The newest installment to the beloved Banjo-Kazooie series finally arrives on the 360. Rare and Microsoft also teamed up to release the original Banjo on the Xbox Live Arcade for nostalgia as well and if you preordered the new game you got the Arcade game for free. Anyhow, this review is all about Rare's newest Banjo iteration 'Nuts & Bolts'. So lets get right to it.
Rare has kept the same humor and many of the characters you have come to know and love an incorporated them into the new game. Right off the bat you'll notice the whole Banjo world has been modernized and brought up to next generation specs. The characters even have upgrades in their appearances as well and they are very representative of their previous counterparts. What's funny is the comedic relief you will find throughout the game that refers to the graphical upgrades such as Banjo having a much more square nose than previously remembered by in game characters.
The graphics are colorful and quite detailed, yet simple and fun enough to entice any age player into the world and have lots of fun building all sorts of contraptions. The only downside to the game at times would be the camera angle which can tend to get you turned around in the wrong direction or get locked into a wall of a building when facing the opposite way. Overall though, all aspects of the game are a visual pleasure that will enhance your enjoyment of the game.
When discussing the sound of the game, once again everything is done quite well while left fairly simple. One glaring thing that tends to limit the age group of this game to a higher age is the fact that all character dialog must be read. There is no voice over at all throughout the game, and this becomes even more of a factor when it pertains to following the single player campaign storyline. Even for an adult at times the text dialog appears and disappears quicker than you can read it. Maybe I am a slow reader or something, but there was a few times I was not able to finish reading the dialog displayed on screen before it went to the next line of character dialog. So its not only a problem that the game scrolls through the dialog quickly, but the fact that some of the age groups that may want to play this game and understand whats happening may not be able to do so because they may not be able to read or read well as of yet. As for everything else in the game when it comes to sounds, the game delivers pretty much exactly what you would expect from a Banjo game. Each storymode level has its own unique set of sounds that seem to fit quite nicely with the theme.
Finally before discussing specific aspects of the game I'd like to touch on the controls a little. For the most part, controls are very basic and should be pick up and play for most. At times the vehicle control can be a little sketchy but its mainly due to camera issues more than anything. As with any 3D platformer there will be times that you'll miss jumps and what not due to poor depth perception portrayed in the game, but its really not a huge issue at all. Just frustrating when you have to climb all the way back up to where you were and try again. The vehicle editor is done fairly well and is presented in an easy to use format that is simple to control and build you own creations This is probably one of the most fun things in the game so its good that the controls are set up well. Other than these things though, the game plays as you would expect for the most part.
So lets get to the core gameplay. You have been transported along with many familiar faces in past Banjo games to a cyber world if you will that is created by a character named L.O.G. He has set up many gaming arenas in his virtual world in which you'll have to build vehicles, complete mini games and collect many musical notes in order to obtain puzzle pieces. These puzzle pieces unlock new areas for you to explore in the game when you deposit them into a central puzzle bank. Each puzzle piece is obtained by completing a task given by a game character in each of the worlds and its sublevels. Most levels have 3 puzzle pieces to acquire. As you obtain a certain amount of puzzle pieces you will be informed that a new world has been unlocked for you to explore. You'll also collect music notes which tend to act as the in game currency. These music notes will allow you to buy things such as character upgrades in strength, speed as well as have the ability to purchase new vehicle upgrades.
Kazooie carries a special wrench that was given to you by L.O.G. In the beginning sequence of the game. This wrench is used to summon your vehicle to your location on the map at anytime as well as used to lift and carry objects such as puzzle pieces or enemies. The camera angle and the mechanics of the lifting process for the wrench can get a little frustrating at times. Eh, maybe a lot frustrating at times. I found myself several times trying to put an item into my vehicle loading tray only to either miss completely or end up grabbing the vehicle itself. After some practice and getting used to the wand you'll handle it a lot better, but it still has come issues that can make gameplay a bit frustrating.
As you collect puzzle pieces and deposit them in the bank, you are granted access into new worlds which will have greater and more difficult tasks for you to perform. Each of these tasks sometimes require a special type of vehicle whether it be land , air or water based. Collecting music notes will allow you to buy part upgrades and new blueprints for vehicles. You'll enter into Mongo's workshop to build your vehicle creations from a blueprint or you can even venture off into your own ideas and create your own masterpieces. This is probably the most rewarding part of the game. As I stated earlier the whole building system is easily understood and controlled. You'll see how much power, ammo, speed and what not is achieved by a special meter that appears when viewing a certain part. This meter also shows your overall vehicle performance in the areas mentioned. Build yourself a flying machine with plenty of weaponry, or maybe you just want to build one for speed. As I stated, some puzzle piece tasks require you to have a certain vehicle. So be sure to buy all the blueprints you can or create your own blueprints as you proceed through the game.
There is plenty to do in the single player campaign and it should keep you busy for quite a few hours just collecting and unlocking new worlds. I rather enjoyed playing the single player but will admit that quite a few of the challenges set forth for you to obtain puzzle pieces can be rather frustrating. Most of the puzzles you have to figure out are not overly difficult which makes this a game for all ages. But younger folks may need a helping hand from time to time.
One very cool aspect of the whole build your own machine concept and the blueprints is the fact that you can trade these blueprints online with your friends. Thats right, you'll be able to send and receive custom blueprints for user created vehicles via Xbox Live. Speaking of Xbox Live, not only can you trade blueprints online and save them to your vehicle database, but you can also play multiplayer online as well. There are ranked and player matches that you can compete in as well as an option call a League Match which is a series of connected matches. The league allows you to jump quickly into all the events or you can specify the specific events you would like to participate in against other online in a custom league. You'll also be able to rewind time online to correct things such as driving off a cliff in a race. Now only you will be in the rewind mode and other online players will continue as usual while you are rewinding your mistake and picking up back in the action once you have corrected your mistake. So yes, you lose valuable time for rewinding but it can also help you more than trying to fix your mistake by driving back to the track but having to take a different route.
Overall, Nuts and Bolts is a fairly fun platformer that most folks should enjoy. Diehard Banjo fans may find somethings a bit disappointing as the whole game has been pretty much taken in a new direction but its definitely a fresh direction and I look forward to future variations of the series. You'll be frustrated at times, but you'll have more fun than frustration in the end. If you like collecting things than this game is definitely for you as there is plenty of collecting to do. If you like mini games than this game is for you as well since there is a huge variety of games such as old school arcade games to bingo to racing head to head. One should find many hours of enjoyment and at the reduced price of $40 new upon release you really can't go wrong on this one.
Suggestions: I found myself getting very frustrated with the camera at times as well as the carrying of objects and them getting stuck or just not going where I directed them to. I also had a few instances where I could not get something out of the water such as a globe when I dropped it off of highest point of the main town map. Eventually I was able to get the camera right and grab the globe, but it took me a good half an hour before doing so. Please look into possibly adjusting the camera or targeting system a little better. Other than that I would love to see some new level downloads or possibly maybe some downloadable vehicle databases.