Banjo has awoken from a long hibernation and, along with his trusty sidekick Kazooie, is finally back in the saddle. Nuts & Bolts takes place eight years after the events in the Nintendo 64 title Banjo-Tooie. The duo has also brought some old friends, such as Mumbo Jumbo and Klungo, along for the ride. This time around, it seems Mumbo has given up his shamanistic ways and opened up shop as a mechanic. Early on in the game, you'll have access to his workshop in which you can create your own vehicles from a dazzling array of components, with hundreds--if not thousands--of parts available. We recently visited Rare's studios to see how the game is coming along and wasted no time jumping straight into the garage.
In order to build a machine, you'll need to combine basic building blocks, such as cubes and panels, wheels, propulsion aspects (such as jets, propellers, or helium balloons), weapons, wings, fuel tanks, engines, and more. There are really only a few rules to building a working contraption--each part needs to be attached to another, and you must (roughly) adhere to the laws of physics. That means, at the very least, you'll need some sort of frame for your vehicle and a way to propel it.
Your options are limited at the start. For example, you might only have access to one type of propulsion or wheels--but once all options are unlocked by your progress through the game, there's a dizzying amount of choice. You'll also be able to add some crazy accessories, including springs, which bounce you off the ground if mounted to the bottom of your vehicle or push enemies away if attached to the side, as well as more offensive items, such as cannons, lasers, and missile launchers.
Some of the crafts we saw included basic buggies, planes, boats, helicopters, and vehicles that were a combination of all those things. There's no reason why you can't build an amphibious vehicle with chopper blades to create something ready to face challenges on land, sea, and air. The way you use parts will affect the end result too. Upward-facing propellers provide lift, whereas backward-facing ones provide horizontal propulsion.
While the whole experience of building a vehicle and experimenting with it is a fun experience in itself, it's ultimately a means to an end. You'll need to use these vehicles in a range of challenges and games in order to advance. In a case of trial and error, if your particular vehicle doesn't do what you need it to do, you can build another or take it back to Mumbo's workshop to reengineer it.
The developers showed us an instance in which simplicity could triumph over sophistication. One challenge in the World of Sports level requires you to achieve a distance by racing your craft down a steep ramp and launching it off of the end. The first attempt was done with a car, which reached an impressive speed, resulting in a decent distance. While at first glance it seemed that this was the best result one could achieve, Rare showed us how it could be improved by building a circular rollcage that built up speed as it careened down the slope and continued to roll once it had landed, resulting in a longer overall distance.
One of the most promising aspects of Nuts & Bolts is that you'll be able to share your contraptions with and race against other friends on Xbox Live. Rare is planning to include a whole range of online race modes in the game, and the ones we saw were full of bizarre vehicles. It was really interesting to see how different people build their own vehicles, each with differing characteristics and strengths.
We joined in a race with half a dozen other competitors. All had created an individual vehicle from scratch just before the multiplayer event, and each one looked more bizarre than the next. The objective was to follow a large crown as it moved around the map and stay within its set boundaries as best you could (while ensuring your adversaries did not). At the end of the time limit, the person who managed to stay inside the longest won.
Our first attempt was with a bulky, heavily armoured, land vehicle. While it was decently fortified, it struggled to keep up with the fast-moving crown when battling other vehicles, which raised the question, "Why stay on the ground?" The crown was made visible by a circle that rose into the sky, which led us to believe an aircraft would work just as well. Sure enough, our second attempt was much more successful. While the rest of the pack battled it out on the ground, we hovered effortlessly above the carnage and seized victory.
The environments in Nuts & Bolts look gorgeous; they have vivid colours and some bizarre designs that make the game's six worlds weird and wonderful places to explore. You'll start off in Showdown Town, a central hub from which you'll access the game's six varied worlds. One such world, Nutty Acres, is full of rolling green hills, dirt paths, and water, while World of Sports consists of a massive coliseum-like structure.
While the game's worlds are large enough to make using vehicles essential, you'll still be able to explore lots of areas on foot, making use of Kazooie's abilities to achieve certain objectives.
Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts looks like it will be a hoot to explore. The custom-made vehicles are obviously a major part of the game, and this feature will suck away hours of your life as you build then rebuild a range of machines to suit your needs. The single-player missions look like they'll provide a solid experience, and the riotous online multiplayer will be a great addition to the franchise. Nuts & Bolts is due to hit shelves later this year.