Banjo Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts is a zany platformer that takes the decade-dormant franchise out of the realm of running and jumping and straight into vehicle based mayhem. Instead of having a contrived story that puts the bear (Banjo) and bird (Kazooie) into some artificial setting, the entire game takes place in the realm of video games with L.O.G. (The Lord of Video Games) offering the pair several video game worlds in which to battle their arch nemesis, Gruntilda. The new emphasis on creation and customization works well within this universe, especially as the previous games (way back on the Nintendo64) had practically burnt-out the scavenger-hunt premise of simple item collection.
The environments themselves are pretty varied and most are absolutely gorgeous. While there is some slowdown as you race vehicles or perform other vehicle based mini-games, in general the frame rate doesn’t hinder your progress. Sound is also touch top but unfortunately the game relies heavily on text to relay information, and since that text is quite small, on standard definition televisions it can make it almost impossible to understand what’s going on. Developer Rare is supposed to remedy that soon with a patch.
Customizing vehicles is really the core of the game, and here Nuts & Bolts really shines. Literally hundreds of parts can be found or won and you can create not only land based vehicles, but also boats and planes, or even multi-function vehicles. Accessing the garage where you construct vehicles is always a button press away, and most mini-games allow you to endlessly twiddle with vehicle customization.
The events themselves are varied, and most are time based. You can retry any mini-game mid-event, as well as retry it after completion in order to better your time. Humor is present in all of the proceedings, and the game takes great pains to make fun of itself, video games in general, as well as the developer and even the Xbox. And while in the end you are simply collection jiggies, puzzle pieces that have become a staple of the Banjo Kazooie universe, everything is handled in a manner that makes it light hearted, whimsical, and fun. Expansive multiplayer support also help give the game some much-needed replayability after the initial quest is finished, extending the value significantly.
This is an inexpensive ($40) game that really pushes the Xbox 360 graphically while offering a tried and true genre, but with a twist that is definitely welcome. The vehicles are a great addition as is the concept of all of the events taking place in the world of video games. While most of the mini-games themselves are nothing new, the amount of customization one can do in order to create the ultimate vehicle is staggering. Its clear that Microsoft’s ambitions to bite into the casual-gamer pie are on full display here, and Rare is proving a good ally to help them shake the conception their console is only for the mature and elite gamer. Banjo Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts is an approachable game that’s easy to get into, fun to play, and rewarding.