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Banjo Kazooie: Building cars in an annoying world

I never had a chance to play through Banjo Kazooie or Banjo Tooie back during the hey day of the Nintendo 64, what with how I didn’t actually have a Nintendo 64.  Still, there was something appealing about the series, of the anthropomorphic bear and bird who single (double?) handedly stopped the schemes of an evil witch and saved their home from, I dunno, witchcraft.  It was created by Rare, who had a lot of tout back in those days for their Donkey Kong Country treatment, which was awesome.  I think the thing that was the most appealing about the series, to me, was that they were touted as having a “great sense of humor” and just one of those games that really went above and beyond to make the entire experience a fun, hilarious romp through the action game genre.

Now that I’ve played Banjo Kazooie:  Nuts and Bolts, I’m glad I missed out on the series the first time around.

Okay, so I’m a bit sketchy on the actual plot of the first two games, but the game starts off with a storybook style introduction that gives you the basic run down.  Banjo, well, he’s this large, anthropomorphic bear who wears a back pack that contains his best friend, a sassy anthropomorphic bird-lady-thing named Kazooie.  The two worked together to defeat the witch Gruntilda, otherwise known as Grunty, who wanted Banjo’s homeland.  As these things go, the bear and bird soundly trounced Grunty, and all was well.

The game has a very industrial feel to it. You are in a computer's head, after all.

Then 20 years passed and Banjo and Kazooie got fat by eating junk food and watching TV.  When Grunty makes a surprise (not really) return as a severed head, well Banjo and Kazooie aren’t in much shape to be doing much about it.  Their EPIC CONFLICT is interrupted by the Lord Of Games, a robot dude who claims to have made every game ever.  He proposes that Banjo and Kazooie face off against Grunty in one final, epic showdown IN HIS COMPUTER HEAD TOWN.

So, yeah, you do some of that.  He gives you some vehicles, tells you that straight up platforming is straight out, and into Showdown Town you go in a mad dash for vehicle crates, parts, musical notes, and jiggies.  Jiggies are earned from completing vehicle challenges in each of the game worlds, which in turn open up new game worlds.  Think stars from Mario 64.  Or for that matter, any Mario game that has come out since Mario 64.

There's a surprising amount of variety to the vehicles you can make.

First, the good things about this game:  Banjo Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts was made with vehicles in mind.  Virtually any vehicle you could ever think you’ll need you can have, and the challenges are set up in a way that will keep you experimenting with vehicle parts and tactics.  Do you need to transport an item to the top of a tower?  Is the only path on that tower an irritatingly narrow twisting pathway?  You could probably lower the center of gravity on your transport cart to get the job done.  Or, because that still sounds awful, you could just build a transport helicopter and bypass that crap entirely.  Do you need an amphibious race car for your next vehicle?  Make a hovercraft.  Do you need the dopiest flying machine ever?  Make yourself a hot air balloon.

You get the point.  You get to build it, test it, tweak it, and then use it to obtain more jiggies.  The combinations seem endless, though I’m sure a mathematician with too much time on their hands can suck the fun right out of that statement.  Still, you’ll end up with some interesting creations.  I have a sumo vehicle designed to push things out of a circle, complete with a boot on the front of it to punt that sucker across the map.  I call it Das Boot.

Now on to the negative.  The rest of the game is insufferably bad.

We’ll start at the beginning.  Showdown Town is packed with other anthropomorphic animals, which isn’t really a problem because the only vehicle you can use there is a shopping trolley kind of deal, which doesn’t really irritate me.  They have a flee-from-the-cops system in place, but you don’t really see it happen a lot.  Instead you’ll just run into rhino men.  A lot.  And they all spout hurt phrases at you about how they have feelings too.  Every time.

I HATE THEM SO MUCH. ALL OF THEM.

Second awful part.  I hate every single character.  With a passion.  From Mumbo, who has some kind of tiki idol from his head and insults Banjo a lot to Bottles the mole (Ha!   Get it?!  Because moles can’t see!  Hilarious, right?), there’s not a single one of those jerks I like.  There’s also an extremely fit aardvark named Mr. Fit (grooooan) and an overly competitive tiger named Trophy Thomas.  I hate Trophy Thomas the most.  My god, I hate Trophy Thomas.

Granted, I’m not too fond of anthropomorphic animals these days anyway, but at least these ones wear pants.  Still this game raises an interesting question.  I always assumed Kazooie was in Banjo’s backpack because of convenience when traveling and platforming.  When we see her at the beginning of the game, she’s so fat she can’t get out of the backpack at all.  This means Banjo is Kazooie’s pants. I’ll give you a moment to let this sink in.

Even Grunty is awful.  She spends most of the game standing in Showdown Town, yelling at you.  In rhyme.  This is probably the worst thing you can do when creating a character, unless you can actually pull it off in a way that doesn’t make everyone want to stab something.  Nuts and Bolts cannot.

This leads me into the next awful part of this game.  The dialogue.  What was once hailed as an example among examples in witty dialogue banter came across so incredibly cheesy in this game, I stopped reading it altogether.  From the awful puns to the mean-spirited barbs that don’t really seem to come across as mean-spirited or even coherent, the entire game is just one giant groan inducing moment after another.  I can’t believe I actually considered downloading Banjo Kazooie on Xbox Live.  I feel so dirty.

Arrrrgh Mumbo is gross, this joke is gross

Oh, and then there are the challenges where they force you to use a pre-made, game created vehicle.  These vehicles seldom handle like anything anyone would ever want to drive, and by the end of the challenge you can feel your teeth grating in the back of your head after restarting the race, or whatever crap they want you to do, fifteen times.  When the games major redeeming quality is creating your own vehicles, I don’t want to slog through 20 challenges, unable to tweak my ride so it can actually get the job done.  That’s just irritating.

Don’t even get me started on the mandatory giraffe car race.

Add into the mix some virtually useless upgrades that make banjo faster and able to hit harder, and you’ve essentially got your game.  I’m told there’s a pretty big multiplayer following for this game, since you can actually use the vehicles you’ve made in races and whatnot, but I have a hard enough time liking the in-game characters without introducing the sketchy underbelly of the internet into the mix.

Pick up Banjo Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts if building cars and planes and motorbikes and hot air balloons is your thing, but otherwise it’s probably a safe bet to just leave this 20-year-old legacy in the gutter where Rare was apparently keeping it fresh all this time.

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2 Responses

  1. The building vehicles part sounds kinda rad, but this is one game I can guarantee will never see the inside of my 360.

    • I must say it is good to see such a man of discretion in this age of video game promiscuity. lols. More on topic, I started playing Banjo a while back and I can agree that it is not something I would spend money on. Right along with Viva Pinata and the like.

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