The bird and the bear are back and better than ever.
September 25, 2008 - Before Tim left on his quest to find puzzle pieces in Braid, there was another who sought parts of jigsaw puzzles. His name was Banjo and he carried a bird around in his backpack that went by the name of Kazooie. Perhaps you've heard of them. The two followed in the footsteps of Mario 64 and, courtesy of development studio Rare, delivered a platformer that Nintendo 64 owners circa 1998 couldn't get enough of. Now, more than 10 years later, the bear and the bird are making a comeback. Alongside an entirely new adventure titled Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts, the original Banjo-Kazooie will release to the Xbox Live Arcade.
If you love collecting things, Banjo-Kazooie is your dream come true. At the outset of the game, the evil witch Gruntilda kidnaps Banjo's sister, Tooty, to steal her beauty. The only way to save Tooty is to hunt down the witch and make her pay. But before you can get to her, you'll have to lead Banjo and Kazooie on a quest to find dozens and dozens of puzzle pieces (known as jiggies), musical notes, honeycomb pieces, and more while learning new moves and exploring some giant levels.
Banjo-Kazooie has a non-linear design that encourages you to explore and see what you can find. Scattered throughout levels you'll find little puzzles, characters in dire need of your help and simple platforming tasks that can be tackled at your leisure. One of the great strengths of the game is that you don't have to find everything one level has to offer before moving on to the next. Simply find enough jiggies or musical notes to unlock the next door and you're free to move on. Get stumped in a harder level and you can return to an older one to finish off your collections and improve your skills. It's a design that has been tried many times since, but few reached the level of simplicity, polish and style that Banjo-Kazooie delivers.
The Xbox Live Arcade release is largely the same as it was way back in the 64-bit era, but a few things have been brought up to date. The game now runs in a full widescreen mode to fit on your HDTV. Some of the assets have been redone, but things like textures retain their original, and now fuzzy, look. Take one look and it's easy to see that this version looks leaps and bounds better than the original. And even with the old textures, it doesn't look bad by any means.
The controls have now been mapped to the Xbox 360 controller and they work pretty well. I was a bit disappointed that, though the camera is now mapped to the right analog stick, an extra degree of view wasn't added. You can rotate the camera around Banjo, but you can't tilt it to look up or down on the fly.
A couple of other additions have been made to the game as well. There are now the standard 12 achievements that offer even more incentive to collect everything. Check those out here
. That's nothing new, but one cool thing I found while playing was a free gamerpic unlocked by completing some of these objectives.
Here's the real kicker, though: Banjo-Kazooie on Nintendo 64 was supposed to be able to interact with Banjo-Tooie through a "Stop and Swop" technique that never quite panned out. That feature is finally going to be realized. Find hidden goodies in Banjo-Kazooie XBLA and you'll be able to unlock things in Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts. Since you'll get a code to download Banjo-Kazooie on XBLA for free if you pre-order Nuts & Bolts, it doesn't look like there's any reason for fans not to take advantage of this little extra.
And if two Banjo games on Xbox 360 aren't enough for you, Microsoft has announced
that Banjo-Tooie will be coming to XBLA in early 2009 as well.