#364 Banjo-Kazooie

Posted: 14th February 2011 by Mulholland in Games
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29th game played so far

Genre: Platformer
Platform: Nintendo 64
Year of Release: 1998
Developer: Rare
Publisher: Nintendo

Whilst Goldeneye 007 may be Rare’s most famous and highly rated game I think it is fair to say that Banjo-Kazooie may be the epitome of what makes a Rare game. It’s cute cartoon visuals and wide array of collectables have somewhat become major features  of their later game such as the already-reviewed Viva Pinata.

Although we appear to have now dealt with most of the games on this developed by Rare we still have Perfect Dark (coming very soon!) and one of the Banjo-Kazooie sequels. It is also a fair bet that we may have to get our hands on Kinect Sports one day when there is an update of the list.

Our Thoughts

So for the past few days, we’ve been playing as a bear with a bird on his back. I cannot help but feel that’s telling. I still have no idea why Kazooie is in Banjo’s backpack. It’s like in the opening sequence… she’s hanging in the backpack on a hat stand and is unable to get out; PETA should be alerted.

 

To be honest, that bird seems like it’d get lost if you let it go out on its own. I think Banjo needs Kazooie more than the other way round. Well, he does need him for several manoeuvres, but mostly Kazooie seems to enjoy hiding in the backpack and making smart ass comments. As I said, it’s very familiar.

Anyway, this is one of those game mascots where you really do have to wonder how it worked so well. Also, what on earth were the guys at Rare smoking when they came up with it? When the game first came out I thought Banjo-Kazooie was a mutant.

Then there are the supporting characters which work so well. Like Gruntilda (the evil witch who kidnaps your sister) when she interjects random rhyming couplets as you trundle through the hub-world. Also there’s Gruntilda’s sister who also appears in corners and sewage pipes telling us about her sister’s habits. Who seems to have absolutely no other use? She looks pretty in the tutu? I’m glad to hear you lowered your standards even further.

Anyway, then there’s the mole who helps you out teaching you new moves, and over-exciting cauldrons who transport you between places. Bottles is such a sweetie, I do not understand why Kazooie hates him so… I don’t think Kazooie likes anyone all that much. She must love Banjo… despite earlier comments… that sounds wrong

Since this was the other major platformer released for the N64 the comparison really does need to be made. How do you feel this stood up next to Super Mario 64?

I think in a way it works better. It certainly has more character – nicer environments, more colourful and interesting characters, it’s a bit more fun. On the other hand, Super Mario 64 has the tighter gameplay – the mission structure helps you focus on what you should be doing, while Banjo-Kazooie focuses far more on exploration and almost luck to find what you need.

One way which I think this may work better is because of all the collectables. I think it does, it means you have to go out there and find anything. 5 birds, 100 notes, 2 honeycomb pieces in each level and 100 jigsaw pieces overall. As well as mumbo jumbos who appear to talk about bubblegum when you give them to the shaman. It’s weird when you turn into a termite. Yeah, but is of course necessary to solve the puzzle. (solve a few actually) But that’s where the difference lies – Super Mario 64 focuses on missions and completing tasks, while Banjo-Kazooie focuses on exploration.

 

I guess a lot of people focus on Super Mario 64 because it was one of the first to do most of the things used in Banjo-Kazooie. This game then found a way to update a lot of the things introduced in it. In their own way yeah. This is most obvious with the camera controls. Yeah, while occasionally a bit awkward, it’s far easier to move around and keep focused on where you want it. It’s only awkward when there is a wall in the way, something which afflicts camera controls to this very day. The other annoyance is that there are places where the camera ‘locks’ and you can’t move it at all. While it may help you not get the camera in an awkward position, it also makes it harder to get to an angle that feels better.

 

The graphics are also a point. They feel more detailed in this game, and while still retaining some cartoony edge, the worlds seem larger because of it. Not only do they feel larger but also lusher. This is helped by a group of interesting enemies that are as interesting as any friendly character. I was just about to mention them. The enemies all interact with you in their own way, even talking with you about how they are about to hurt you. The shark on the second level is a perfect example of this, and he is incredibly annoying as it is hard to kill him. You have to poop eggs on him but he disappears before you can land the final blow. While he is of course guarding one important collectable, one of the dinosaur birds who keep managing to get stuck in a place where they need rescue. I think it’s because Gruntilda had their wings pulled off. And put arms on instead? Ok, she had them plucked. Whatever, either way it’s mean. The way they scream for help makes my heart melt. I know.

This really is one of the games that I was most looking forward to having a go with. I do believe there was a good reason for that. It’s a lovely game with a lot of character and all of it works well together.

Final Thoughts

As said, this is a lovely platformer, at what’s probably the highlight of the genre. It’s funny and cute at times, there’s a lot of character, the collectibles allow for a lot of replay value and finishing the game will, quite simply, take you a long, long time. And those collectibles being required to go on makes it even more interesting. It’s a good game, and thanks to its roots, more interesting and charming than many of its competitors on the list. More games in the series are forthcoming – stay tuned for more!

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