It has been a considerable amount of time since Banjo the bear and Kazooie the bird have graced Television screens across the world and Rare has deemed it an appropriate time to bring the duo back for yet another adventure.
While the original games were your straight-up platformers (not that that’s a bad thing), this next title changes everything up somewhat by introducing as well as focusing on building and using vehicles to complete missions and explore new areas.
Is it a welcome change and a refreshing boost for the franchise or have Rare made a terrible mistake.
I never had the chance to play any of the franchises previous titles but in all my time as a gamer I had always heard such great things about them so when I got my hands on a review copy of the game I was quite excited to see what all the fuss was about.
The truth is that I couldn’t really because of the change that was made and geared towards vehicles. I had to realise that I was playing something new and not just the same old formula with better graphics. That’s not a bad thing but how would it work out in the end.
From the word “go”, Rare make it very clear that they had decided to approach the game from a rather different angle by taking us into the gameworld where game characters live and introducing us to the “Lord of Games” or “L.O.G” who basically runs the show. He makes his appearance to sort out the feud between the duo and the evil witch Gruntilla, who’s skull has managed to hop it’s way back and is ready for action once again.
The game is very self-referential and the humor is quite bizarre as the L.O.G explains to the (now fat and lazy) washed up video game characters that he has decided to scrap the original concept of the games and change things up a little by having them build and utilize vehicles to complete their objectives. All in all it’s kind of funny although I find that the self-mockery gets to a point where you actually start believing that the characters are in-fact useless, which isn’t a good thing. While the game is going to be played by a whole horde of new gamers who never played the originals, I think that a lot of the jokes are just going to fly over their heads.
The graphics are quite pretty and sometimes have a magical feel to them and the sound isn’t bad either. The problems come in early however when the game begins and you are left watching cutscenes for quite some time. The framerate tends to suffer quite badly in a lot of them and then to make matters worse, none of the characters actually talk. All of the characters in the game merely mumble or make funny word-like noises, leaving the player to read through lines and lines of dialogue. This sort of thing may have been acceptable when the original games came out but this is the “next-gen” folks, people don’t want to sit and read dialogue all day long anymore, especially kids.
The core gameplay is pretty simple, or so it seems. What you do is use your vehicles to complete missions, ranging from races, to tasks such as collecting items, dropping items off or even just getting somewhere within a certain amount of time. The entire game has been set in a main open world called Showdown Town and then has you running off into other gameworlds to do the missions.
When it comes to the missions, it’s all about what you are driving/flying. You are given access to a workshop to build your own vehicles in a way not unlike that of a Lego set. You slowly get access to more and more parts that allow to build the most weird and wonderful contraptions to use in your missions. On the whole the system may feel quite basic at first but once you get into it, the building can be quite fun, especially when you later get to tear around in your very own creation. For those that don’t want to dabble in the workshops, blueprints are also made available to you that allow you to use different types of vehicles that have been pre-made.
Even though there are a lot of reason to like Banjo-Kazooie, I do still find that I have a few very major gripes with the game.
At the beginning of the game, it actually takes quite a while to figure out exactly what it is that the game wants from you. The missions, while enhanced by the ability to use crazy vehicles, are not actually that much fun. The gameworlds can be interesting but feel rather small, which isn’t helped by the fact that most of them are just used over and over again with slight differences.
If there is anything that bothers me the most about this game is that I still cannot figure out who Rare made it for. The game looks as though it has been made for the younger generation to enjoy, with all of the bright colours, cartoony characters and “Lego” building fun. At the same time, a lot of the story elements and humour will not appeal to children at all. I previously mentioned that there is a lot of reading involved. I would take into account that a little reading never hurt any children but most of the characters speak in a goofy broken-english, which completely throws that angle out of the window.
Multiplayer is included with the game and can be played over Xbox Live as well as splitscreen and while most of the modes are quite fun and the ability to use your amazing contraptions are there, I don’t see it as being anything that will add a significant amount of playtime to the title.
On the whole I found that the game felt quite strange. It’s too much for children and at the same time, too little for adults so I really don’t see who Rare expects to play this game. It really is a shame because if there is anything that the Xbox 360 lacks and has always been lacking was a decent library of fun platformers on the lines of something like Super Mario or even Crash Bandicoot.
I really wish deep down that this game was just another one of those fun platformers. As previously stated, If anything, the Xbox 360 really needs a couple of them. With hard-hitters like LittleBigPlanet on the PS3 and the wealth of platforming franchises on the Wii, Microsoft and Rare have really done themselves a disservice by falling short on a game that could have really pulled a lot of younger and more casual gamers towards their console.
Gameplay: 7/10 [ Missions lack a certain fun factor ]
Presentation: 6/10 [ Framerate and boring load screens hurt a decent looking game ]
Sound: 6/10 [ Decent sound but there is no excuse for the complete lack of voice work ]
Value: 7/10 [ There is a lot to do and collect in the game, so it could keep you busy for hours if you enjoy what it's offering ]
Overall: 6.5/10 [ Children will feel disappointed and so will adults. It can be a fun game if you are in the mood for it and understand what it offers however too many gamers, new and seasoned will have trouble finding that "happy place". ]