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Ten years after bursting onto the N64 the bird and the bear are back...
Packed with enough referential nods and classic humour to match Kazooie's wisecracks, Banjo Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts is, presumably, precisely the type of game that Microsoft forked out so much for Rare in the first place - GoldenEye XBLA just ain't going to happen, get over it! Yet it's not long after the game begins that the sense of Rare's own doubts over the bear and the bird's significance begins to emerge. From the opening sequence depicting the overweight stars without their abilities and a sense of purpose since 2000's Banjo-Tooie, to the precise question being tucked away in the second stage, Nuts & Bolts' sole purpose seems to be, to ask: "do gamers even want Banjo any more?" Perhaps more cynically, will Rare ever repeat former glories?
On initial inspection it appears the answer to this is a resounding no, in the traditional sense at last. Despite proclamations earlier in the year that Nuts & Bolts "isn't just a racing game", the fact that vehicles govern the vast majority of Nuts & Bolts seems to suggest that even Rare considers the challenge to take a 'traditional' Banjo to the next stage nigh on impossible, and is adverse towards a 'Super Mario Galaxy re-invention' following Viva Pinata's weak reception.
Amidst grainy footage of its N64 predecessors, Nuts & Bolts depicts Banjo and Kazooie's latest battle against Gruntilda following their cosy semi retirement. Under the new challenge posed by L.O.G - the grand creator of all videogames - Banjo and Kazooie must face off to 150 challenges across six worlds behind the wheels of various vehicular contraptions for the vast majority of the time. Of course there's plenty of things to collect and little mini-games to enjoy, but the bulk of the game lies with your skill in creating and piloting the various machines you'll get your hands upon.
Different Yet Similar
Serving as Nuts & Bolts' hub to its vast array of challenges, the many citizens of Showdown Town along with Pikelet's police continue Nuts & Bolt's all too noticeable nod towards current videogames. Despite being encouraged to stick to the confines of a vehicle, Rare has been at its most brilliant to ensure the challenge doesn't just require coming first repeatedly in a race. Whether it's guiding red hot boulders to cool off in the nearest pool of water or stealing a bomb before Gruntilda can deliver it, Nuts & Bolts' challenges are fresh, fun, and varied for all ages - similar staple qualities to the universally acclaimed original. Three different tiers of success guarantees you'll keep coming back to shave seconds off, much in a similar manner to the classic platformers of the past.
Unmistakably different to its platformer predecessors in terms of premise, it doesn't take long however for the same qualities of the original Banjo Kazooie and other Rare classics to begin to emerge. Nuts & Bolts is a curious mixture of two former Rare greats; something that both Microsoft and Rare no doubt will hope at least provide more appeal to it's shooter-fixated audience than wild pinatas. It should succeed. Nuts & Bolts may be little more than the strange offspring of Banjo & Kazooie and Diddy Kong Racing for the Rare aficionado, but it's a game that can be enjoyed equally in single-player stints or with a few friends - it's precisely the type of game we love to see on the Xbox 360.
Nevertheless squeezing Banjo into the most acceptable popular 360 genre after shooters is one thing, it's Nuts & Bolts creative aspects that suggest Rare still has a trick or two up its sleeve in the next-gen. Cynically viewed as an attempt to jump on the 'user creation' bandwagon, Nuts & Bolts' vehicle creation options should bring fond memories of Mechano for anybody old enough to remember and fun for the wider audience that Rare has, by their own word, been lumbered with attracting.
Wacky ACME Racers
With all manner of parts, vehicle creation is classic cartoon territory - ACME, Wacky Racers, etc... The sheer freedom to design whatever vehicle or strange hybrid you desire is wonderfully realised back in the game, with fatal design flaws such as overloading one side or getting the bow of your boat misaligned all issues that have a definite impact in the game. In true Rare tradition, although it's a feature that can be enjoyed by anybody regardless of age or skill, it's an area packed full of depth. Stick a few wheels onto an engine with a seat and you'll have a basic car or motorbike, add a few wings and you'll have a plane, put some propellers and you'll have your very own helicopter.
There's a vast selection of parts to get your hands on, many of which have a considerable effect on the game, whether it's pumping up balloons to get an instant airborne boost or jettisoning your extra parts for a speed boost. Ultimately it's the direct link between what you're creating and competing in the online leaderboards that makes Nuts & Bolts a standout title for Rare, a natural evolution of it's classic titles mentioned previously. Advanced options such as configuring the role of each individual wheel is sufficient to wade through for aspiring engineers and hardcore Rare fanatics alike. With the definite objective of creating wildly imaginative vehicles, Nuts & Bolts doesn't get bogged down in grand complex illusions, like a certain other title big on user created content, it's something that could and should be enjoyed by all.
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