Review: Banjo-Kazooie

Categories Console Monster, Reviews

Ports aren’t a rare (don’t stop reading just yet) sight on the Xbox LIVE Arcade. There are the more retro games like Frogger and Pac-Man, to some more recent titles such as Vigilante 8 Arcade and Meteos Wars, but when Banjo-Kazooie was announced to be released on Xbox LIVE at the E3 2008 convention, many suspected great things from a great bear and bird team.

All Xbox LIVE Arcade ports contain slight graphical refinery and increased screen resolution and Banjo-Kazooie is no different.  Nevertheless there are two main adjustments from the Nintendo64 version. The first of which is all references to Nintendo and the Nintendo64 have been removed and replaced by Microsoft Game Studio logos. We wouldn’t want the Nintendo logo appearing on our 360 games would we kids? The second adjustment (and one players of the original may be pleased about) is that musical notes are now saved upon collection, where as on the original only the highest score was saved.

For those unfamiliar with Banjo-Kazooie, the game puts players in control of Banjo, a rather lazy dim-witted bear, who has the rather unfortunate task of carrying Kazooie, an impulsive red bird, across various worlds. The worlds are differently themed with each one containing unique tasks and enemies to complete and defeat respectively. New worlds are unlocked by collecting specific amounts of musical notes and jigsaw pieces (known as jiggies) which are placed into the world’s photograph; completing the photograph opens up the world.

Other collectibles within the game include Jinjos (brightly coloured creatures in need of rescuing) and Totem Tokens, which can be used to transform Banjo into useful transformations such as ants and bees. There are also blue eggs, red feathers and gold feathers to collect, which are used as ammo, flying and powerful attacks respectively.

The story starts with the evil witch Gruntilda admiring her own beauty before learning she isn’t the most beautiful girl, that award belonged to Tooty – Banjo’s sister. Whilst Banjo and Kazooie are fast asleep, Gruntilda whisks Tooty off into her mountain lair where her assistant, Klungo, has built a machine which would transform Tooty’s beautifulness into Gruntilda and make Tooty ugly. Bottles, a short-sighted mole, informs Banjo and Kazooie of the on-goings and the two set out to rescue her after some training.

Throughout the various worlds in the game Bottles will teach players new moves, which are to be used to gain some of the game’s collectibles as well as become an entrance to new areas within the game. It’s great having a range of moves, yet at times it can be easy to forget the controls for each one, which could be a slight problem for those with memories like a sieve.

The rest of the game’s controls will be simple enough to get to grips with. Graphically, the game lacks quite a bit as a lot of the textures are quite bland, some of the characters seem a bit edgy and Banjo looks more like a dog than a bear, however, I’ll let it pass considering the game is a port.

One of the key aspects in determining whether to buy Banjo-Kazooie is the replayability. For 1200 Microsoft Points you get a fun filled adventure which will provide hours of entertainment. Once you complete the adventure however there’s not much more you can do apart from to play through again or use the Stop ‘n’ Swop.

Stop ‘n’ Swop is a very small feature in the Xbox LIVE Arcade version of Banjo-Kazooie which allows new vehicle parts to be added to the game’s retail version, Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts. Once activated, crates appear within Shodown Town, as silhouettes, which can then be taken to Mumbo’s garage for unpacking. Whilst it’s a fairly basic feature, it shows that features like this can be pulled off and rewards players fairly well. It also unlocks an achievement worth a high-scoring 0 (yes, zero) GamerScore (in the retail version).

As for the achievements in Banjo-Kazooie, the full 200 GamerScore will get players searching high and low for every last musical note, as well as defeating a number of the game’s bosses and eating red apples… Bizarre, I know.

University of Lincoln Journalism graduate David Wriglesworth is a Social Media Manager at tgi MEDIA in Darlington and is the founder of What’s On Darlington – a community hub for the town of Darlington.