When I first got my N64 many moons ago as a Christmas present, one of the first games I bought was Banjo Kazooie. In fact, the majority of the first N64 games I bought were made by Rare (Perfect Dark, Banjo and Goldeneye). They had this charm about them, little features that just made them stand out from the bunch especially Banjo. It had this humour to it that made it so charming to play. I never got around to buying Banjo Tooie so, until now, I have never played the sequel to one of my favourite N64 games.
There is very little difference between Banjo Kazooie and Tooie. This would be a good thing for those that waited 2 years between the N64 release of Kazooie and the release of it’s sequel. However, for many who have only played Kazooie on XBLA these few months between are not long enough to warrant a purchase of exactly the same game you played a few months back. It has, however, been a good few years since I last played Kazooie so this does not effect me so much.
Banjo Tooie is set a few years after the events of the first game. Gruntilda has been defeated and the bear & bird duo are living a peaceful life in their peaceful house. That is until Grunty’s sisters come to attempt to resurrect her (or at least her skeleton) from the dead. Destroying Banjo’s house in the process the sisters with Grunty in tow head back to their tower in order to power a death ray which will eventually restore Grunty’s powers.
It’s the standard quirky Rare affair. Funny dialogue, weird enemies and, annoyingly for some, an extremely long intro cutscene which is unskippable. You see, kids, this is how games used to be! Unfortunately, like a model, time has not been kind to Tooie. Wrinkles and cracks are definitely starting to show. One of these is the terrible camera. Moving the camera left to right if as normal, but when you move the thumbstick up and down you expect the camera to go up and down. It doesn’t. It zooms in and out on Banjo. This is something that could have been fixed but a straight port, which is essentially what this is, is so much easier to do and can be released quicker than if tweaks were made.
One tweak made is the upgrade to HD. This is also very unkind to Banjo’s blocky graphics and just seems to worsen the classic look that Banjo always held. But then again, these criticisms are sort of like criticising an old wine because there is dust on the bottle. These things are inevitably going to happen with time but what is underneath is still as fun as it ever was.
The Banjo series has always been the closest to recreating the fun platforming found in Mario 64. Other games such as Gex or Croc attempted to get there but they failed to hit interesting locale, funny dialogue and great gameplay factors that Banjo held. The need to collect all of the Jiggys and musical notes alongside the Cheato pages will mean you will be coming back to play.
There is a heck of a lot here, some may argue too much, but the underlying factor is that it’s just Banjo Kazooie 1.5. Not that that’s a bad thing though as Banjo Kazooie was a fantastic game, there just doesn’t seem to be much different here to before apart from great dialogue, some new interesting locations to explore and the ability to control a few of Banjo’s friends to perform certain tasks.
If you enjoyed Banjo Kazooie, Banjo Tooie is definitely something you need to buy despite the price point, but don’t expect anything much different. if you’re looking for a great platforming experience, you’re best off starting with Banjo Kazooie and, if that catches you, I recommend you do move onto Tooie despite how much I seem to have hated on. Time definitely has not been kind to Banjo Tooie, but it is still as fun as it ever was.