Xbox 360 Review: Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts

Banjo and Kazooie return in this fun, yet odd sequel

I remember the original Banjo on the N64. I considered it to be the greatest platformer ever, even surpassing Mario 64 at the time. I enjoyed it so much that I completed it over 10 times just for the board game section at the end. Playing it on XBLA brought back all those great memories and finally put the Stop n Swop items to some use for Nuts and Bolts.

Nuts and Bolts takes place several years after Banjo-Tooie. Banjo and Kazooie have become really fat and lazy until Grunty’s head finally arrives back at Spiral Mountain. Just as they are about to fight, a mysterious figure turns up who freezes the game. The figure is L.O.G. (Lord of Games) who has decided to settle their feud once and for all in a dramatic showdown and warps them off to Showdown Town, the main hub for the game.

Nuts and Bolts doesn’t follow the traditional Banjo formula of being a platformer. Instead they have more or less removed that and added in vehicles that go on land, sea and air. The good part is that you can design them yourself with parts you find hidden around Showdown Town or buy blueprints and more parts from Humba. Fans like me were dismayed by this change and thought Rare had lost it, were we right?

Challenges for Jiggies are fairly simple and they do tend to repeat themselves through the few levels that the game has. While there’s only a handful of worlds this time, they are very large and have plenty of challenges for you to do. These challenges can include races, protection missions and finally, fetching quests. While the missions are different, they all follow one of those game types. Like I said, you can design your own vehicles, but not for all challenges…in some cases you are stuck with an awful vehicle that you need to get to grips with to win the Jiggy.

Despite the level of customisation for vehicles, they do tend to handle poorly when compared to other driving games. Tutorials for building vehicles can be complex and may scare of the younger gamers, so it’s hard to tell who Rare are aiming Nuts and Bolts at. If there’s one plus to be had, it’s that the script for the game stays true to the classic humour of the previous games and had me chuckling. I like how they can make fun of their own games, even having a laugh at how long Banjo has been away from us gamers. Although we would have preferred a real Banjo game instead of the gags.

Levels are well designed and one is even a homage to the Banjo games. It’s great to see all familiar parts of them in next-gen visuals, especially the first time you see Spiral Mountain…in the opening you actually see an N64 laying outside Banjo’s house but as you begin to control him it vanishes. I guess Microsoft didn’t want videos on YouTube of people destroying the N64.

Besides the challenges, there’s little platforming involved apart from hunting down notes and parts in Showdown Town. There’s an arcade game on the pier which stars Klungo, but after Level 3 it does tend to crash a few times…so it can be frustrating. There’s also Jingo Bingo with King Jingaling, essentially you get tokens from Jinjos in the levels for completing tasks like hurling one so far or knocking one out of the ring in a sumo-like battle, then you can go to King Jingaling and place the tokens on a Bingo card. Once you fill a line, you get the prize it says.

Load times for Nuts and Bolts can be quite long, even if you install the game to your HDD. Framerate problems rarely occur but sometimes the game can briefly freeze for a second, although it’s only happened a few times to me. Banjo and Kazooie look different to their N64 counterparts, Banjo has a square nose and Kazooie has had her wings clipped. Fans may be annoyed at that, but the game has a good sense of humour to point out that fans will be disappointed by their looks.

Nuts and Bolts looks amazing. Showdown Town feels like a real town with residents who roam across the whole place. Even though the gameplay may be repetitive by nature, the game has some great visuals. Voice-acting is reduced to the standard noises from the Banjo games…which is great for fans, not so much for newcomers. I’m personally glad they didn’t add voice-acting as it could have been a disaster.

The game also has multiplayer which spruces things up a bit but won’t exactly impress fans. I didn’t enjoy it nearly as much as I wanted to because of vehicle handling, it almost ruins the game for me but being a Banjo fan…I must accept it.

The Verdict

Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts changes the formula of the originals to the point where its unrecognisable as a Banjo game. It retains the classic humour of the franchise and has some fun moments, but fans will be disappointed.