Banjo-Tooie review
Banjo Tooie (Nintendo 64)

The good:

Humorous dialogue & characters
Inclusion of bosses
First/third person game play
Impressive visuals

The bad:

Erratic camera at times
"Frustrating" worlds


Producing a quality game is often a slow, drawn out process that requires precision and the necessary elements to make it just right. At one point, the Nintendo 64 seemed to totally relinquish this philosophy of the best games what seemed to be eternal amounts of time. Month by month, quarter by quarter, this console appeared to be distributing fantastic titles, each with their own styles and dynamics to create a truly unique identity in the gaming world. How did this come to be? With the involvement of powerhouse studios, the N64 lead the charge with an array of formidable games. You probably already have one studio in your mind right now, and that’s Retro, a legendary publisher that doesn’t need a biography to appear relevant. However, the emergence of a smaller, second party developer was also responsible for a fantastic string of high quality games. Here we have Rare Studios, a company stationed in the United Kingdom that became a second party developer for Nintendo in 1994. This is where the critical acclaim would begin for the studio, and at one point it seemed to show no signs of stopping. With games like golden Eye 007 and Donkey Kong 64, Rare became one of the most memorable companies to ever be associated with the legendary Nintendo name. Despite all of the success and opportunity, every console begins to have its days into obscurity. The iconic titles become a little less frequent, and the excitement begins to give way to Next-Gen hype. Despite the inevitable soon approaching, that did not stop Rare from injecting some life into the system’s waning moments. The result is Banjo Tooie, a direct sequel and one of the last titles Rare ever produced for a Nintendo system. As with continuation, Banjo Tooie retains the same elements as the original. Fortunately for us, the little pieces added into it this time around are anything but tedious. The witty dialogue is just as humorous as ever, allowing anyone to see that this is a Rare studious production. With its grim but comical plot, Banjo Tooie creates a memorable adventure, along with a few twists and turns along the way.

We begin Banjo’s return by arriving at a small residence just near Spiral Mountain, the home of the game’s familiar antagonist. Gruntilda, the stereotypical witch, is up to no good yet again, causing an excess of trouble right from the beginning again. Armed with an elementary rhyming scheme and ironic vanity, Gruntilda and her two sisters are back for revenge. They start their plans by obliterating Banjo and Kazooie’s home during a casual card game between friends. While Banjo, Kazooie, and Mumbo escape, Bottles is killed during the blast, becoming nothing more than a wandering (but helpful) spirit. As the pair continues their adventure to get to the core of Gruntilda’s plans, they meet King Jingaling, a Jinjo ruler that has been transformed into a lifeless zombie. As we learn through various cut scenes, Gruntilda and her sisters plan to use their B.O.B machine to suck the life out of various characters to restore the witch to eternal youth and renowned beauty. This time around, Banjo and Kazooie will need the assistance of King Jiggywiggy, one of the very few nobles not affected by Gruntilda’s machine. Once again, the odd pair will have to collect Jiggies to open doors to new worlds, bosses, and to finally ascend to Spiral Mountain for one final showdown. Familiar faces make an immediate return to this vast new world, which seems to completely disregard any laws of nature. The opening of a gate will bring Banjo and Kazooie to Lagoons, lands of molten lava and frigid snow, as well as one of the most frustrating levels to ever experience in a Rare Studios title. Don’t worry; we’ll get to “that part” eventually…

As opposed to games such as Golden Eye 007, Banjo Tooie lacks any sort of realism during even the most perilous hours. There’s nothing that’s going to make you stand at the edge of your seat, but this sequel packs tons of entertaining, light hearted hours of gaming. Banjo and company are still as humorous as ever, in ways younger players may not even be aware of. The clever dialogue is one of the game’s brightest moments, and there’s plenty of it distributed across the entire storyline. Even bosses have a pretty good sense of humor, something that doesn’t come around often in most adventure games. These abstract features make Banjo Tooie an enjoyable title fit for anyone. The comical nature of this game allows for the replay value to be relatively high despite its old age. The hunt for Jiggies never really gets old, and will embrace hours of game play for years to come.

While this scene may seem rather morbid, Banjo Tooie is a lighthearted adventure anyone can welcome

Some Further Assistance
In Banjo Kazooie, the unorthodox pair was forced to maneuver around Gruntilda’s lair with little to no help. While entertaining, this resulted in a one dimensional style of play that could get tedious when progressing farther into the game. Banjo Tooie erases this element and instead offers much needed help in this sequel. Rather than operating as one unit, Banjo and Kazooie must now seek assistance from the likes of Mumbo Jumbo and Wumba, two powerful sorcerers with the ability to change the size and shape of not only the landscape of the current area, but for Banjo and Kazooie themselves. Players will transform the pair into dinosaurs, snowballs, and even a washing machine in order to obtain those much coveted jigsaw pieces. Rather than a simple back round character, Mumbo is now playable and a necessity to cross the more perilous terrain. Providing oxygen underwater and reviving golden statues are just a small fragment of his value to the game, which provides a whole new addition to the Banjo series.

