Howdy, Lusipurrians! Welcome again to my weekly review!
From one peruser of LusipurrCom to another, allow me to say this: it is hard to be a reader of the site and own an Xbox 360. Most of the reviews are about games that are exclusive to other systems, I never get to compete in LusipurrCom contests, and I will readily admit that the catalogue of my favorite genres of games–Adventure games and RPGs–is somewhat limited on the 360. So it would be sufficed to say that when a teaser trailer for a “Next-Gen Banjo-Kazooie” game came out back in 2006, I was pleasantly excited for a long-awaited sequel to Banjo-Tooie. In fact, I almost immediately bought it after its release in 2008… which may have been an overly hasty move, in retrospect. Not because the game was necessarily bad, but because its radical differences from the other titles of its franchise make me hesitant to call Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts a true sequel to Banjo-Kazooie and Banjo-Tooie.
Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts chronicles the continuing story of everyone’s favorite shorts-wearing, backpack-carrying bear Banjo and his wise-cracking feathered sidekick Kazooie, enjoying their eighth year of rest after defeating their archnemesis: the witch Gruntilda. As they are enjoying an afternoon of eating pizza and playing video games, Grunty’s undead skull pops out of the ground and finds them, challenging them to one last fight. As the now-obese bear and the hopping pointy-nosed magical skull prepare to do battle, a strange, monitor-headed god calling himself the Lord of Games (L.O.G. for short) interrupts the fight and instead forces Banjo, Kazooie, and Gruntilda into a contest of his own to determine the fate of the characters and their home world of Spiral Mountain.
Yes. That is the plot.
The story and writing of Nuts & Bolts are (relatively) simple, but fun and quirky as per the usual style of Banjo-Kazooie games. The hilarious dialogue between characters is certain to be the highlight of the game’s writing, as well as the nostalgic mannerisms of classic characters; Banjo is still the big-hearted polite bear he has been for the past decade, Kazooie is still the snarky jerkass she has always been, and Gruntilda still pulls off the overly-cliched villain thing she has been doing since her days on the Nintendo 64. A slew of other classic characters round out the game’s roster of helpful–and not-so-helpful–givers of quests and upgrades as well.
However, despite how much Rare worked to make Nuts & Bolts reminiscent of a classic Banjo-Kazooie game, many fans of the series will still have trouble adjusting to the radically different mechanics. Instead of the standard platforming and pointless collectibles we have come to expect from previous versions, Nuts & Bolts instead functions as a strange combination of sandbox gameplay and collectible building pieces. During the game, players must gather parts to build their own custom vehicles, which they use to find and collect Golden Jigsaw pieces (the game’s token MacGuffin) and Golden Musical Notes (which act as currency) to open new world and earn better parts, which they use to build better vehicles, and so on and so forth. Players must be able to build and use different vehicles of all types to partake in challenges that involve anything from racing, deliveries, battling, collecting, and other bizarre objectives. This mechanic, while different, is still remarkably fun, and players will probably spend most of their time building and upgrading vehicles in the workshop with the multitude of parts they can find in the game.
The visuals and design of Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts are fairly nice to look at as well. The main hub world and levels are massive and fun to explore in the many vehicles that can be made, and each are exquisitely designed to be crisp, clear, and yet have a very whimsical and playful feel to them. Each level has the appearance of a self-contained and hand-built (literally) stage, as if to say that everyone, even the level itself, acknowledges that that it is inside of a video game. Musical selections in-game, which include both new versions of classic songs from the franchise and new compositions, are wonderful, and properly convey the laid-back and carefree atmosphere of the game.
So is Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts worth playing? Fans of the original series may find the game a bit of a disappointment, but it is still interesting and fun on its own merits. The game’s combination of snarky, self-aware writing, impressive vehicle customization, and vivid environments create an experience that Xbox 360 owners (and possibly Lego enthusiasts) will not be dissatisfied with.