On a list of video games I personally remember from my childhood is Banjo & Kazooie. This was the last Rare video game I remember from my childhood before the company was bought out by Microsoft via X-bone….
The premises of the game is very simple. Banjo, a bear with yellow shorts is asleep in his home. Kazooie, a red bird stuck in a blue backpack is also asleep. Till one day Tootie, Banjo’s sister comes over for a visit. Meanwhile a vain witch notices she’s getting old and needs to get younger. So what’s the obvious thing to do? Not make a potion… But straight up kidnap little bears from Whinny the Pooh. Holding Tootie hostage. The heroes: Banjo & Kazooie show up and kick the witches ass.
The basis of the game mechanics are very, very simple. Collect these three categories: 10 puzzle pieces in each level. Two hollow honey combs in each world. And all the skull tokens possible. It’s kind of a make shift Mario 64, if Mario was a bear. Luigi was a bird and about as useful. Stars are puzzle pieces and the witch is Bowser. Very simple characterization, very simple game play. A lot of this game is simple.
Meanwhile in every level is at least one new trick to unlock. Which is great till you realize, not half way through the game you’ll unlock every single move the game has to offer. So, we’re stuck with knowing what feels like 8 different special movies by the time the game claims it’s done teaching you new tricks.
Highlight moves include but not limited to: FLYING, which I would think would be a prerequisite to a bird in a back pack. But apparently the buzzard doesn’t have the talent. So, two levels later, evolving a double jump hover into legit souring into the sky is a stretch of a limitation the game conceives. Meanwhile, on the bear side of tricks…. Oh, yeah… that’s right…. there isn’t any… All of them where literally in the beginning of the damn game. This includes the following (no shit): jumping, swimming, climbing, scratching, rolling, running, double jumping, and not falling to your death. There is literally no “special movies” to the bear. Which begs the question…. What is he really there for?
Mini goals which are pivotal to the game is to collect five little coloured birds. Eventually they are like a side category to the whole collecting 10 puzzle pieces in each level because when you do collect the birds they give one. However, in spite of this being another random task it all adds up in the end where they help out in the last battle against the witch.
Meanwhile, those skull tokens will be handy throughout the game. A witch doctor transforms you into an ant, walrus, washing machine, pumpkin and other things to help Banjo and Kazooie accomplish getting more puzzle pieces. However, this is more for the bear to transform. Kazooie is completely useless in this aspect of the game. And you’re also completely rendered useless to fending off bad guys in these states too. Why is it a giant ant can touch me and it knocks me out. I’m an ant and I can’t hurt back? Plot twist??? Maybe????
On the flip side of things, the levels are really fun to play in. I especially enjoyed the premises of instant replay from level to level. Again, because if you breeze through the game about 4-5 worlds in and you’ll learn all the moves the game has to offer. Then you go back to level one and annihilate the game. This means one thing, developers either knew this tactic was possible. OR if your a cynic like me, they didn’t and now they have a broke dick video game. The only reasonable plot whole in the later is the fact the end of the game notes Banjo and Kazooie being in two other adventures in the future and there’s more “special moves” to learn for the game I was just currently playing. Meaning, I have to jump online, google the hidden move and then annihilate world one through nine for 100% completion. I’m looking back at a younger me and thinking, “wow, the internet is an interesting place to be. Look at all the porno!!!”
Seven paragraphs in… Is Banjo and Kazooie a fun game? Yes, in the nostalgic N64 style on an X-box360. Does the game stand the test of time? In particular, about as relevant as Mortal Kombat on the arcade. Nothing fancy was really born in this game. It’s fun for eating hours of your life away. However, it’s not by any means a block-buster. It’s one of those game which didn’t push an envelope because everyone else was on the same ride. However, now that I had played the game I couldn’t win back in the 90’s. I’m off to other lands and other worlds…. Ya’know, something more exciting like Mortal Kombat 9: the reboot.
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