Tuesday 20 July 2021

Banjo-Kazooie (N64 review)

Developer: Rare
Publisher: Nintendo
Released: 1998

Banjo-Kazooie is a 3D platformer that was re-released as part of the Rare Replay compilation (2015, Xbox One).

The evil witch Gruntilda has kidnapped your sister Tooty and your mission is rescue her by working your way through nine worlds. These worlds house ten missions each and allow you to collect various items to unlock new hub areas, or upgrade your attacks / abilities. When compared to the Rare developed Donkey Kong 64 (1999, N64) there are many similarities in terms of collect-a-thon gameplay, move-sets and procedure of world progression. However, Banjo-Kazooie is more refined with its smaller levels that are tightly crafted; everything serves a purpose and if you're stuck you're never too far away from the answer. Even when you do have to backtrack, you'll be armed with new power-ups and attacks that open up the gameplay and levels in fresh ways. Clanker's Cavern takes a typically tedious underwater world and fills it with fun mission objectives, whereas Freezeezy Peak is a visual feast with its cool Christmas setting. The gameplay constantly rewards players too with new attacks, weapons and unlockables which encourages you to explore. It's fun doing so with challenges and puzzles at every turn, and I like how you usually have a multitude of options in terms of what to tackle next. It's not all perfect though, as Rusty Bucket Bay's harbour setting falls flat due to its confusing layout and instant death traps. The camera can also be a huge pain and the game unwisely forces you to collect almost everything to advance to the end boss. Speaking of which, the prelude to this final encounter slows things to a crawl as you're bizarrely forced to answer pointless trivia questions about the game.

Banjo-Kazooie is a great launch for the series thanks to its tightly crafted level design that's packed with wonderment and entertaining missions. It does lean too heavily on excessive collectability (which could deter some casual players from seeing it through to the end), but the platforming is such high quality that it's worth the effort.

Random trivia: Originally, the Fungi Forest world in Donkey Kong 64 was supposed to be included here, but was dropped due to time constraints.

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