Thursday, 28 July 2011

Banjo Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts

I really don’t think you can make a platformer anymore. I mean the market for this is so saturated you would never make a dime and critically trying to outdo Mario is insanity. That is why when Rare, the super talented guys who specialise in making family games for the 360, created the next entry in the much loved Banjo Kazooie series they changed genre. At surface level they made a kart racing game, which isn’t much better, but the genius, wit, creativity and overall quality makes for one of the best games ever period.
The game focus on driving weird and wonderful contraptions to complete specific tasks, so you’ll vary between racing, collecting, transporting, minigames (actually fun minigames) and much more. The tasks vary greatly and often and the game in reality is more of an open ended puzzler. There are blueprints to help you but for the top medals you will almost always have to build or tweak something to great the prime results. Cleverly new bits and pieces are unlocked gradually so you’ll have to play with limitations. Basically, off the bat you can’t just put ten jet engines onto something and brains will always beat brawn or skill. If you get stuck though you can watch someone else’s attempt or even download there vehicle, meaning the game doesn’t ever get frustrating.
There’s a madcap logic; as long as it has wheels, an engine and fuel it’ll run. You can further add crazy guns (heat seeking easter egg cannons anyone?) or wings or springs or fuzzy dice. The system really works and somebody out there is a genius for making it all fit onto a gamepad so well.
The first thing to love about this game is the humour. It utterly shatters the fourth wall, making gleeful, silly jabs at the game industry. You’re on a quest to collect as many pointless items in order to reach the end of the game. That’s it. Along the way you’ll find clever ironic worlds, cut scenes that lampoon everything from 1970’s soccer coaches to soaps to Dr. Who and the dialogue is far wittier than anything necessary in a “Kids” game. As an example “Humba Wumba” is kinda Banjo’s love interest but reinvents herself each level from supressed housewife to tom-boyish pit girl to space conservationist. Basically imagine if Princess Peach was a smoking hot cock-teaser and the game revels in a very British wink and a nudge sexual tension here.
Top to bottom this game has a seriously high level of polish. Unlike kids games the controls are as tight as any racing game, the difficulty is spot on, the graphics are superb and artistically this game excels. Each level has a distinct style and the gameplay shakes up constantly to reflect this. Heck, it even has a nigh on perfect achievement list encouraging you to get the most out of the game and solve even more mad cap puzzles.
The only complaint I might make is no kid could ever stand a chance on this game as you need some degree of intelligence to make any ground. The game isn’t hard, atleast mostly not, but someone under 12 is going to have real problems playing.
As far as I can tell this game absolutely bombed, which is a shame because this was a truly unique and very high quality product on a console starved of innovation. I recommend this game to absolutely anyone and it deserves to sell atleast a million more. This isn’t a rental as the game has a good 40-50 hours of gameplay, it was a budget title when it was released so you can pick this one up for as little as £8.

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