Originally Published 19 May 2011
On Monday, I finished my playthrough of Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts. This game is not to my taste, so it quickly became a “rush to the end” rather than an experience that I at least attempted to find some joy in.
I had originally purchased the game because it had been well reviewed and I believed (incorrectly) that it was a 3D platformer. It turns out that the game is actually much more of a racing game. Essentially, the game gives you a system for building custom vehicles from parts (rather similar to the Gummi Ships from Kingdom Hearts) and then has you complete various challenges using them in one of a half-dozen themed areas. Unfortunately, these challenges are uniformly timing-based with a large number of them being races. I generally don’t care for racing games and having a series that had been, until now, a platformer series do a bait and switch was unexpected.
Additionally, the game seems out of place in time. There is no voice acting to be found anywhere in the game. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but they instead have Nintendo 64 era screeching noises play whenever a character has text on the screen. This led to me ceasing to read any text or watch any cutscene about 30% of the way through the game. “Press Y to Skip” became my mantra. Since every “challenge” gives a one sentence description of what you need on the vehicle choice menu, I chose to read that instead of listening to the horrible noises the characters tried to inflict through my speakers.
Of course, since the game doesn’t have standard vehicles, that means it has a sort of generic control system that is supposed to cover all of the vehicle types available. This ends up mostly being frustrating since all of the controls feel off somehow. The frustration is made even greater if you actually try to use any weapons since the game provides no on-screen targeting and the geometries involved are rarely clear especially when the game decides to try to help by auto-aiming. Oh, and if your vehicle ever gets flipped, it is usually just easier to restart the challenge. It may have a button for resolving this, but it has a bad tendency to damage your vehicle in the process or get you stuck on any nearby outcropping available.
The game seems to make a lot of references back to previous games, mostly for humor. Since I perhaps played no more than 2 hours put together of all previous Banjo-Kazooie games, this is mostly lost to me.
Here, I think the comparison should be against the first Ratchet and Clank Future game (Tools of Destruction). It carried most of the same baggage that Banjo-Kazooie did–a long series of games, a humorous style, updates for a new generation system, released at a similar time–but Tools of Destruction revived my interest in the platformer genre and managed to be interesting and engaging without relying so heaviliy on backstory that a new player was unable to connect. This game will probably prevent my from buying another Rare. I think at this point, I’ve played almost all of their XBox 360 offerings (Kameo, Perfect Dark Zero, Viva Pinata, and this with only the second Viva Pinata and their XBLA offering being missing) and haven’t found a single one compelling. Maybe they’ll return to their SNES and N64 glory days, but I’m not going to hold my breath.
Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts: 0