Marketplace Demo Impressions
After a whole weekend playing with the first demo of a Rare game released over the Xbox Marketplace before the final game hits the stores, four of our staff members express their opinion on what this contact with Nuts & Bolts meant to each of them.
Mark Mazzei's opinion
Being one of the few MR staffers who played a form of Nuts & Bolts before the demo was available, these impressions are more likely to be a list of differences from the previous demo than the others. For starters, Banjo walks a lot faster than he did in New York, which is one qualm of mine that I hoped they’d fix. Secondly, the option to not leave Banjo up shit creek when he drives a vehicle off screen, or when he jumps out of a high vehicle by way of summoning a vehicle in the pause screen, is the second complaint I had in New York that was thankfully fixed. The driving just like in New York takes a bit to get used to, but I hope that with better parts comes better steering.
The demo obviously takes place in both Showdown Town and Banjoland, whereas in New York it was only Banjoland. The fucking awesome Love Boat reference is completely new, as is the new addition to the Ice Key and CD, with the addition of a (probably fake) red Stop 'n' Swop egg. Various challenges have been added, notably the Jinjo challenges that allow you to collect them like in the good old days. Characters from the demo have been changed from their previous locations; for example, Klungo is now located near the Mayahem Temple-like stadium as opposed to the statue of Banjo and Kazooie.
Building pieces is completely intuitive, and it’s so much fun to try to find where something fits. Coming from someone who liked the vehicle aspect in New York but was unavailable to try, it was a treat to finally be able to build my own bastard creation. To top it off, if you’re lazy, you can always get a vehicle selected and modify it to your own will.
Music is absolutely damned amazing. Anyone who has doubt that Banjo would sound weird with an orchestra will probably be in awe at just how great it sounds. It could genuinely give Super Mario Galaxy’s soundtrack a run for its money.
If there’s any game that can define Rare, it’s this one, solely by the absurd amount of references within this demo. Killer Instinct 3? You got it. Viva Piñata tackling the survival horror genre? There. New Battletoads, Jet Force Gemini, and Ghoulies 2 teasing? Also in it. LOG possibly being Fiddlesworth? There. Stop 'n' Swop? Present, but true to Rare’s teasing, there’s no way to acquire enough notes to get the answer from Bottles at 6,000 notes.
My complaint comes with the size of the text. Not all of us have HDTVs, which makes it a real pain in the ass/arse to read what’s being said, and with Loveday handling the script, it’s an insult to not read what he’s delayed Scribes for months to work on.
I was already sold on the demo when I played it earlier, and it wasn’t like I was expecting anything drastically new. Yet the fact that two of my complaints were fixed when I was uncertain of whether or not they would be satisfied me. Just driving around was fun. It may not be the Banjo of old (which LOG insists you buy BK XBLA if that’s the case... I’m not kidding), but the humor and fun, both mindless and not, is still there. And really, with a series like this, that’s what mostly matters.
Alberto Riol's opinion
I liked Piñata, Kameo and Perfect Dark Zero. They were all really good to me, but at the same time they also didn't give me the same feeling like the old Rare games in the past. Maybe that's one of the implicit reasons why some fans have been complaining all these years, despite the unquestionable quality of their titles. Yeah, they all had good jokes, references and even some cameos; but the humour and characters weren't like the ones from Conker, Banjo, the original Perfect Dark or even Ghoulies in that sense.
When I first played Nuts & Bolts this weekend thanks to the Marketplace demo (thankfully with an amazing glitch to expand the experience), I instantly felt that sensation of the glory days. The sensation that Banjo may not only be a fantastic game like those others, but -for me- probably the best Rare title since Conker's BFD.
The whole atmosphere in Nuts & Bolts (from the catchy mix of BK themes in Banjoland, to the return of dozens of classic characters with their distinctive dialogues) transmits something that all the Rare fans will probably appreciate. I know that a lot of people still consider that Nuts & Bolts is not a true Banjo game because of the big role of the vehicles, but they should probably judge the game for what it is, a new adventure, and not asking for third Banjo 64 with better graphics again and again.