With Mumbo’s new role, the hunt for Jiggies becomes a bit more complex

While the addition of Banjo’s friends is a huge help throughout the journey, they can’t always be around to save the day. For this, we have the return of Jamjars, a drill sergeant who offers a diverse range of moves, providing you’ve collected the substantial amount of music notes within the game. Banjo and Kazooie will now be able to “split up” and wander off on their own, which provides a distinct set of positives and negatives. While honeycombs and certain moved are wiped out for the time being, the pair can learn new moves while traveling on their own. As expected, this offers yet another brand new style of play to this multi-layered title. Some quests cannot be completed without the sole use of one character, and the introduction of “split pads” make the separation painless and simple. While Banjo Tooie doesn’t bring about too many new features, it provides just enough variety to keep anyone entertained.

Game Play
As you would expect from a light hearted style of game, controls and game play methods are very simple and easy to pick up after the first hour. To stay familiar, Banjo Tooie has the exact same control scheme as its predecessor, with the significant changes only around to make new features. Perhaps the most shocking feature in the entire game is the switch in gaming perspective during certain missions and side games. This is the transition from the typical third person, to a first person style, with Kazooie acting as the gun. Instead of bullets, she’s able to shoot eggs in several stages, including one incredible boss battle. The first person perspective isn’t exactly detailed, but offers a fresh experience and is pretty entertaining, to say the least. The scavenger like nature of these first person missions result in a frantic search against the clock, often coming down to the very last second. This fast paced action is about as suspenseful and new as far as game play goes, but the result is a big reason why this game cannot be ignored.

The first person shooter view is a strange combination for a Banjo game; yet it works surprisingly well

Visuals & Audio
Once again, there isn’t really a ton of new material to touch upon in the visual and audio department of Banjo Tooie. It looks like an N64 game, and that’s about as descriptive as it gets. However, one strong point worth the extra detail is how both of these factors mesh into its plot and game play. As we’ve stated numerous times in this review, most of the fun comes from the huge amount of unrealistic atmosphere and incredible hyperbole. The intimidating dinosaurs within the game are so large, that only the foot can be seen in some instances. Worlds burst with color and emphasis, making that boss entrance one huge eyesore to stress just how imposing this fight is going to become. The music is for lack of a better word, goofy and comical, with enough trumpet sounds and exaggerated beats to bring about the feel of a typical Saturday morning cartoon. All of this may seem to be a bit much, a bit too excessive. Once you play this game, it all starts to become a bit more logical. What would a Rare game look like without exaggerated artwork and visual Easter eggs? A very dull one to say the least! Thankfully, you won’t ever have to worry about this becoming a factor in Banjo Tooie.

Flaws (Oh and about that one level…)

One major setback in this game is the frantic camera that tends to stray off into the worst position possible. Since the game relies on several 3D linear/nonlinear worlds, a solid camera is almost a necessity in order to avoid those frequent headaches and aggressive button mashing to restore order within the game. Unfortunately, Banjo Tooie has one of the most frustrating cameras in recent memory. With a mind of its own, the camera will purposely stray off into a whole or an obstacle, literally blocking out entire characters, landscapes, etc. As one can only imagine, this requires a passive mind and an unheard of amount of concentration. Due to its frequency, patience is due to run out at an alarming rate, with a likely chance of multiple "game overs" due to such an erratic camera. There is no secret, nor is there any way around. This is just one of those factors that cannot be avoided.

Way back in the first few paragraphs, I mentioned the steep incline in difficulty that seems to be just as inconsistent as the camera. Which leads to the second major flaw in this game; the scarce, but incredibly frustrating worlds found within the outskirts passed Spiral Mountain. Some missions can get aggravating, but that’s nothing compared to the industrial cesspool that is Grunty Industries. This grim looking factory building will create multiple headaches right from the very beginning of the level. Everyone likes a challenging game, but there has always been a fine line between “wow, this level is challenging!” to “that was one of the most frustrating levels I’ve ever experienced.” There’s a far greater chance of experiencing the latter. This is no literary hyperbole, this one level is enough to make you shut the game off for a few weeks/months. Thankfully, free roaming capabilities allow you to go to any world you choose, regardless of how many times you’ve been there before. Better stock of on Jiggies before you reach this stage, you’re going to need it.

If these two factors aren’t enough to scare you away, Banjo Tooie is one of the best games for the N64, and just one of the many gems that arrived during Rare’s golden years. Unfortunately, Rare’s future looks bleak and unproductive. If anything, this game is a brilliant piece of nostalgia for anyone too shocked and stubborn to accept Rare’s turn for the worst. Armed with a comical plot, a memorable cast of characters, and a variety of perspectives, Banjo Tooie is a quality game that stays true to that iconic Rare Studios formula

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