3GSM, CANNES, FRANCE--In the early months of 2005, mobile game makers have redoubled their efforts to capture the "casual" side of the market by building simple games that anyone from moms to avid gamers can enjoy. Due to the choking volume of shovelware that has flooded the market in years past, casual games have earned an unfortunate reputation for slapdash design and poor value. Many publishers are now doing their best to reverse the trend by upping the ante in the quality level and longevity of their casual games. Banjo-Kazooie: Missions, which is under development by In-Fusio, will fashion 10 different minigames into the ursine Banjo's quest to rescue Kazooie from the evil Grunty's clutches.
It seems that Grunty has imprisoned Kazooie inside a magic jigsaw puzzle, which he has then scrambled up beyond repair. The pining Banjo needs to find eight special items called jiggys to set the puzzle right and free his feathered buddy from his state of entropy. He (and you) will do so by performing various simple tasks for cutesy animals who are packing jiggys--10 of them, to be exact. At the beginning of the game, five of these jobs will be locked, leaving you with another five choices for your initial step.
The games themselves run the gamut of simple timing-based pastimes. There's Egg Scramble, where you have to move Banjo from side to side as he slides down a chute, collecting eggs and avoiding oil slicks. In Sheep Dip, you go fishing for sheep as they wander past you on a road. Then there are the periodic boss levels, where you try to shoot a pirate ship or a huge mechanical witch with an egg cannon--nothing you haven't seen before, really.
Banjo-Kazooie: Missions' graphics are certainly smaller than fans of the console games may be used to, but they'll convey the same sense of tongue-in-cheek fun. Banjo practically looks like a stick figure sliding down the chute in the racing levels, but the small size keeps the action moving smoothly. The bear's a lot more recognizable when he's using a chicken shotgun-style to pelt a boss with eggs. The sound on the Motorola V525 we played the game on wasn't particularly notable, but there was at least a nice variety of effects to accent the egg-splatting action.
In all, Banjo-Kazooie: Missions looks like it might fit the bill for those looking for a quick bit of action, without a lot of fuss. Granted, several of the 10 levels essentially repeat the same task against a different background; this is somewhat disappointing, but it still trumps other mobile games that sell a single minigame for full price. Banjo-Kazooie: Missions will be available for download in Q2 2005.