Preview: First Unveil: Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts
Banjo's new ride is... whatever you make.
Fans of the Banjo-Kazooie series will be surprised to find that Banjo-Kazooie 3 is neither what you anticipated or expected. Even I assumed the newest Banjo to be a cooperative platformer starring Banjo and Kazooie, a cartoon-y bear and bird. That is not the case. This is Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts. Why Nuts & Bolts? Check it out...
Developer Rare (Perfect Dark Zero, Viva Pinata) is making this game so different you have to get your hands on it to grasp the concept. There is no co-op, the graphics are better, but craziest of all... the traditional platforming elements are almost completely gone. What Rare has done with Banjo-Kazooie is transfer the traditional platforming elements of the game into creating and driving vehicles. I know it sounds insane, but it works in a quirky gamer-friendly kind of way.
Play. Create. Drive.
Much like the motto of LittleBigPlanet-Play. Create. Share.-the newest Banjo-Kazooie is all about playing, creating, and driving user-generated vehicles built from a palette of different "car parts." But cars aren't the only vehicles you can create. Boats, planes, helicopters...it's all up to your imagination.
Here's how it works. Mumbo Jumbo, the series' shaman quit his day job and now works as a mechanic. He still retains the powers of a witch doctor, which allows him to piece together some very interesting vehicles for Banjo, for example, a jet-propelled UFO with a deployable glider. To create a vehicle is simply a matter of pressing up on the directional-pad to enter Mumbo's garage. In the garage, you can jump right into building a kick-ass monster truck, paint your hotrod, or load up a preset provided by Rare mechanics.
Banjo the Builder
The basic car parts required to create a functional vehicle are all block shaped, square or rectangle. To create a functional vehicle, you must install these parts: a driver's seat, a fuel system, and an engine. Wheels are not always necessary (think boat or hovercraft), and body pieces help fill out a vehicle and provide extra space to install bigger fuel drums or multiple engines.
In vehicle edit mode, the craft floats in midair as you rotate the camera around attaching different parts. Rare wanted the vehicle creation process to be easy, and thanks to Mumbo's magic you don't have to connect parts realistically-the engine doesn't have to be connected directly to the fuel. You can place parts wherever you want on the vehicle and it will still function.
Vehicle parts are broken up into numerous categories: body, tires, fuel, seats, propulsion (engines), gadgets, weapons, ammo and more. Body parts are light or heavy, which affects your vehicle's weight and armor. Tires range from slick to spiked and affect how your vehicle drives on different surfaces. Fuel comes in different sizes, ammo as well. The larger the fuel drum, the longer you can drive. Engines produce power, so the bigger the better. Gadgets include things like spotlights and gyroscopes that provide additional stabilization when flying. Now mix up all this with a realistic physics engine and you've got one crazy ride.
The World of Sports is set up like an Olympic arena, so expect that earning Jiggies will be a bit more physical.
Big Surprise, Eh?
The vehicle creation is a huge surprise for Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts, but this shouldn't be: Gruntilda is mucking things up again and Banjo still collects music notes to unlock golden puzzle Jiggies and fight the power. Again, the goal of the game is to collect all the Jiggies by completing a variety of tasks. These tasks are completely different than previous Banjo games because of the addition of vehicles.
One such task requires Banjo to collect as many coconuts as possible in a limited time. The task begins atop a hill and the coconut farm is down below. There are open-world elements to Nuts & Bolts, as there are two different ways to collect coconuts. One is to drive the preset vehicle down to the coconut farm, vacuum up enough coconuts without weighing down the vehicle, and deliver them to the drop point. Or, as I witnessed, you can strap a helicopter propeller to the vehicle, pick up the drop point with a deployable sticky ball, and take the drop point down the hill to suck up all the coconuts. The later approach cuts out the middle man, but does require advanced piloting skills.
In the World of Sports arena (more on game worlds in a minute), one task pits Banjo atop a massive ramp to launch a vehicle as far as possible. Again, there are almost limitless vehicle types that can exceed in a task such as this. The obvious approach would be to build a car with wings, gliding to victory. Even better, I saw a glider with a deployable cage that continued to roll and build further distance.
Not all platforming elements have been stripped. Banjo still has to jump, climb, and shimmy his way to reach the precious Jiggies.
A World within a World
Like previous Banjo games, there is a central hub world where Banjo enters murals to visit different levels, or "game worlds" as Rare is calling them. This central hub is called Showdown Town in Nuts & Bolts, and it is the largest world Rare has ever built. Here you discover game globes that unlock new game worlds. The difference between Showdown Town and the different game worlds is visual. Everything in theses game worlds is fabricated, from the stitched ground Banjo stands on to the sky. For example, a game world called Nutty Acres is encased by giant LCD screens that project the sky, and clouds hang from a giant mobile. It's graphically impressive and distinguishes these worlds as something completely different from Showdown Town.
In a world like Nutty Acres, you must complete multiple tasks to earn a Jiggy, which is then transferred to the real world, Showdown Town. In previous Banjo games that was it. You earned your Jiggy, and you were done. But now you have to transport your Jiggy through Showdown Town to a secure location while dodging cops that will bump your Jiggy loose and snatch the goods.
Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts is a surprise indeed, but a pleasant one at that. Banjo fans will love the game for its returning characters and witty humor, but I'm concerned the game banks too heavily upon creative, user-generated vehicles. I'm curious to see how many gamers latch on to the concept because it takes a good amount of time and patience. Others who have seen the game expressed concern that Banjo and Kazooie's attacks have been reduced to a simpler move set which just isn't Banjo-Kazooie.
That said, Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts is a refreshing ride on a road riddled with cash-in sequels. And you'll only find this creative jewel on the Xbox 360 this November. With limitless vehicle options, online multiplayer that features modes centered on vehicular combat and racing, and that same Banjo-Kazooie look and feel, Xbox 360 owners might are in for a taste of what LittleBigPlanet is doing on the PS3. I'm just waiting for Rare to drop the online vehicle-sharing bomb, but for now there's no official confirmation.
So you want to know how to create an awesome vehicle that drives, flies, and swims. Well, let good ol' Banjo show you how it's done. First you'll need...
Propeller: Propellers have a wide variety of uses on a vehicle. Install propellers on the front of your vehicle to create a basic airplane (wings required). Likewise, shift the propellers to the back and your vehicle can now tread water. Helicopter propellers are even powerful enough to pick up vehicles.
Treaded Tires: Different types of tires affect how a vehicle traverses the landscape. Standard tires are great for racing on a flat surface, but treaded or spiked tires will help you climb steep inclines. Monster tires, anyone?
Floaties: Unless you're intension is to sink, then your boat-vehicle is going to need some sort of floatation device.
Folding Wings: Wings come in various shapes and sizes. The wings seen here are folding wings that can be retracted in and out of your vehicle. There are also fixed wings that remain stationary.
Spotlight: It's a spotlight. It makes the night brighter and helps you see in the dark.
Guns: Weapons are an essential part of any heavy metal vehicle. The Mumbo Bumbo was my favorite. A mountable Mumbo skull sat behind my seat and spit bombs at drivers chasing me.