I am seriously terrible at creating stuff. I have the creativity of a zombie. Give me a pad of paper and some crayons, I’d probably just scribble on it rather than doing any meaningful art (Ed – I thought that was meaningful art?). Games such as Spore make me seem a tiny bit creative because even if I just stretch the creatures limbs out, add eyes everywhere and maybe a mouth it still looks like a creature you may find on another planet. That’s why, when I picked up Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts, I fell into a babbling mess of failed creativity. However, after playing around with it for a couple of hours I got to grips with how easy it was to make things and improve upon them.
Banjo-Kazooie is a long running series created by Rare, which features a loveable bear named Banjo and a cynical bird by the name of Kazooie who lives in Banjo’s backpack. The series originated on the N64 and grew to be one of my favourite series’ of all time just because of how quirky the characters were and how original each iteration seemed. Featuring crazy levels that spanned from the inside of a fish to a pirate coast it was so much more than any other platformer around at the time. Using Rare’s famous British wit, it became a truly memorable game. And Nuts & Bolts is no different.
Nuts & Bolts is set eight years after Banjo Tooie. Banjo and Gruntilda are still battling it out to gain supremacy over Spiral Mountain. A new character to the series, Lord of Games (or L.O.G for short) becomes tired of the battling and decides to settle things once and for all by bringing both Banjo and Gruntilda to Showdown Town, his headquarters. Here, L.O.G has devised a set of games and challenges for the two to compete in to see who is the true owner of Spiral Mountain.
We played through a few challenges in the first area, Banjoland, each comprising of different tasks. The first of which we discovered was a bog standard race in what appeared to be a camel shaped vehicle with floats and propellers to allow it to sail over water. The second challenge asked us to protect a mechanical creature’s eyes from being stolen by Gruntilda’s evil robots. Each challenge has 3 different possible prizes. The first and easiest to get are the notes, which are scattered around the world anyway. The second are the Jiggys, golden jigsaw pieces which are needed to unlock new areas in Showdown Town and thirdly you have the coveted TT Trophy. You aren’t going to get the TT Trophy the first time, but here’s where the fun of the game lies.
To improve your score or time in a challenge you will need to have a vehicle suited to the task. For instance, to attack enemies you’ll need to have some form on weapon on your vehicle or to gain more speed you could add an extra engine. I created myself, what I thought, was a nippy little vehicle that went pretty fast. When it came to doing a time trial race around the level, I didn’t do so well because I found out my extra engine I added was scraping on the floor, slowing me down. So, I quit the race, went back to the garage (which was easily accessible through the pause menu) and moved the new engine onto the back on the vehicle and I sped through the challenge at considerable speed.
The amount of customisation available in the game is huge. Maybe not to the extent of Spore, where you could create whole cities and species pretty easily, but there’s a fair bit to do. I hopped into the game and using one of the blueprints I had already found, I stuck a propeller on top and some floats on the side to stop me from sinking if I hit water. I then spent the next 20 minutes flying around the level. I wasn’t going very fast with only the one propeller so in that 20 minutes, I probably did 2 laps of the level, but the fact I was able to take an ordinary land vehicle, stick a propeller on the top and fly around pretty easily was amazing in itself.
The amount of parts you can use is, of course, limited so not many options are open to you from the start. You need to find Mumbo crates scattered throughout the world which contain a number of different parts, then bring them back to Mumbo’s garage so you can add them to your vehicle. The blueprints vehicles are great for people who just want to fiddle around and get to grips with the vehicle creation system, with more blueprints unlocked as challenges are completed, but in no time at all I found myself starting from scratch and creating one of the most hideous vehicles that has ever seen the light of day. The addition of a propeller on the back of my vehicle at the left hand side caused my vehicle to just go round and round in circles. It’s a good thing I’m not an engineer really.
The main hub of the game, Showdown Town, oozes Rare. Rare have a sort of charm similar to Pixar. They have the humour and they have the colourful, bright worlds in which the characters inhabit. Showdown Town is no different. There are talking rhinos walking around, amongst other funny looking animals. If you happen to drive into them, they get pretty mad at you, generally saying some laugh out loud funny lines in retaliation. Throughout the other game worlds, there are characters that veterans to the Banjo-Kazooie series may recognise. Bottles, the loveable mole, and Klungo, one of Gruntilda’s ex-grunts all make an appearance throughout the game.
I also got to check out some of the online modes, which are similar to the challenges in the single player game, but with your friends online. You can use a pre-set vehicle or one of your own to battle it out on the couch or over Live. They are great fun, especially showing off your custom made vehicles by kicking butt online and it really has potential to be more than just a tacked-on extra.
Overall, my first impressions of Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts are good. I didn’t expect much from the title when I heard it would be part platformer, part racing, but Rare really have pulled off the blend well to make a fun title. The vehicle creation is also a lot deeper than I had expected when picking it up for the first time. I have a feeling this game could be another Viva Pinata. No-one really pays any attention to it until it’s released and then becomes a huge sleeper hit. Check back for our review when the game is released next month.