It's the classic Banjo themes and charm... with a twist!
I love the Banjo Kazooie games on the N64, they were two of my favorite games back in the day and some of my fondest memories on the N64 are from those games. I was really excited to hear that there was another Banjo game in the works but, like many other Banjo fans, I was kinda disappointed with how much the game was going to change. Almost a year later I tried the game out... was it worth the trip?
Starting off, we find Banjo and Kazooie at Spiral Mountain where they have grown overweight over the eight years that have passed by since Banjo-Tooie. The duo run into Gruntilda (the antagonist of the Banjo series) and, right before they're about to bash it out, a character called Lord of Games (L.O.G.) interrupts them. LOG claims to be the creator of all video games and, to try and settle the conflict, he sends them to his headquarters, Showdown Town. Banjo (and Kazooie) and Grunty enter a contest wherein you must complete challenges within LOG's various game worlds, while Grunty tries to stop you. The winner will own Spiral Mountain, and the loser is to work forever in LOG's video game factory. The twist in this is that you're restricted from using your moves from the old games, and you're forced to construct and use vehicles to complete your challenges.
The story and plot isn't exactly what you'd call deep, but it's not meant to be taken too seriously (also note that very frequently breaks the fourth wall). Though Kazooie's jokes sometimes get lame, the game is humorous and charming. You'll see alot of familiar faces coming back as well as some new characters. You'll also find alot of references back to the other Banjo games spread throughout LOG's worlds.
Nuts and Bolts has a very attractive general art style that's held together by pretty good graphics technology. Each of LOG's world however, have a different theme and look to them. You'll probably end up having your favorites amongst the game worlds (mine being Nutty Acres and the Jiggoseum).
One of my favorite things is actually the cutscene/commercial-like introductions to each of LOG's game worlds, they're very charming and just fun to look at. Also, interface are pretty understandable and easy to grasp, you won't have trouble accustoming to the vehicle creation interface. One thing about this game is that unfortunately, when things get a little too intense and crowded, you will notice it start to chugg.
You'll be hearing some of the songs and jingles from the original Banjo games in Nuts and Bolts, they're great to listen to and brings back some memories for those who played the originals. In addition there are also a number of new songs that usually support the world your playing in very nicely -- I quite enjoyed the music in the game.
The characters still speak the same gibberish that they did in the old games, which seemed to have been passable back then, but are now kind of annoying. This is however easy to look past. The sound effects range from fine to pretty good in the game on things like musical notes, jiggys and motors/propellers.
You're general objective is very clear in Nuts and Bolts. You complete challenges and win jiggies to unlock new worlds and acts, eventually leading up to the final door. However, I'll just be upfront about it. Those looking for that platforming that made the original Banjos great won't find it here. However, that's not necessarily a bad thing... while in truth, I do miss the platforming from the original Banjo games, the whole vehicle gameplay is done pretty well in this game and I really enjoyed it.
The gameplay in Nuts and Bolts is centered around putting a multitude of parts together to form various vehicles that each complete the specific challenge your trying to accomplish. The great thing is that you can really be creative with this and you can make a vehicle that can do all sorts of things. There's alot of variety in what you can build and, to an extent, how you can complete a challenge. It's a really enjoyable experience to create a custom vehicle and see it work just how you wanted it or even better than expected.
There are a few shortcomings with the vehicle game play in Nuts and Bolts. While it won't be hard to learn how to make vehicles, you'll have to pay careful attention to what you're doing. You're to make sure that you're using the parts that are right for what you want to do, make sure that you have the right weight distribution for your vehicle, enough fuel for your engine and things of that sort. Sometimes all of it can become a lot to keep track of but I was able to manage fine. There is a considerable amou nt of downtime before starting challenges if you don't have a vehicle that can accomplish the type of challenge your on saved in your vehicle database already. Fortunately though, if building isn't exactly your thing, you can purchase blueprints that will automatically build vehicles for you. However, I feel that using blueprints as something further then a template for what you really want to build takes away from the fun of the creative aspect of the game, and the blueprints won't do the jobs nearly as well as a custom that you can construct. I think the problem that really stands out the most is that sometimes you'll g et ahead of yourself. That is to say that sometimes you'll be in a game world you have no business being in because you haven't collected the right vehicle parts to construct vehicles that are up to par with that game world. It can be annoying, but it's manageable. Also, sometimes you'll start to get the feeling that some of the challenges start to become repetitive, but the game tries to spice it up to keep it fresh for you.
You'll never actually die in the game unless you're trying to die or you're very unlucky. However, alot of the challenges can be very difficult. You can potentially get three rewards from completing a challenge: Notes (Currency), Jiggies (Like Stars in Mario) and Trophies (which show that you've performed exceptionally, and you'll get one Jiggie for every for trophies). You'll at least want to get a Jiggie for every challenge you complete. However, for those perfectionists like me, you can try to go for the trophies which give you extra jiggies and a sort of sense of accompli shme nt . Trophies will become very hard to get as you progress through cha llenges, and it's in collecting trophies that you'll really be tested in creating exceptional vehicles. Aside from this, you can also find stray Jingo's spread throughout LOG's worlds which you can help for Jingo Tokens (which can be used to play Jingo Bingo, where you can win Notes and Vehicle Parts).
One of my favorite things about this game is Showdown Town (the central HUB world where you access all of LOG's game worlds from). Showdown Town is really lively and there's alot to do. You can free Jingo Prisoners[ (and potentially have to deal with and dodge cops from time to time), play Jingo Bingo, play at Klungo's Arcade, go searching for notes or go searching for vehicle part crates (and that's to keep the list rather short). There's also a day/night cycle in Showdown Town and it's brought to life by the locals that crowd it. Showdown Town's design is really great and I really enj oyed exploring and seeing what I could find within it. You'll also be pleased to find that you'll have to employ some platforming to reach some tough spots in the town.
Lasting Appeal and Closing Remarks
If you go beyond getting the minimum 75 Jiggies to go past the final door and complete the final challenges, you'll find that there's alot of extra content in the game. Besides obviously getting the rest of the Jiggies, you can: collect every trophy, fully explore and collect everything in Showdown Town, help every Jingo, complete Jingo Bingo, beat every game in Klungo's Arcade and much more. Depending on how much you do, this game will last you 15-25 hours, maybe 30. The multiplayer isn't bad, but you'll really only get fun out if it when you can construct a competitive vehicle for it, and that comes later in the game -- I didn't look at it twice to be honest.
If you can look past the vehicle mechanics, you'll find that Nuts and Bolts really DOES feel like a Banjo Game. The music, the art, the humor and charm are all very Banjo and these elements really kept me into the experience. Sure the vehicles, lack of platforming and LOG twist kinda throw things off a bit, but the feel is still there in my eyes. Overall a good game and I was pleasantly surprised after having been so cautious about it.