Light on platforming and heavy on vehicle creation Banjo-Kazooie is broken down into a series of challenges with the potential to delight if the faithful stick with it long enough to learn the ins-and-outs of Nuts and Bolts. In the time since their last bout of adventuring Banjo and Kazooie have grown lazy, fat and generally immobile. Gruntilda has remained very decapitated, yet manages a revival of sorts. Immediately following Grunty’s dubious cranium-only return, Lord of Games (a.k.a. LOG) appears and demands that bear, bird and Grunty compete in his video game gauntlet to mark a final end of the quibbling, rhyming madness. Really, LOG exists as an imperialistic segue from the Banjo of yore to the newly fashioned Banjo.
Lacking their old powers – which they harp on about – Banjo and Kazooie receive an impromptu physique makeover from LOG, Grunty gains a body, and they are warped directly into a new hub world: Showdown Town. From Showdown Town you travel to myriad worlds to win Jiggies to unlock yet more worlds. With 100-plus Jiggies and nearly 2000 musical notes (the currency) there’s no lack of the vast, with a definite lack of variety. The gameplay is very free-for-all and tailored to those with attention brevity problems. Jumping forward to new worlds far ahead of earlier ones is fine and well, keeps things from feeling overly guided, and has that pleasant sensation that only choosing your own pace can afford.
Within Showdown Town your vehicle choice is limited but you can get some platforming satisfaction by exploring the area for notes and Jiggies . While exploring the hub-world is not really a series of death-defying antics, it is a pleasant taste of what has been, could have been and could be again. Winning challenges for Jiggies is what advances the game, however, and generally involves racing, transporting something, or knocking stuff over. Beyond Jiggies and notes there are vehicle parts and more to collect, and even some fun 8-bit platforming in Klungo’s Arcade. It is a nice bit of variety, but the challenges will become tiresome if your focus is not on fashioning new planes, boats or taxicabs.
Tracking down all the goodies will allow you to build more elaborate and innovative vehicles, yet avoids feeling overwhelming. Vehicle parts are divided into categories like seat, wheels, engine and fuel. Adding more of each component or an additional element lets the creativity run free for all sorts of Pimp My Ride style goodness, and employs the rule of thumb that more is more – twice the engine means twice the speed, double the springs and double the hop. Of course, it is easy to make an absolute wreck if you forgo consideration of weight, fuel storage or wheel location, but the game’s physics are pretty easy to get a grip on and you will be adding wings and defenses in no time. The game’s blueprints offer an easy out for those with stifled creativity and the challenges have a good learning curve. If, however, you are the type who finds themselves constantly using the uploaded blueprints of other players you will be missing out on, well, the point really. It is no secret that the nuts and bolts of Nuts and Bolts is vehicle design, and not partaking is kind of lame.
The vehicle creation has critical bearing your challenge successes, which will require more than just driving skill. Pitted against a variety of vehicle types and styles, you will have to employ a little strategy in deciding whether to match their vehicle’s primary elements or outsmart them another way – brawn v. brawn is not always the answer. For the planners and schemers, it is a recipe for success. Ultimately, I didn’t feel like quite enough of a petrol head to give the proper care and consideration to the vehicle construction, and adding insult to injury was an oft appearing load screen message to the effect of “If you’re not enjoying this game, go to XBL and buy the other one we made”. Tacky.
Multi-player offers a party system, offline gameplay, team gaming and a vehicle testing lobby. Beginning multi-player levels are a snooze without any real variety, which means to really capture the multi-player excitement you will want to join a game that allows for players to bring their own creations to the party. Thus, the multi-player may only appeal to those engrossed enough in vehicle design to have myriad creations saved, which isn’t exactly to easy to hop into. In addition to sharing your designs you can use the picture sharing feature or save video of your completed challenges and upload them to the leader-boards, or pass them along to friends – and if you can’t finish a challenge you can always see how someone else did.
The title’s color palette seems tailor-made for the younger set, as does the free-form pacing of the game, but like Viva Pinata there is enough precision gameplay to make the game cross-generational. Unlike Viva Pinata, however, there is no voice acting and a whole lot of reading, so if burgeoning literacy is not your thing steer clear. Even without the voice acting, Nuts and Bolts packs in just as many goofy sounds and sights as fans can expect, and while generally delightful they are particularly annoying when it comes to the bird. Sadly, the large and captivating environments look fantastic and end up feeling like unfulfilled potential. There are frequent frame-rate woes, which is disappointing in a game that is pretty in jewel tones but otherwise underwhelming in the graphics department. The game’s attention is well-spent on physics, and I am not lamenting the design so much as the inability to deliver a smooth experience with the chosen aesthetic.
Decidedly low on platforming and high on the fumes of self-deprecating humor, Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts is a playful addition to the series – though perhaps not what fans were clamoring for. That is not to say Rare doesn’t deliver a good game, you just can’t play half-heartedly and get the full value. Nuts and Bolts is a grown-up game masquerading in a child-friendly costume, which is what will scare off the game’s most likely enthusiasts and attract the wrong sort entirely. If vehicle design and creation sound a thrill, then this game was meant for you. Otherwise, the candy-coated loveliness of Nuts and Bolts will not be enough to hold your attention past the opening sequence.