario 64 was the only other game at the time to feature such an interesting way to play.
So then what? Well, Banjo and Kazooie went away, very surprisingly, and we didn’t hear anything from them until now.
Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts is the third game in the Banjo-Kazooie series. It is hard to believe that two games that were so well-received actually skipped a generation of gaming consoles. Well, if you are a fan of the series, have no fear because Banjo and Kazooie are here for the Xbox 360 and will be hitting stores on November 11th. We went hands-on with the demo to tell you if the first game in eight years picks up where the others left off.
The main thing you will notice when firing up the game is that some of the characters that were featured in the first and second games are back. Mumbo Jumbo is back to help Banjo and Kazooie through their quest, and Gruntilda is stirring up her evil once again.
This quest is a little different than before, though. In past games it has been about Banjo and Kazooie rescuing people. This time it is about proving that the prognosticator L.O.G. or Lord of the Games actually created every game known to man. The game centers around the new “Nuts and Bolts” feature of the game which will allow you to build different carts, cars, tanks, and other vehicles to aid you in your journey.
Mumbo Jumbo starts you off by breaking open a box of the first parts for your newest kart. Mumbo instructs you to join him in the garage to build it. The game allows you to view the different parts and see what abilities they posses. While this is kind of fun to begin with, and the demo only gives you limited abilities with what you can build, it may become a little monotonous after a while. The game does provide quick selection blueprints, which are pre-rendered cars to use depending on your needs.
After L.O.G. explains how to open the doors to the game worlds, you take your cart to the center of Showdown Town and the number of jiggy pieces appear above each world’s door telling you how many you need to open them. Many of you will recognize “jiggies,” which are the same pieces from the first game that you collect to aid you along your way and unlock new areas.
The worlds consist of different minigames that will allow you to obtain jiggies for what you complete. The games consist of things like defending a giant metal whale’s eyes while little laser bots attack them. Others want you to race against others in their carts, or even beat a time that someone else owns the record to.
If you notice, the game centers around driving, hence the building of karts and things. During my quests I did not do one that didn’t involve driving. The platforming parts of the game are still there, collecting music notes and other things as you go, but this time around the game feels like a compilation of vehicle-based minigames instead of the platformer it was known as in the past. While the game does not try to be Forza 2 or any racing simulation, when the game centers around driving it should attain a high level of competency about driving mechanics. This is the biggest disappointment about the game.
Driving mechanics and things such as weight, speed, handling, and other keys to successful racing and driving games are not all there. One of the first quests I did was raced against some other characters who were trying to prove they had faster karts and if I beat them they would stop racing around the museum and building racing karts and do their jobs. These karts look heavy, like they should be able to clunk into each other without going into a whirlwind, but it is actually the exact opposite–the karts hit each other and go twisting around.
Handling is also sensitive. Take too sharp of a turn and your kart is set tumbling. This is actually one of the more realistic things the karts do. They look top-heavy, which would cause something like this to happen. Being a platformer, recovery needs to be fairly simple, so a couple of taps of the RB button does the job. The karts seem to peel out very fast, but then drive slowly which can make the beginning stages of driving frustrating. Turning is more sensitive during the takeoffs and you’ll want to use a gentle flicking of the left thumbstick to turn.
On the graphics side of things the game does a nice job of updating its graphics to the current-gen look. The game is very nice-looking and does a great job of bringing the beautiful, bright world to life. There are a lot of textures, but there is a lot of pop-in as well. As I went through some areas I noticed that every step I took caused more to pop in. Hopefully in the final version the will speed up the frame rate a tad and make the pop-in less noticeable.
From my time with the game, I was averagely impressed. I thought the game does what it was known for in the past, which is create a beautiful atmosphere for the world around the characters, and make the characters funny, as well. It does feel a tad old-fashioned by today’s standards. I think skipping a generation of gaming hurt the inventive ideas that could have came from a game such as this.
The game feels like a mixed bag of Crash Bandicoot and Rachet and Clank Future: Tools of Destruction. While that might not sound too bad, it tries to be too much of both. The nuts and bolts side of things feels a bit forced and the game just doesn’t operate as smoothly as games of the past in the series have. The demo is available on Xbox live and the game is releasing in about a week. I would suggest trying it before you buy it and see what you think, but for me the bear-and-bird combo feels like it should have stayed in the past. I am sure hoping the design team takes some time to touch up the game before it ships out, so it is not a complete disaster.