Reviews

Banjo-Tooie

4 out of 5

Written by Dr_Worm on June 17, 2008

Remember Banjo-Kazooie? The original gameplay, the likable characters, the humorous, risque dialog, and the stylized visuals? Want more of it? A lot more of it? Well, you're in luck. There's a sequel!

Banjo-Tooie for the Nintendo 64 continues 2 years after the bear-bird duo buried the evil witch, Gruntilda, beneath a large boulder. While henchman Klungo still struggles to set his master free, Banjo and Kazooie get involved in a heated poker game between them, Mumbo the witchdoctor, and Bottles the mole. Little do they know that the witch's sisters are on their way to set her free. To make a long story short: Grunty is freed and reduced to a skeleton, blows up Banjo's house, kills Bottles (no, it's not a spoiler), and vows to suck the life out of every living being on the Isle O' Hags.

The controls are similar to the original game. In fact, they're exactly the same. Every move you learned in Banjo-Kazooie you'll know immediately at the start of Tooie and they're all mapped to the exact same button layouts. There are even more new moves for you to learn throughout Banjo-Tooie than the last game, all the way up to the last level. Unfortunately, most of them feel a little unnecessary or rarely used at all. Take eggs for example. You can now learn to aim in first-person mode and shoot while in flight. That's cool. But now you have different kinds of eggs. With the exception of Clockwork Kazooie eggs (little remote control bombs resembling our feathered heroine), they all feel the same. Whoop-de-doo, my eggs can now freeze, burn, or explode. The only times these are of real use are the first-person segments and in very specific scenarios. Perhaps the most convoluted of the new moves is the ability to disconnect the two protagonists. This sounds like a good idea at first, but once you discover you can barely do any simple moves alone without learning them, it feels kind of stupid that in order to learn a certain move (without knowing ahead of time) you have to go to a break-away pad, break up, switch to Kazooie if necessary, go to learn the move, then go back and get your partner. Replace anything in the last sentence involving learning moves to getting Jiggies and you'll discover a related flaw.

As for the gameplay, many of the elements are still there, but have been slightly tweaked. You still use Jiggies to unlock new worlds, but you have to complete a jigsaw puzzle minigame in order to get full access to the levels. Notes are no longer used to access different parts of the hub world. Instead, they're used to bribe Bottles' military-obsessed brother, JamJars, into teaching you some new tricks. Notes also come in bulks of 5 or 25, no longer only 1. Access to different parts of the hub world is granted when using a specific move learned in the previous levels. Huh. You know, in a round-about way, I guess notes are still used to advance in the hub world. Transformations are no longer performed by Mumbo. Mumbo instead acts as a playable character, if by "playable character" you mean "pretty much useless save for a few spots." Transformations are still a part of the game, only this time they're performed by Native-American witch doctor Humba Wumba. In order to get her to transform you - as well as enlist Mumbo's assistance - you need a Glowbo, a weird little Furby-esque creature that either gets horribly sacrificed to the Native-American gods or thrown into Mumbo's magic sack for God knows what. He looks pretty desperate to get his hands on one though. Maybe he's addicted to Glowbo.

Collecting Jiggies is Banjo's Anti-Glowbo. What's your Anti-Glowbo?

Jinjos make a return as well, and there are still five on each level. This time, however, getting the Jiggy reward is slightly different. Instead of just getting all five on a level, you have to collect all of the members of a Jinjo family whose numbers range from 1 to 9. There are also Minjos, the doppelganger of the Jinjos. When you get too close to them, they snap and attack you with blind, electrical fury. Why? Because Minjo doesn't have an Anti-Glowbo.

Family is Jinjo's Anti-Glowbo. What's your Anti-Glowbo?

The levels in Banjo-Tooie are enormous and, be it blessing or blight, more complex. Obtaining Jiggies can be fun for some and tedious for others. While note collecting was made a hell of a lot easier, complexity in Jiggy collecting picks up where Banjo-Kazooie left off, with difficulty trailing close behind. Some may take only a few seconds, while many will take much longer to acquire. This would be fine and dandy if it weren't for the fact that many of the new moves you learn feel unnecessary to get certain Jiggies and may only be used just once or twice throughout the whole game. Some Jiggies even require you to traverse multiple levels in order to get a reward that feels underdeserving (if that's even a word). And, let's face it, some of them are just plain boring. There are, however, many more boss fights in Tooie than the original. Almost all of them are epic and you'll never feel like you fought the same boss twice.

Smart-ass remarks are Kazooie's Anti-Glowbo. What's your Anti-Glowbo?

As for presentation, it does a great job. The visuals are a step above your average N64 graphics and the style helps you forget any graphical flaws it might have. The levels look gorgeous; not one feels like you've played it before, either in this game or the last. The music will get your foot tapping and fits the mood, atmosphere, and environments quite nicely. The cutscenes are well-done also, making the story very easy to understand and easy to get in to for those who haven't played the original Banjo-Kazooie. I don't know how long it should normally take to get through the game, but it took me a staggering 24 hours to complete at 100% on my first go. In any case, it's still a game of epic proportions and is surprisingly big due to the fact that an Expansion Pak isn't even required. You can even replay cutscenes and, in a certain level, listen to any track in the game. My biggest complaint is the multiplayer. It's boring and doesn't have anything interesting worth mention. In fact, it's just like the multiplayer in Donkey Kong 64! Not only does it feel tacked on at the last second, but it's also based on a minor element of the game. Last I recall, Banjo-Tooie was a platformer, not a first-person shooter.

Sucking the life out of every living thing and harvesting it to give herself skin is Gruntilda's Anti-Glowbo. What's your Anti-Glowbo?

All-in-all, because of how the story continues, more characters are introduced, how much more you get to know them, the complexity and difficulty increases, the same moves from the original game are back and you learn many more, some minor new gameplay elements, and even the mirror-like geography of Spiral Mountain and Grunty's Lair and how they've changed in two years makes Banjo-Tooie, at times, feel more like a huge expansion to the original game rather then a sequel. If you liked Banjo-Kazooie want more of it - A lot more - than far be it from me to convince you not to get Banjo-Tooie. For everyone else, just be aware that it's a lot more of the same.

4 out of 5 is Banjo-Tooie's Anti-Glowbo. What's your Anti-Glowbo?