Previews

Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts

Hands-On: First 30 minutes test-driven

Banjo's approaching the two month point now until its November 14 release, and it shows - because this is the first time we've been able to get our hands on what looks like near-final code of the bear and bird's 360 outing.

Picking up the pad during our recent trip to Microsoft's UK HQ, we're dropped straight into Spiral Mountain nostalgia heaven via a gorgeous recreation of the old N64 home world in Nuts & Bolts' intro.

It's exactly how we remember (apart from the individual blades of grass and bump mapping, we suppose) and it's immediately going to take at least two PR blokes to pull as away from the machine. We're still don't understand why certain Banjo fans are upping their noses at this.

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Things have changed in the eight years since Banjo-Tooie on N64. Well, our two plump heroes have anyway, because instead of adventuring across deserts and snow worlds, the bear and bird have stuck themselves in front of Xbox Live and snacked on pizza. A bit like us since collage, really.

As Kazooie says, 'Why bother? There's no evil witch to fight off now'. Then, naturally, immediately after she snaps her beak a pointy skeleton head emerges from the rubble, and the fight's on...

The basic set-up for Nuts is pretty similar to the last two games. Videogame overlord L.O.G. turns up at the last second to settle Banjo and Grunty's feud once and for all, which basically involve magicing them back into their former shape and sending them into his virtual videogame world for Jiggies.

Like Grunty's Lair, hub world Showdown town links to all the 'game' worlds in Nuts & Bolts. It looks terrific; Rare's colourful technical expertise is at work right in front of eyes, with tons of characters trotting around town and draw distance that seems to go on forever.

In one corner of town Mumbo and his new garage (and matching overalls) beckon us inside to put together our first vehicle. It's our first go at Banjo's motor construction which is surprisingly simple to figure out.

Using holographic blueprint parts we start to shape our first motor - which is basically a big shopping trolley on wheels.

It's all pretty easy to figure out; connect the wheels to the base, stick a seat on it, then an engine, fuel and we're done. Miss any of those and it simply won't work; a big yellow cross will indicate that you've left an essential something on the garage floor.

The presentation of the menus, as you expect from Rare, is excellent. The boot-up menu screen is the most pleasing, dotted with the typical busy collection of things-with-eyes you'd expect from the UK developer. In-jokes everywhere.

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A bunch of Xbox 360s are slumped on a shelf, signifying multiplayer, while fat old Banjo himself guides the way to the single-player game.

With our newly created Trolley-mobile on the ground in Showdown Town (this is the main vehicle for the hub world - you won't be using anything else) we're off in search of some of those golden jigsaw pieces.

As we mentioned in our previous hands-on running around on foot feels far more sluggish in Nuts & Bolts' gigantic environments, making vehicles almost essential for traversing between platform playgrounds.

Manoeuvring your creation isn't difficult to grasp; right trigger accelerates, left trigger breaks and reverses, and the face buttons are allocated to all the springs, rockets and other crazy gubbins you've wielded onto your hull. Controlling your creation feels completely natural - until you start sticking rockets on it at least.

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