Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts

At first it all seems like familiar territory, only much, much prettier. The hub world, Showdown Town, is typical Rare – a lush, bustling area filled with strange characters, cute animals and oh-so-British humour. It’s tough not to raise a smile as you wander round reacquainting yourself with Banjo, his birdy buddy and the cast of familiar faces making a comeback from the older titles. In fact, there’s so much beautiful detail you could spend hours on exploration alone. As the title suggests, Nuts & Bolts is more about tinkering with vehicles than leapingacross platforms collecting brightly coloured ephemera.

Why? The Lord of Games (LOG) has grown tired of the constant bickering between Banjo and his arch-rival Grunty, and has decided to help the pair settle their dispute by setting them a series of wacky challenges – winner takes all. Our heroes can’t complete the tasks by fur and feather alone – hell, the world is so vast, they’d struggle to even reach most areas on foot, so they build machines to help out. Essentially this is a puzzle-heavy platformer with vehicles you make yourself. Oh, we’re a long way from the double-jump days.

Rare are keen to encourage a creative approach to each task, so the wealth of customisation options it throws at you can seem intimidating at first. Even the most creative gamer will craft a few duds to start with as they get to grips with the way the vehicle mods interact with Nuts & Bolts’ surprisingly solid physics system. Each task comes with its own pre-built machine, courtesy of chop-shop owner Mumbo, for anyone who doesn’t want to experiment too much, but using these stock vehicles feels like cheating.

The demo came with several ready-made machines, but when you’re starting the game from the beginning, you’ll be given basic kit to work up from. Soon you’ll be piloting hovercraft, helicopters, hang-gliders and more. The key is to construct vehicles specific to each task, so for the one that requires you to score a specific amount of goals with an oversized football, it’s better if you use a maneuverable car with some kind of large bucket to control the ball. Need to knock over a table full of giant dominos? We recommend a plane with a large wingspan that can topple as many as possible. There are literally hundreds of options for every challenge, and once you’ve had your own ‘Eureka!’ moment after inventing a devastatingly effective vehicle, you’ll be hooked on Nuts & Bolts.

Even after this brief taster of the new Banjo-Kazooie, we feel both familiar with the gameplay and hungry to be left alone with it for some quality tinkering time. It may not be the Mario-worrying platformer you remember fondly thanks to those thick, rose-tinted specs, but from what we’ve seen, that’s no bad thing. We’re loving Banjo’s new creative direction almost as much as his shiny, free-flowing next gen fur. Building vehicles like crazy Meccano sets feels odd at first, but once you get to grips with it, Nuts & Bolts’ DIY gameplay could be your new favourite pastime.

Sep 9, 2008