Of all the reviews written for this site, this was the hardest to complete and think through. Throughout the game, there were so many conflicting feelings: some of enjoyment, some of wishing for the yesteryears, and some where I just tried to forget the past, but to no avail. The feelings had were almost exactly like Star Fox Adventures back in 2002 (as well as Kameo and Perfect Dark Zero, to lesser extents). It’s no surprise when you think about it; both SFA and Nuts & Bolts deviate from what drew players to the series in the first place that, for me at least, it’s hard to just sit through the game and enjoy it.
As is widely known by now, the premise of this game goes with Rare’s belief that the platformer genre as we knew it is obsolete and outdated. They tried developing two Banjo titles before Nuts & Bolts that involved traditional platforming, but for one reason or another, they didn’t think it would break new ground. Thus how the vehicles came into play for this title. The story quite literally reflects this decision, if not directly saying it outright: LOG, tired of Banjo and Grunty’s bitching, decides to end their squabble once and for all. By admitting that platforming’s outdated, LOG puts restrictions on the duo by giving them a trolley, and their journey into Showdown Town begins.
As far as the dialogue goes, Loveday handling the helm of the script literally makes this a $40 episode of Scribes. There are tons of in-jokes with past Rare titles, past characters, and even TV shows outside Rare’s realm that it’s fun just trying to find every single reference you can. As mentioned in the previous paragraph, the game is especially guilty of talking about the past two games and how it can’t compare to today’s gaming “standards”, as if trying to convince us that this new style is the greatest thing since, well... Banjo-Kazooie. It’s cute, for the lack of a better word. Rare are jokesters at heart, yet all of the comments about the new game style personally made it seem like they’re trying too hard to joke about themselves and the choices they made. Teasing yourselves about Grabbed by the Ghoulies is funny because most of those that have played it enjoyed it, but teasing this game within the game just personally felt odd.
Dare I say it, but this game breaks the fourth wall even more than Conker’s Bad Fur Day did with all the media references above. While I’m on the subject of referencing past characters, as a fan of both of Banjo’s past console platformers, it’s a little disappointing that we get more references to characters than actual characters, as if that was enough. One of the things that made Tooie and Kazooie special is that in every world, there are different characters, but this isn’t the case in Nuts & Bolts, which I’ll elaborate on later. Overall, Loveday really should be commended for bringing characters to life with their witty dialogue, even if it is trying too hard to poke fun at itself at times.
Vehicles: the one dividing point of the game. As mentioned in our early impressions, I loved the vehicle editor. Even from the start, the potential to make your own creation is there, and there’s this joy in making a vehicle, finding out it’s crap in the Test-O-Track, and revising it to your own tastes. If there’s one thing I give Nuts & Bolts credit for over the original title, it’s that you get a bigger sense of accomplishment when you use a vehicle of your own creation to win a Jiggy over whatever task is done in Kazooie or Tooie.
The vehicle building is incredibly addicting, and you can literally spend hours getting your vehicles controlling just right, as well as building almost anything with the parts. With a little bit of imagination and a lot of time and love, you can make almost whatever your heart desires. Even better for those that are either lazy, on a time limit, or not that creative, you get vehicle blueprints throughout the game. With these blueprints, you can take the vehicle already established and change it to your liking.
While the blueprints by default become obsolete later on in the game, it’s nice that the game provides that balance between all-out creativity and taking a concept and expanding it to make it better. Symbolically, it’s almost like Rare themselves: creating new off-the-wall concepts now, compared to their N64 days where they sometimes took a concept and improved it in their own way. Moving on...
Gameplay basically revolves in two ways: driving and on-foot platforming in Showdown Town, and the timed missions in the various worlds. Showdown Town, in my opinion, proves that traditional platforming and collecting can still be fun. You can climb up buildings, walk on tightropes, collect Notes (to buy various items) and find vehicle parts to take back to Mumbo. I found myself preferring the collection more than the actual vehicle aspect; whenever I’d see Notes, I’d jump out of the vehicle regardless of speed to get that feeling of collecting back. The worlds consist of timed missions, and while they may have their moments, they’re not that varied. What they basically come down to are either defending someone or something, doing something within this time limit, escort missions, and bringing one object to another place. As Rare said, the difficulty depends on what you use for specific missions, but again, there’s barely any variety. If you’re a fan of timed missions, then I can already say that this game’s for you. For everyone else that’s not, yet you’re fans of Banjo, you better get used to it.
Despite the annoyance of timed missions, the game has this habit of being dangerously addictive. This can be possibly chalked up to the vehicle building aspect; there’s so much fun in creating your own vehicles that you feel like you can take on any custom challenge. You’ll find out that most of the time, this does ring true. Even though I’m not a fan of timed missions, I found myself playing the game longer than I should’ve been; it’s just so much fun driving around and collecting Jiggies, even if it’s not the way I would’ve preferred to collect them.
As mentioned in the demo impressions, the music is absolutely brilliant and could give Super Mario Galaxy a run for its money. Hearing classic Banjo tunes orchestrated is an amazing experience, and the new songs for the new worlds aren’t so bad either. They fit their environments well, and are really catchy, to boot. Some music from the timed missions are better than others, but overall, the soundtrack is a great experience, and one that will satisfy old Banjo fans as well as music lovers.
The dialogue, as mentioned earlier, seems as absolute proof that this game is an experiment for not only the Banjo series, but Rare itself for implementing drastic changes in its franchises. Rare knows this, and it’s not just within the dialogue, but within the little game within the game: Klungo Saves Teh World. If I didn’t know any better, Klungo Saves Teh World is a response to those that have cried out for traditional platforming since the new gameplay style was revealed. It’s nothing but traditional platforming mixed with old-school difficulty. It’s simple (much like Klungo himself), as well as the message it sends out, especially when the game tends to purposefully glitch on you. I have to commend whoever drew the art border around the game; it’s a brilliant little throwback/inside joke to the 80s era of video games, where the boxart not only exaggerated the look of the character, but the art not having anything to do with the actual game.
The game isn’t without its technical complaints. Every now and then you’ll feel a slight lag when playing the game, as well as something very specific in Humba Wumba’s shop. The game comes to a slowdown whenever you buy more than one vehicle blueprint or vehicle part from her. It’s interesting how this incredibly noticeable slowdown happens in, at the least, one part of the game that creationists might rarely visit. It’s nothing fatal, but the game does suffer its technical hiccups here and there, most likely due to the limits that this game is pushing.
Stop 'n' Swop, for the lack of a better word, is disappointing. Before I go on, I know that Stop 'n' Swop was never meant to be this spectacular video game event with every Banjo character having simultaneous orgies as well as fireworks shown on the screen congratulating me for collecting these items. That’s obviously expecting too much, and not PG in the slightest. The most I personally expected was, as Grabbed by the Ghoulies showed, a secret level using 4 eggs and the Ice Key. Not the case in Nuts & Bolts. There’s no event or anything implying that you should go back to BK XBLA to collect the Ice Key and eggs due to recognizing game saves. It just feels like an afterthought so much, and the items (vehicle parts, ranging from Roysten in a fishbowl to Rare’s patented googly eyes) reflect this. They’re nothing to write home about, and dare I say that Banjo-Tooie’s half-assed attempt to replicate Stop 'n' Swop in the N64 era with its items is better than the rewards for this game. As the BK XBLA review mentions, there is still a chance for the original SNS items to work between Kazooie and Tooie, but even then, 10 years is a long time to wait for an afterthought.
Multiplayer is a lot better than I expected. There’s no glitching whatsoever like in some of Rare’s past titles, and it’s just fun. Whether you’re using your own custom vehicles or playing LOG’s choices, there’s a lot of variation to be had. The modes are basically divided in two: sports and races. They’re varied in their own ways, but to me, the races are the better of the two for playing alone, while the sport modes are great for team competitions. There’s a fair amount to do, and with the right people, it can be really fun.
Achievements range from the simple (a pointless collectathon) to the mundane (winning a race online driving backwards. It’s harder than you think). One thing that took me by surprise was the lack of Achievements when you complete a collecting task. For example, you get Achievements for imprisoning one Minjo, but not an Achievement for imprisoning them all. For Rare’s emphasis on pushing you to get everything, it’s just an interesting thing to notice.
In the end, I can’t classify Nuts & Bolts as a bad game. It feels like an experiment that can either improve on the vehicle aspect, or go back to platforming. Personally, I like the vehicle aspect, and it’d feel a little awkward to go back to traditional platforming after this. I hope that if Rare continues along the road of vehicle gameplay, that they can do something to appease both the old and new fans. Perhaps a focus on building vehicles specifically to explore worlds and find Jiggies that you simply can’t on foot and leave the timed missions for the Jinjos. Oh, and more characters. Having a vehicular Winky is fine and dandy, but give us more character cameos instead of Jolly Dodger, Humba, Mumbo, Boggy, and Bottles.
The game, nonetheless, is worth a try to peer into Rare’s future, as well as the dialogue and jokes that Rare are renowned for.
"The vehicle building is incredibly addicting. With a little bit of imagination and a lot of time and love, you can make almost whatever your heart desires."8 out of 10