Banjo-Tooie (Nintendo 64) review
"What happens when you stick an overly acerbic bird in the backpack of a bear and send them on a noble quest for the bear’s ill-fated little sister, while managing to incorporate shamans, witches, musical notes, washing machines and puzzle pieces? The end result is Banjo-Tooie, the unforgettable sequel to the formerly weirdest game on the N64. "
What happens when you stick an overly acerbic bird in the backpack of a bear and send them on a noble quest for the bear’s ill-fated little sister, while managing to incorporate shamans, witches, musical notes, washing machines and puzzle pieces? The end result is Banjo-Tooie, the unforgettable sequel to the formerly weirdest game on the N64.
We begin the game when the camera opens up to a sad, rainy night, where Banjo the bear, Kazooie the bird, Mumbo the shaman, and Bottles the mole are engaged in a masculine game of cards in Banjo’s pathetic excuse for a house. Little do they know, some fifty yards away, Gruntilda the witch is being excavated from the boulder that our unconventional duo had placed her under at the end of Banjo Kazooie. The doers of this dastardly deed appear to be her equally repellent sisters, and they’ve come with weapons. Coincidentally, Kazooie just so happens to hear something, and beckons Mumbo to go look outside. Just as Kazooie reaches for the exposed chips, Mumbo returns in to report his worrisome findings.
Bottles, in disbelief of Mumbo’s words, goes out to examine tings for himself. This is where Banjo-Tooie takes a turn for the darker. Gruntilda zaps him with an energy ray, and he- well, he dies. Starting out with all your hard earned moves from the first Banjo Kazooie installment, this is where your adventure begins. You’ll soon encounter Klungo, Gruntilda’s trusty minion, for the first of your several battles. This serves as sort of a warm up exercise for the games simplistic combat system.
Said combat system is composed of punches, kicks, jabs, and a vast variety of eggs to fling. The enemies, unfortunately were placed for the mere sake of annoyance and to refill your health upon destruction. Banjo Tooie at heart is a Super Mario 64-esque plat former, and in place of stars, you must collect jiggies, golden puzzle pieces obtained by completing a task in one of the games numerous levels. The more jiggies you collect, the more levels you gain access to. It’s a cycle that may seem repetitious, but the levels and tasks the game throws at you are very innovative, things you wouldn’t expect. For example, a jiggy goes through one of those contraptions that process garbage into cubes, becomes crushed up, and you must gather the pieces from around the level and rebuild it.
That’s only one of the several dozen jiggies up for grabs; and luckily for you, only a certain number of them are required, the game leaves a few up to those perfectionists. And rest assured, the game is not entirely composed of these small jiggy collecting tasks like so many horrid minigame based games before it. The next collectible, the musical notes, are used to further increase your enormous arsenal of moves, taught to you by the late Bottles’ authoritarian cousin, Jamjars. These moves range from shooting flaming eggs to hatching them, and perhaps the most controversial of all: splitting the two up. On their own, the two have yet another plethora of exclusive moves. All of these skills are all used at least once or twice in a mandatory fashion.
Like many others, the game is heavily puzzle oriented (primarily due to the jiggy collecting), and knowing what to do, where to go, or how to get there can sometimes be confusing with the assortment of moves at your disposal. Whether to hop on Kazooie’s back and sprint up a wall, or carry the baby dinosaurs to their mother in Banjo’s backpack can be a little perplexing at times. But rest easy, nothing tough to keep your gaming experience to a halt for more than a little while.
And the about the aforementioned washing machine; it’s only one of the outlandish creatures (and objects) that Humba Wumba- the new wizard on campus -can morph you into. All of the transformations have some significance; be it retrieving a jiggy or getting through a secret passageway. You may think to yourself: but where does that leave Mumbo, the wizard (or shaman if you prefer) in the original Banjo Kazooie? Fear not, he is back and as ardent as ever; with his new playable character skillz. At certain pads on the ground, Mumbo can use his magic to animate statues, fix electrical problems, and do all sorts of crazy things. He’s also a decent fighter if the need arises.
The game’s levels are entered through various gateways on the one central ‘hub’ area, like an overworld connecting everything else. Transportation around the overworld is accessible by foot, mole burrow, or preferably Chuffy The Train, a cool new feature making getting around a breeze. Not to mention, this area comes with some things you would expect only in a level, such as one of Humba Wumba’s transformation tents and one of Jamjars burrows. And don’t think that jiggies are all you need to traverse to your next destination; there are puzzles a plenty in and outside of levels. Rare didn’t skimp on the trademark humor, Banjo Tooie is infact a parody of the genre it attempts to perfect. With one liners from the antagonist in intentionally corny rhyme format, unanticipated pot-shots from our cynical pal Kazooie, and lots of scattered laughs to boot, you need an iron heart to keep from cracking a smile once or twice.
Banjo Tooie is jam packed with exciting and challenging gameplay. Almost every aspect; every quest for every jiggy will be fortified and polished enough to hold your attention. Nothing is insatiable nor tedious, and thankfully not a combination of the two. Another strong point of Banjo Tooie are the eye-catching graphics. No more jagged circles the N64 is infamous for. All of the incredibly huge environments, be it a giant trash can in the sky or a gem-studded coal mine, are dazzlingly colorful.
Who would have thought running around, collecting shiny puzzle pieces could look so good? The water and particle effects are amazing, the sizzling of a waterfall when it hits the ground will leave you with Goosebumps. The sound isn’t bad; mostly based of banjo influenced tracks that will contribute to the humor and motivate your quest. The voice acting is in looped gibberish, but considering the copious amounts of dialogue, it is a deed easily forgiven.
All in all, Banjo Tooie is a fun and worthwhile gaming experience, of the sort we don’t see anymore. If you ever have the chance, go to your local game store and pick it up, this game wont let you down. With a minimum length of 35 hours and many post-game features to boot (including multiplayer and boss rush mode), Banjo Tooie is a game that most certainly deserves at least one good playthrough.
Community review by meeptroid (December 17, 2004)
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