Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts

by Wencke Schuncken
author awarded score: 80/100

Banjo-Kazooie Nuts & Bolts Review
Developer: Rare
Publisher: Microsoft
Format Reviewed: Xbox360
Reviewed by: Wencke Schuncken

Even if you haven't played a Banjo-Kazooie game in the past, I'm sure that this bear and bird aren't total strangers, as they already made fame in four action and platform games in the past. But that was on Nintendo consoles (N64 / GBA) and now it's time for an Xbox360 exclusive; Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts

For those who are new to the Banjo-Kazooie franchise, let me introduce a bear named Banjo and a breegull bird named Kazooie who is Banjo's best friend. Together they go off on numerous adventures to try and stop the evil plans of the witch Gruntilda (aka Grunty). In Nuts & Bolts, Banjo and Gruntilda are going to compete to determine who the true owner of Spiral Mountain is. Banjo truly wants to preserve his home while Gruntilda hatches an urban development scheme to replace the vegetated area with towers and malls. This conflict can be solved by the Lord Of Games (L.O.G.), a strange character dressed with a"royal highness" cape and a TV on his shoulders which includes expressions from the Pong game. He attempts to settle the conflict between the two by devising a series of worlds and challenges. The winner would be set to own Spiral Mountain while the loser must endure eternal hardship at L.O.G.'s video game factory (and remember, work is work, no matter in a game factory or any other production factory). While Banjo and Kazooie seek to win by completing the challenges, Grunty uses her power and abilities to try and stop the duo in any way she can, and she isn't alone. Besides her mean pink cat Piddles, she also has an army of mechanical Gruntbots to assist her in achieving her goal. Who's going to win?

The gameplay is about helping out and doing all kinds of activities for varied characters in six different Game Worlds. Each of these worlds consists of fifteen different challenges, and the goal of each challenge is to collect jiggies (jigsaw puzzle shaped tokens) to unlock the previous mentioned Game Worlds. Logical result; the more jiggies, the more games/ challenges you can compete in. So what kind of challenges needs to be dealt with? Well, let's give some examples:
What about picking up some IT programmer slaves to bring them to the safe area behind a firewall? Or searching for a lost buddy and returning him back to his worried friend. Another example is to bring an antenna at the height of 100 meters to re-establish a connection, and I can go on and on but fact is that the challenges become more and more complicated if you don't take care of your transportation method.

Without fit transportation, it will become impossible to keep on earning jiggies. That's a fact, but thank goodness Mumbo's Motors Garage gives you the change to pimp your car in a proper way! “All” you need is to get some fine blueprints, either by producing your own custom-build vehicle and saving it on file or buying it from Miss Humba Wumba to gain access to custom pre-designed vehicles. But vehicle parts are needed to actually build and customize the vehicle! Parts can be retrieved by distributing Mumbo's crates the garage or increase sales for Humba by purchasing parts from her and for our bingo girls out there ... there's the possibility to win parts in the Jinjo Bingo! To make a connection between a vehicle part and a challenge, let's bring back the challenge example mentioned previously about returning those IT programmer slaves behind the firewall. That can only be achieved when you have some passenger seats installed on your vehicle, how else can you otherwise give a them a ride to the safe spot? Therefore it's essential to assemble a fit vehicle to win a challenge!

Any nuts (and bolts) online activity via Xbox Live? Sure why not! It's possible to play co-op and to participate in mulitplayer races and challenges, and there's more! It's also possible to exchange replay videos and vehicle blueprints (“can I have the blueprint of that high speed vehicle you just won all races with?”) with other gamers. So if you want to extend the overal Nuts & Bolts gameplay, it's recommended to check out those online races.

The gameworlds are graphically varied from eachother, well it's hard to compare a mechical world with a sort of Viva Pinata nature styled world. One thing they all have in common is that each world looks great and it's fun to explore. As a Dallas tv soap serie fan (yes, back in the days), I couldn't believe my eyes, seeing the Dallas intro on screen starring Banjo Kazooie Nuts & Bolts characters. Each world has its own opening sequences, which parody classic TV shows. Very amusing! Further on there are little graphical funny aspects such as splashing water on screen and references to earlier Banjo games and Xbox games with spinning Mr Pants and Grabbed by the Ghoulies cd's (just to name a few).

From a female point of view, the most important female character presented is the co-leading Kazooie. She's a wisecracking breegull who has lost her gift of flight but gained the fabulously powerful wrench Lord Of Games gave her. She also retains her feathers, beak, wings, and other general bird-like properties. She's a great help and without her, Banjo would have a serious problem, especially with Gruntilda and her pink mean cat Piddles, who's back to cause havoc, wreak havoc, and cause reek. Grunty holds a serious grudge, and she will stop at nothing to defeat Banjo. Besides these two main female characters, Humba Wumba joins the party by selling parts and blueprints in a lucrative shop. Compared to the other (fe)male characters she's the most humanlike looking one with a kind of mixed indian / cowboy look.

Banjo Kazooie Nuts and Bolts turns out to be a very enjoyable game and they said farewell to the typical platform gameplay formula. It gave me the feeling to have some kind of freedom to explore levels whether in a challenge or not. Some missions could be solved in several ways, and sometimes it was simply necessary to build a certain vehicle. The designing and building is a great fun factor in the game, not only to win challenges but also to be creative. And with so many different parts, creativity should be spelled with a capital C. Not that this refers to a US rating as I really enjoyed playing Banjo Kazooie. Biggest plus not mentioned yet is their humor, about themselves and others, plus the strange refering to games from the past and future. Rare, what fun games are you working on?