Nuts & Bolts truly is the return of Rare. Enough with the papery menagerie, let’s get back to N64 basics: the wordplay, the self-deprecating humor (pops are taken at their own distastr-o-game Grabbed by the Ghoulies), the design philosophy that states ‘object + googly eyes = endearing thing’. And in a winter of bleak, dreary games, the lightness of touch is very, very welcome indeed.
Unfortunately, they’ve only gone and resurrected their bad habits, too. After a brilliantly knowing poke at the excesses of the ‘collect-a-thon’ genre, Rare ends up presenting their grandest collect-a-thon yet. “I’ll have to think of something original,” says the man in charge, the Lord of Games. So explain why we’re collecting jiggies, notes, jinjos, minjos, crates, blueprints, trophies, bingo tokens and giant world-unlocking orbs? Bah.
It takes us back to the golden OCD days of the N64 to see pages of empty statistics screens waiting to be filled out, but the elements are clumsily shoved together. Example: jiggies unlock new worlds. Fine. But not before you’ve won them, transported them between two banks, picked up the deposited orb and placed it on a plinth. We understand the whole contraption vibe, but in aiming for complex quirkiness the devs have landed at irritating over-complication.
The structure may be lumbering, but the game at the core is brilliantly realized, if not entirely a Banjo-Kazooie game as we know it. The nostalgia-tinted dialogue, reoccurring cameos and nods to past games are welcome (a Banjo museum level is a triumph – merging levels of Banjo-Kazooies yore into one massive bear-’n’-bird love-in), but mainly as there’s not even a hint of said games in Nuts & Bolts. So small is the onscreen double act, it’s sometimes hard to even recognize them.