I wasn't planning on blogging until the weekend. I had the intention of voicing my opinions of the Half-Life expansion packs, Opposing Force and Blue Shift. On this quiet Thursday, with University lectures cancelled and no pressure from essays or exams, I thought I'd just kick back and chill. Maybe read a little of Mrs Dalloway or The Faerie Queene in preparation for my Literature seminars next week. Maybe do a bit of creative writing, work on my novel to pass the time. Maybe even pick up the PSP and clear a few more outstanding missions in Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII. Instead, I opted to fire up the Xbox 360 and play a little Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts.
I've been meaning to get around to playing Nuts & Bolts ever since Brad's glowing review encouraged me to pick up a copy from Amazon last Easter. Finishing off the Half-Life expansions, as well as feeling the need to return to my 360 after over a month of inactivity, prompted me to finally pick it up and start playing. Initially my opinion of the game was positive, but not especially high. It's funny, it looks absolutely gorgeous, it controls well, the gameplay is built on a very firm foundation, and the vehicle editor is accessible but also incredibly deep. I spent my first few hours with the game adjusting to the mechanics, mucking about in the Workshop and Test-O-Track, and completing some of the first few Jiggy challenges with some pretty rudimentary vehicular designs. I was enjoying Nuts & Bolts, but wasn't really seeing what Brad was talking about.
Then came "the moment"The level was the first act of LogBox 720. The challenge was the one given by Klungo, to carry an antenna to a certain height within the level. Thinking I could approach it in the same way as the game's first few challenges, I opened up the vehicle editor with a hint of overconfidence and concocted a super-speedy version of the standard trolley, thinking its bigger engine would be enough to secure victory. I was wrong. After about five attempts which yielded nothing but notes, I decided to skip the challenge and head back to Showdown Town. While there, I hunted down a couple of crates and took them over to Mumbo. One of them contained a set of propellers. This got me thinking, and I instantly raced over to the Workshop to tinker with them. I stuck a couple of poles onto my trolley, added the propellers, and voila: I'd made a helicopter!
After a brief run in the Test-O-Track to make sure it could actually fly, I leapt back into LogBox 720 and found Klungo. I retook the challenge, arming myself with my newly-built Carry Copter. As soon as the klaxon sounded, I lifted the antenna onto my Carry Copter's tray, jumped into the driver's seat, and flew towards the ceiling of the level. I reached the allotted height in nineteen seconds, snagging not only the Jiggy but a nice T.T. Trophy to go along with it. My mind was blown. I'd experienced "the moment", the point where I actually GOT what Nuts & Bolts is all about. Instead of persisting with my first instincts, I took a step back, reassessed the situation, and made a vehicle better suited to my needs. Suddenly the creative juices have started flowing. With just nine Jiggies to my name, I know I've still got a lot more to see, a lot more to think about, and a lot more to experiment with. I can't wait to see what else is lying in wait for me in the future challenges. I've even downloaded the L.O.G.'s Lost Challenges DLC pack, in the hope of squeezing just a little bit more life out of this awesome game.
I realise I'm a little late to the party with Nuts & Bolts, so I'm not going to wax lyrical about how awesome and innovative the game is, or about how more games should be providing this kind of experience. Other people have already made that point several times over. I just wanted to say that it's stuff like this, and the depth of the world in the Viva Pinata series, that has left me with a great sense of appreciation for Rare as a developer. That's probably why I've ordered myself copies of Kameo: Elements of Power and Perfect Dark Zero, as well as snaffling a copy of the original Viva Pinata. I'm looking forward to getting stuck into them all over the next year or so. They all look pretty darn good. Thanks very much for reading, guys. I'd also love to hear about your own Nuts & Bolts "moments", too, if you have any to share (but keep them reasonably spoiler-free, as I'm only a little way into the game). In the meantime, I'll see you around.
Currently playing - Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts (X360)