The multiplayer has also potential to become quite addictive with different vehicles; while in the demo wasn't that interesting due to the restriction of pieces to build your own contraptions. With 25 promissed challenges for this mode, I hope to spend lots of hours on it.
Still, I have some little complaints, that hopefully will be solved with a patch for the time the game is released (provided there isn't an option in the menu for each of them in the final version already). Most of the times, there's no time to read the cutscene's texts in detail and, as Mark pointed out before, the size of them doesn't help (it's quite small even if you have a 32" HDTV). Also, it seems like the learning curve is too steep, and the vehicles aren't that easy to control until you get used to them.
Only a few more days to experience the return of our fave gaming duo! Personally, I can't wait.
Paul Watkins' opinion
For all the emphasis Rare has put on the vehicle creation for Banjo, it’s pleasing to say the customisation has lived up to expectations. Despite the relatively small inventory available in the demo, a great deal of fun is to be had designing for speed, power, manoeuvrability, or somewhere in-between. And that’s not just for sake of completing challenges and advancing the game: anyone with a malevolent streak should see the appeal of strapping Banjo into a rocket-chair and watch fur fly. There’s definitely a game here.
Which is, inherently, the problem. The selection of challenges available in the demo aren’t much fun, and they certainly don’t live up to the editor’s potential. Protecting Clanker’s eyes often devolves into mindless chaos, despite its good intentions, and the races bring back unpleasant memories from the script-heavy GTA IV. Ironic in that Nuts & Bolts has been slammed for being too unlike its predecessors; these challenges feel too much like the minigames of old in Kazooie and Tooie, designed for a static control set instead of inviting sandbox creativity. There’s incredible room for making a game around this robust construction system, but it’s not apparent with what the demo shows.
Zach Rich's opinion
From this demo, I can plainly see that Nuts & Bolts is doing a lot of things right. The overall feel of the gameplay is a lot different, and all throughout every playthrough of the demo I still haven't accustomed to a lack of a real double-jump, but that's mostly OK, because this demo has shown me that this is still a true Banjo game. The characters, writing, environment and sounds have proven that to me.
Starting off with Showdown Town, the hub world is indeed going to be vast. Even with the extremely closed off portion we were allowed to explore, I was amused to see so many goodies lying around the place to be discovered. Grunty shouting out fourth wall breaking phrases all throughout the area made me giggle like a little girl every time I hear it continues to show Rare can make fun of anything, even itself. L.O.G seems like an interesting character, though I was a tad bit disappointed that the demo shoved you right past the opening in Spiral Mountain. Still, seeing Bear and Bird haven't changed a bit in eight years is always a good thing to see. I don't remember Mumbo being so critical of Banjo before though.
Banjoland is nothing short of amazing. Bits and pieces of the first two games being set on display for the Banjo veteran like I made me squeal with nogistala at every twist and turn. Many of those turns did lead smack into a wall though. I am finding the turning mechanics to be a little hard to manage with this demo, and it seems to be that touching anything with your vechile is going to throw it completely off-balance, which may get annoying quickly if that's not fixed as you get stronger vehicles.
The Jiggy and Jinjo challenges were all interesting to play. Klungo and Mr. Fit's challenges were both good fun. Bottles' race would have fared a little better if it wasn't so easy to latch onto another vehicle ahead of you and spend half the race tiring to get off of it. I eventually found it easier to get out of the car and use Kazooie's Wrench when it came to protecting Clanker. The cars are just too hard to navigate in small confined areas like that. I could only get one trophy throughout the four challenges, but hopefully they become much easier to be done quickly when you come back with better creations to challenge with.
Overall, the demo has made it all the more harder to wait for the full build to come available. There are some gameplay kinks the game can still workout (I had a hard time getting to put things down in the right place), but it has assured me that this is indeed a return to form on Rare's design. This truly feels like a Rare game. Hilarious, full of character, and innovative.