A Soup Quickie – Banjo Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts

I’m not 100% sure why I’m writing this – I can’t say I’ve ever been compelled to write anything about video games before, and certainly not about Banjo freaking Kazooie. This time, though, I was watching a video game review on YouTube (This One), and it’s the first time I’d seen a negative review that actually made me want to try a game. I know that sounds weird, but the whole time the reviewer was making fun of it for not being enough like the first two games, I noticed how the game looked like fun. It let you build your own vehicles, Lego-style (cars, boats, planes, rockets, hovercraft, a rock w/springs stuck to it – whatever), and had a strange Super Mario 64 meets Crazy Taxi meets Lego Racers feel to it.

To cut to the chase, I eventually found this game for $7, brand new, and it’s completely caught me by surprise. The story is stupid, but who cares – the environments are breathtaking, original, and surprisingly vast, the challenges can get pretty creative, and building your own cars (complete with engines, guns, paint, and bling) is amazingly fun. I can’t stress how fun the vehicle making can be – while maybe a little advanced for small kids, it inspired such creations as the KillDozer, the Jingo-Flingo, the HeliFort, and Tank-o-mid – which are exactly as amazing as they sound.

The game is surprisingly robust – it starts off pretty simple, but quickly ramps up as you find new vehicle parts around town or in the shop. As you collect MacGuffins (Jiggies in this case), more and more levels and challenges open up. Some are straightforward races by car, plane, or boat, while others function more like puzzles and can get pretty wild. The hub world offers it’s own challenges with finding hidden part crates and unlocking new levels as you explore every nook and cranny in the town. It’s a perfect game for me because I can play for 15 minutes, pass a few challenges or build a blimp, and then save and go do something else. It’s a little refreshing after being buried in 100-hour game after game (Skyrim, Dragon Age, Fallout 3, etc).

This game isn’t without a few flaws. It can be a little frustrating at times if you don’t build the right vehicle or have enough parts right away. It’s easy to get lost in some levels (especially the Terrarium of Terror), and a few of the challenges are REALLY hard. It can be difficult to find some part crates or treasures that are well-hidden without a FAQ. Some of the levels, because they are so big, do feel a little empty – there are only a few characters to talk to in each world. But I consider these pretty minor gripes for a game that allows you to build a Batmoboat.

So forget the negative hype – this game is a ton of fun and is family safe (which is rare enough on the XBOX as it is). It’ll keep your wheels turning and the creative juices flowing, and it’s way cheaper than even most XBLA games these days ($7!). If you like Legos, newer Mario Games, racing, flying, or just exploration – check it out!