• I’ll make no bones about it. I hated the previous Banjo Kazooie games. Seemingly cut from the same irritating 3D platform mould that Rare have been trotting out for years. For any new Banjo Kazooie game to appeal to me, it would have to practically reinvent itself from the ground up.

    Quite fortunate then that this is exactly what BK3 has done. It has pretty much dispensed with everything that has gone before and feels like an entirely different genre, let alone a new game.

    So catching up on things since Banjo Tooie, the Bear and the Bird have gone to seed – scratching their butts and resting on their laurels while getting porky on junk food, their past glory days are far behind them. But an insidious character known as The Lord of Games has other ideas. Rather than letting Banjo and Kazooie live out their retirement as couch potatoes, L.O.G puts them both on a slimfast diet and pits them against their age-old enemy, the villanous witch Grunthilda (now reduced to nothing more than a yakking skull).

    Forced to do L.O.G’s bidding, our hapless heroes and their arch nemesis are hurled into Shodown Town unceremoniously, and from there they must use every resource at their disposal to play a series of game worlds to win back Spiral Mountain and defeat Grunthilda once and for all (or at least until the next game comes along).

    Banjo Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts

    One of the most important changes to the tried and tested Banjo Kazooie formula is the introduction of vehicles. From your first moments in Shodown Town you’re introduced to Mumbo and his neatly kitted out garage. From here you can build various vehicle types to aid you on your quest to collect all the jiggies across countless gameworld levels.

    Shodown Town becomes a hub world then, and cruising around it in the hub vehicle of choice (which looks a bit like a cross between a Meccano set gone wrong and a shopping trolley) you can start to harvest notes to use as game currency, and also pick up hidden vehicle parts crates which can be used back at Mumbo’s workshop to construct fiendishly efficient vehicles to use in the main gameplay levels. Irritatingly you can’t build something and then go for a cruise in it around Shodown Town (not really sure why, but the Lord of Games is a harsh overseer and what he says goes!)

    Oddly – there’s no need for you to venture out of your vehicle at all (in fact the game gets rather annoyed with you if you do for any length of time, berating you and urging you to get back into the cockpit or to go and buy the recent HD remake of Banjo Kazooie 1 if platforming is your thing). Each challenge requires a particular type of vehicle to fit the parameters of what you must achieve and you’ll quickly get a feel for what works best.

    Each time you successfully collect all the jiggies in a game level, the Lord of Games will allow you to collect a portal token to unlock another set of gameworlds somewhere in Shodown Town.

    Any of the levels can be visited and re-visited once unlocked, so if you fancy polishing off levels you’ve already completed to try and win extra achievements and faster level times, then you can.

    The Vehice Workshop is pretty much one of the main reasons for playing this game. In Mumbo’s mechanical shop you can start to put together vehicle types from your accrued parts (and you can also purchase extra blueprints and parts from the rather cute Humba Wumba in Shodown Town).

    You’re presented with a 3D vehicle bay and parts “slot” into place on a multi-level construction field. It’s a very simple operation to slap together the requisite bits and once you’re done, you can test your creation out in Mumbo’s Test Arena.

    Your first few attempts might well fall apart on the runway, but once you’ve got a feel for what works and what is the minimum requirement for a vehicle to move around, you can start to build more and more outlandish creations. Each time you complete and unlock a different gameworld, new vehicle types will be introduced – everything from wheeled wonders to planes, helicopters and boats.

    Once you’ve built something cool, you can store it away as a blueprint – and recall it once you begin a Jiggy challenge.

    Vehicles can sustain damage during challenges. Grunthilda’s mechanical goons will do their very best to smash up your creation. Luckily, with the aid of Kazooie’s magic spanner you can effect repairs on the fly – in fact the magic spanner comes into play in several ways – everything from allowing you to manipulate large objects (or indeed your trolley – Grapple gun from Half Life 2 anyone?) to switching on and activating machinery. Kazooie might not like it, but it’s a useful tool to have around.

    One glance at Banjo Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts will tell you that this is a Rare-developed game. All the usual Rare trademarks are in there, from the absolutely awful pun-tastic humour (which begins to grate after about 2 seconds into the game in all honesty) to the cute and colourful characters and backdrops. In fact, whether you like the cartoony style of BK3 or not, it’s certainly a heck of a pretty game with some seriously stunning landscapes and a lot of attention to detail. Even the main characters themselves are very nicely put together.

    Sadly all this graphical showcasing comes to nothing when you realise that the core gameplay isn’t…well it’s just not a lot of fun. There’s a tiny wow factor every time you unlock a new gameworld but the same levels are used time and time again which gets irritating after a while. Coupled with the fact that the actual core of the game, the vehicular stuff, boils down to a simple case of using the same tried and tested blueprints again and again, there’s not as much creativity going on as you might think and you’ll swiftly get tired of building your own vehicle types only to find that the ones you’re provided with at the start of a particular jiggy challenge are actually better than anything you could knock up in Mumbo’s workshop.

    So once again the curse of Rare seems to have reared its ugly head. Peter Moore, now head honcho over at EA Sports recently said “Developers like Rare don’t really have a place in the modern games industry” and looking at Banjo Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts, you can begin to understand what he’s talking about. It’s very much a game that relies on one or two new wrinkles in the vain hope that you won’t notice the gaping chasm of emptiness underpinning the whole thing. That said, younger players might instantly gel with it and be more suited to its rather simple challenges and childish humour.

    All in all, if you had no love for Banjo Kazooie before, this won’t be the game to change your mind – and if you’re new to the characters and are looking for something creative to exercise your imagination on, this doesn’t quite cut the mustard. Seems a pity that Peter Moore might actually be spot on with his rather harsh criticism after all.

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