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Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts

Not a platformer, but nearly the nuts

It feels wrong echoing the knee-jerk forum comments of Nuts & Bolts' first moments. Remember that leaked concept art that caused the 'it's a racing game!' pandemonium on the message boards? But new Banjo is not a platformer. Know that from the start.

In the hub world, Showdown Town, you'll swim, climb some ladders and drag stuff around with your magic wrench, but that's about it. There's an almost complete lack of skilful, platform jumping sections, which erm, pretty much defined the previous two games in the series on N64 (and soon to be XBLA).

But while this Banjo is indeed a very different bear, what it does, it does very well, and the immense level of fan service cannot be faulted. Nods to the two N64 platformers can be found in every artistically joyous level of Nuts & Bolts (especially the N64 love-fest that is Banjo Land), while even more vague references to the likes of the series' racing origins (Banjo remembers one race "with a genie and a giant pig") are dropped with abandon.

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These are some of the most loved characters in gaming, and Rare does a good job of keeping our affection. But then again, wouldn't Tekken fans be disappointed if Namco turned it into an RPG?

The premise is this; after eight years of retirement (the time since Tooie's release on N64) Banjo and his bird companion are feeling the brunt of a life spent munching pizza and sitting in front of an Xbox (we look forward to experiencing this ourselves in later life).

Banjo's put on a few pounds and Kazooie's in no shape to pull off her energetic moves from the game's past.

The witch Grunty - now justly a boney head after Tooie's conclusion - has resurfaced from her gravely grave and is up for another fight, but with a flash the mysterious LOG, who claims to have created every videogame ever ("even ones that didn't sell well like Ghoulies?" asks Kazooie) steps in to play referee.

The new adventure takes place almost entirely inside LOG's virtual world, navigated via the Showdown Town hub. The massive town (bigger than anything in previous Banjos) houses six game worlds, each accessed via the traditional method of doors with big numbers on the front. You open doors with Jiggies collected in various world challenges. The more Jiggies you have, the more worlds you open. Simple.

The six main worlds, each split up into several 'acts', as you'd expect from Rare are stunning, spewing out visual effects that rival the very best looking games of this generation. The sheer scale of some of the worlds is dazzling, taking nods to Crackdown's epic heights at some points.

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But, pretty as they are, they're built for vehicle construction and it's the core mechanic of Nuts & Bolts. In Mumbo's garage you build your vehicle piece by piece. You're left to the laws of physics and aerodynamics to create whatever you wish. It can seem a bit daunting at first - especially after an overly-complicated barrage of tutorials - but quickly the Lego-like simplicity of snapping daft blocks and wheels together becomes clear and creating vehicles is a breeze.

There are a few rules, obviously; to drive it must have an engine, fuel and a seat, but that's about it. You can stick balloons on the bottom to make a hovercraft, propellers to shape a make-shift chopper or, for the ultimate in functionality, a big Tesco trolley will do, which is basically what you get in Showdown Town.

Manoeuvring your creation isn't difficult either; right trigger accelerates, left trigger breaks and reverses. The face buttons are allocated to all the springs, rockets and other crazy gubbins you've wielded onto your hull.

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