Thursday, October 30, 2008

Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts (X360) Demo Impressions

Hello there. I don't usually do previews for the reason that I don't get to play many preview copies. Most demos are released after the game is out. What's the point of doing impressions when it's already out and everyone else has the game? This past week, however, Microsoft placed a demo of Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts onto the Xbox Marketplace, and I had the chance to take it for a spin. I say spin because this game focuses more on vehicles than actual platforming. A Rare representative stated that Nuts & Bolts would be 80% vehicles and 20% good old fashioned platforming. Well, for hour or two of time I played, the demo version was more like 95% vehicles and 5% good old fashioned platforming-- if that.

There's still platforming to be had.
Just not so much in the demo.

By the time the demo started, Banjo and Kazooie were already in Showdown Town, the hub world of Nuts & Bolts, and they were having a conversation with the Lord of Games, or L.O.G. for short. He had grown tired of Banjo/Grunty feud, and he wanted to settle it once and for all. The goal of the game is this: if bear and bird make it back to Spiral Mountain, they win. It's up to Gruntilda, the witchy nemesis of the series, to stop them from doing so. To reach Spiral Mountain, Banjo must collect Jiggies-- puzzle pieces that open various doors to various new worlds for exploration. The humor of the series is retained, so no worries about that. However, I do have a problem with the text size. It's way too small! It's bigger than Dead Rising's at least, but what the heck is that all about? I shouldn't have to sit near my TV just to read the dialogue especially when it sometimes advances automatically!

Besides that glaring issue, the aesthetics of the demo blew me away. They were colorful, crisp, and full of charm. There was nary a bit of framerate issues save for heading underwater. The score is absolutely sensational featuring numerous tunes from past Banjo titles including a medley for the first main world, Banjo Land, featuring Gobi's Desert, Freezeey Peak, and Mad Monster Mansion, for starters. These songs are fully orchestrated which brought a huge smile to my face.

Poor Grunty's "a head" of herself.
In the next game, will she just be a brain in a tube?

As stated before, the majority of the gameplay in the demo was spent inside vehicles. I found the handling of the vehicles to be a bit unforgiving and somewhat clumsy. A simple small rock in the road could send Banjo severely off-course. Hopefully this is just a result of having a starting vehicle, and later unlocked vehicles will handle much better.

So after a little exploring in Showdown Town after acquiring my first vehicle, some kind of four-wheeler with a tray to haul things around in, I drove up the spiral road leading up to L.O.G.'s manor. He gave me a game world to be placed inside this machine that would open up the first of many worlds, Banjo Land. But before entering new territory, I decided to zoom around town gathering musical notes-- the currency of the game-- meeting old friends like Mumbo Jumbo who traded in his voodoo magic for some mechanic magic, Bottles the mole, and Humba Wumba who acts as a merchant this time around, and bowling over innocent rhino pedestrians with my vehicle. That will teach you to exercise your right to walk on a public city street, you bastard!

Scattered around the first and only part of Showdown Town available are little boxes. These contain parts which can be used to customize and/or build your dream vehicle. You have a lot of freedom to create whatever vehicle however you want. Make it as top-heavy and undrivable as possible, or just follow a blueprint like I opted to. Why bother creating an awesome vehicle when I wouldn't be able to save it much less remember it?

Thus, I entered into the first world of Nuts & Bolts, Banjo Land, an essential museum of Banjo-Kazooie history full of set pieces from past levels in past B-K games. Such items include Boggy's igloo from Hailfire Peaks, the giant snowman from Freezeey Peak, the strength game from Witchyworld, a cemetery from Mad Monster Mansion, and much more. Included are little Banjo statues that will relay some information about each set piece for those unaware or wanting some fond memories.

Old friends like Mr. Fit return. Ah, memories...

Jiggies aren't just hanging around the levels like in past games-- at least not in this demo. Instead, there were three characters to talk to and accept their missions. One mission had me defending Clanker's eyes from attacking pursuers. Another had me racing against three other opponents to see whose ride would reign supreme. Lastly, I was told to push five soccer balls into a goal. This one was a toughy. Completing a goal is only half of the equation. Building the appropriate vehicle to take on the challenge is the other. At first I was struggling to push the balls into the net with my basic tray vehicle. Then I thought of using Kazooie's wand to place the soccer balls onto the tray of the vehicle and then driving each one into the goal. I passed the challenge after that attempt, but I wanted to see if I could do better. So I ditched the current vehicle and used another blueprint. With this new vehicle, it had a V-shape indentation which meant I could push a ball with the vehicle into the net without much worry of it slipping away from me. My score improved. Finally, I figured out that I could utilize some springs to the front which catapulted each ball across the goal line and into the net without even going near the net on my own. I think this game will involve a lot of trial and error to decide the best vehicle for each situation.

Banjo's reaction after finding out that
Kazooie's pregnant and he's the father.
"Abandon ship!"

Overall, I left the demo of Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts with a good feeling. Unlike Capcom, Rare is the type of company that actually listens to their fans on fixing technical problems with patches. If you wanted pure platforming action on your 360, stick with the upcoming Banjo-Kazooie XBLA game. I'm still positive about the game, I didn't cancel my preorder or anything, and I'm anxiously waiting to play the real thing. Of course, having a small, unheard-of title named LittleBigPlanet to play doesn't make the wait seem so long, but that's another story.


Anonymous said...

This game disappointed me so much back when it was announced. After playing the demo I know it'll be a stellar game, just not a great banjo game, and that's all I really wanted.

Unknown said...

Yeah, it's not really the pure plaforming that I wanted, but at least I can jump back into one of my favorite games with the original on XBLA.