Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts Xbox 360
Published by: Microsoft Game Studios
Developed by: Rare
Two of the more memorable games on the Nintendo 64 were Banjo-Kazooie and its sequel Banjo-Tooie. They were fine platform games but, in my opinion, the reason the games appealed so much is because of the crazy nature of the characters and Rare's distinctive brand of humour. It's been common knowledge that Rare have been working on a Banjo-Kazooie title for a while but what wasn't common knowledge was that the game wouldn't be a typical platform game. Whilst many fans of Banjo-Kazooie have voiced their disapproval at the game not being another platform game, you do have to wonder if it would have been a sensible option. How many platform games actually sell well (Mario titles aside)? Whilst it may not be a platform game Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts retains many characteristics of the Nintendo 64 games whilst providing a fresh experience for gamers.
Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts is pretty difficult to pigeonhole into a single genre. It has some of the features of a platform game but there's much to it than that. It's a non-linear, open-world game that combines action, some minor platform game elements and a lot of vehicle customisation. It still manages to retain the flavour of the previous Banjo-Kazooie however. The game begins stylishly with some sepia footage of the Nintendo 64 games being shown before we get to see a now overweight Banjo and the skull that is Gruntilda. Just as Banjo (the bear) is about to give Gruntilda a good kicking a mysterious character, who calls himself the Lord of Games appears and suggests that Banjo and Gruntilda have a competition to decide who is the rightful owner of Spiral Mountain. Both are given a vehicle and transported to a place known as Showdown Town. Kazooie (the bird) has been stripped of her moves but she does have a spanner that will prove rather useful during the course of the game.
There are six different worlds to explore in Nuts & Bolts and they are all enjoyable. The first world you'll enter is Nutty Acres, a lush tropical island with a coconut farm and rather sinister goings on. Logbox 720 is a world set inside a 'next-next generation console. Banjoland is a world that's essentially a humorous museum dedicated to Banjo. Jiggosseum is a world that's essentially an arena full of competitive challenges. Terrarium of Terror is an odd world filled with strange wonders and finally there is Spiral Mountain, the most challenging world of them all and the ultimate prize for Banjo or Gruntilda. There are over 130 challenges in the game, spread over each of the six worlds and for completing each of the challenges you'll get a Jiggy. For each challenge you can also earn a trophy if you complete it quickly or well enough which is a nice touch as it gives you an incentive to replay the challenges until you're very good at them.
The vehicle building is certainly the most fascinating element of the game. You'll begin with a slow lumbering vehicle that's little more than a shopping trolley on wheels (although it handles better than a shopping trolley). During the course of the game you'll find crates containing parts scattered around Showdown Town and you'll get parts by defeating Gruntilda in Grunty Jiggy games. Parts and blueprints can also be purchased from Humba Wumba (you'll need to collect the musical notes as they are the game's currency). As you find additional parts you'll want to visit Mumbo's Motors and try your hand at designing some custom vehicles. You can create vehicles of any nature so you can make them float, fly or simply drive along the ground. You can either work from a blueprint or start from scratch. Creating a vehicle is very easy but you have to consider the effects of the parts you're adding. The vehicle handling will depend on what parts you attach. It's possible to create a vehicle that handles really poorly if you're not careful (actually the physics involved here is pretty impressive). That said it's possible to create some really fantastic vehicles and as a result it's possible to make some of the challenges in the game significantly easier with some clever vehicle design. A test track is also available so you can test your designs thoroughly before using them in one of the game's worlds.
One of the nice advantages of spending time creating your own great vehicles is that they can give you an edge in the game's multiplayer mode which allows you to take part in races and sports in each of the six different worlds you'll encounter in the single-player game. Up to eight players can take part over Xbox Live. You can also play local multiplayer too with support for four player split-screen play.
Graphically, Nuts & Bolts is very impressive. What impressed me more than the visual quality of the game was how Rare had managed to retain so much of the visual style of those Nintendo 64 games even though the leap in graphical quality was huge. All of the much loved characters from the earlier Banjo-Kazooie games are here and I really like the way you get a smart, TV show-style introduction to a world when you first enter it which shows you which characters are in the world. Load times are pretty quick. Installing the game to the hard drive didn't appear to improve performance to any noticeable degree. The frame rate was generally fine but there are some moments when a dip in the frame rate is noticeable but it's not problematic in any sense.
Thankfully, Nuts & Bolts is subtitled by default and you'll be able to follow the game's storyline. The text is placed in a dialogue box so it's always easy to read, irrespective of the colour of the background. If there's one minor criticism to make it's that during the cutscenes the dialogue progresses automatically and the subtitles can disappear a little quickly at times. The in-game dialogue requires you to press the A button to move the dialogue forward so you can read it at your own pace which is a better way of doing things. All tutorial information is shown in text and you can recall tutorial information you've already received from the Bottles' Tourist Information service. There are various vehicle creation tutorials which are also subtitled. In short the game is absolutely fine for deaf gamers.
Rare made a bold move when they opted to make Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts something other than a typical platform game but it's a move that has paid off handsomely. Nuts & Bolts does contain all of the charm, humour and personality of the previous Banjo-Kazooie titles, which is certainly a bonus, but there's also something very modern about the open-world, non-linear nature of the game. The vehicle customisation options are excellent and this is one area of the game where you can get a lot of enjoyment whether you spend minutes or hours tinkering with the seemingly unlimited amount of vehicles you can create. The single-player game is satisfying enough to make Nuts & Bolts a highly recommend purchase and the solid multiplayer options are simply the icing on the cake.