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After a break of ten years Banjo Kazooie is back. This time we leave the pure platforming game behind in favour of a patchwork world and Lego style vehicle construction. Although surrounded by fleshed out environments, characters and minigames, the main experience here falls largely on race based missions.
Racing games, although sometimes seen as a sporting sub category, are a well established video game genre in their own right.
Banjo and Kazooie is a bit like Little Big Planet PS3 - in that it's hard to pigeonhole into one genre. Like Little Big Planet, it brings to the table a variety of parts that fit together to form a well implemented whole. Most unique here is the ability to create vehicles (as you unlock the different parts) from scratch. Provided you have the right core elements your creations will be drivable, although how they perform is down to your design skills. As the game develops you are encouraged to create ever more bespoke and creative constructions.
The creation here is much more Lego like and less demanding than that of the endlessly open Little Big Planet PS3. You essentially select each different part then click it into place. It's an impressively simple experience and one that achieves some wide ranging vehicles.
The game proper revolves around a central hub world that can be explored to find hidden power ups and tokens. From here you gain access to each of the different game worlds. Each of these themed environments have a hand stitched feel to them. 'It looks like it's made of silk' as my five year old exclaimed.
The player is tasked with collecting puzzle pieces by completing tasks in each of these worlds. These are more often than not races, or fetching and carrying tasks. This again reinforces the need to spend time perfecting your store of vehicles.
Again like Little Big Planet, the player's constructions interact in a realistic fashion with the objects and landscape of the world. Left on a slope, things will roll down. Drive into a tree and it will topple over. In addition to this the player has a wrench tool that enables them to pickup object and move them around. This tool works well - and applies some much needed intelligence about what you are trying to move where. More often than not it does just what you wanted it to do.
Players will be attracted to Banjo Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts because of the bright visuals and ability to play an old favourite character. Once they have got through the history lesson and tutorial beginning thought, there is a much more ambitious experience awaiting them than a simple rehearsal of past achievements.
Players often start the game expecting an experience like others in the series. It's interesting to watch them in their first race as they stick religiously to the course - expecting to be penalised for straying too far. But in Banjo and Kazooie (as they soon discover) quite the opposite is true. You can invent your own way to solve each problem - which includes cutting off huge corners of race courses provided you pass through each check point.
We often say that games take a little while to get started. This is very true in Banjo and Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts. Before you can start playing you have to watch though a good thirty minutes of scene setting, video gaming history lesson and general tutorial. If you have young kids wanting to play you may want to play through this beginning the night before.
Once you have completed the tutorial you are let loose in the game world. You can pretty much save at any point - enabling sessions to be sized to fit available time. There is certainly plenty to do to keep players busy and for some hours - most will easily occupy a good twenty five hours before seeing the best of the game.
The physics based nature (modeling of gravity etc) in the game is a mixed bag for very young players. It adds a touch of vitality and zest to the gameplay as characters respond in real time to the environment, rather than with prerendered animations. But it also focuses gameplay on using this physics to complete tasks - a bridge too far for most preschoolers. They can still have some fun tooling around in the various vehicles knocking over trees and swimming in the sea.
School age children will enjoy the simple mission structure and the ability to create their own cars, trucks, bikes and even flying machines. If they have the opportunity to play with an adult this is a game that really delivers the family gaming goods. As said before, the lengthy introduction and ongoing references to the previous games will be over the head of these players.
Intermediate players will enjoy the fresh approach to racing and the way their mechanical choices have tangible results in the game world.
Expert gamers may initially balk at the different approach in this Banjo and Kazooie game, particularly after waiting 10 years, but those that give it a chance will soon appreciate what an original achievement it is.
With so many different perspectives it can be hard to know where to start - a little like walking into a crowded pub. Sorry about that.
But so far we've not found a way to streamline our review output - there's basically too much of it. So, rather than dilute things for newcomers we have decided to live with the hubbub while helping new readers find the columnists they will enjoy.
Our columnists each focus on a particular perspective and fall into one of the following types of gamers: