Despite it sitting on my shelf for the best part of two years, I only recently got around to playing Banjo-Kazzoie: Nuts & Bolts. Having now amassed somewhere in the region of 50% of the games available Jiggies with absolutely no plan to add to that collection, I feel that I am in a reasonably strong position to confirm that Nuts & Bolts is without question this generation’s most valiant misfire.
Nuts & Bolts is a game in which you can see the potential for a truly spectacular experience at every turn. The problem is; you’re never quite able to reach it. I swear, the amount of times I said, “if only they did that” while playing this game. Honestly, it’s ridiculous just how good this game could have been. You’ll want to love this game……you’ll almost love this game, but chances are, you’re going to come away from Nuts & Bolts bitterly disappointed.
That’s not to say it’s a bad game – far from it. I actually had quite a bit of fun with Nuts & Bolts. The fact that I still came away largely let down probably gives you an idea of just how good Nuts & Bolts could have been. It’s a game full of fantastic ideas, outrageously gorgeous graphics and the kind of art direction that would make Pixar blush. Sadly, the whole experience is dragged down by Rare’s stubbornness and rigid commitment to a vision that would have worked brilliantly as part of the experience rather than the whole experience.
I understand Rare’s desire do something new, to move away from the Mario 64 template, but this is so far removed from the original that it simply doesn’t feel a like a Banjo-Kazooie game anymore. Sure it looks and sounds the part but Nuts & Bolts simply had to have a stronger emphasis on platforming. Banjo-Kazzoie isn’t a series fans had a waited a year or two for, no, Nuts & Bolts is a game fans had waited the best part of a decade for and while the decision to essentially move the game into a completely new genre may have been a brave one, it was nonetheless a rather foolhardy decision.
As I’m sure you already know, Rare decided to turn Banjo-Kazooie into a sort of creative racer that put vehicles and creation above all else. While they were certainly successful in creating a tool set and world that encouraged an imaginative approach from the gamer, the complete abandonment of traditional platforming was a very hard pill to swallow. The other problem is that, as great as the tool set might have been, the inherent limitations that come with each vehicles mechanics made Nuts & Bolts a game that ran out of ideas and fresh challenges long before the games natural conclusion came about (hence why I only managed to get through half of the game).
The worst thing is though, most, if not all of the games problems could have been solved if Rare had been willing to compromise. I’m not saying they should have abandoned the creative aspect of the game or even the vehicles for that matter, I just think a more even split and a gentler integration into the Banjo-Kazooie universe could have made Nuts & Bolts a game that would have been familiar, unique, innovative and beautiful.
Gamers would have been much more open to the creative aspects of the game if they had been introduced in tandem with the more traditional gameplay fans were accustomed to. 50% platformer, 50% vehicular tool box – I honestly think that would have gone down a storm and kept everyone happy. Fans would appreciate the combination of familiarity, innovation and good looks while Rare could have eased the series in a new direction without having to remove the core Banjo-Kazooie experience.
As it stands, Nuts & Bolts is still worth a look (especially at the sub £10 mark you can find it for nowadays), just be prepared for the consistent sense of disappointment that will likely overshadow many of the aspects that Nuts & Bolts does so well. It looks great, often plays great but the concept can’t quite carry a game of this length and certainly doesn’t do enough to make you forget that you’d really rather get out and walk.
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