E3 2008: Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts Updated Hands-On

We get our hands on this vehicle editor and test the limits of rational thinking.

The traditional platformer generally involves some combination of running, jumping, and climbing. Nowhere in that checklist of attributes will you find "detailed vehicle customization." Perhaps that's why so many eyebrows were raised by genre purists when Rare and Microsoft unveiled one of the big new features in the forthcoming Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts--the ability to collect mechanical parts throughout your adventures and cobble them together into a vehicle of your own design. We recently had the opportunity to try a few missions and tinker with the vehicle-creation system during a recent trip to Microsoft's headquarters in Redmond.

Before we picked up a controller, we were treated to a brief overview of the game by the creative director of Microsoft Game Studios, Ken Lobb. He began with an introduction to the game's plotline. Banjo and Gruntilda are locked in a scuffle over the fate of Spiral Mountain, but before the conflict gets too intense, a mysterious Grim Reaper-like figure called the Lord of Games shows up and offers to settle the conflict. His proposition is to whisk both characters away to Showdown Town so they can participate in a series of challenges to see who can open up the most gameworlds.

Showdown Town becomes the hub in your series of adventures. It's a sunny little burg with enough bright colors and wildly varying terrain to serve as a reminder that you're playing a Banjo-Kazooie game. And those visuals looks very impressive--from the light reflecting off the surface of lakes and ponds to the detailed shingles on the old-fashioned buildings--the environments fulfill the series' history of doing great work with the hardware being used. The character models, by contrast, have a sort of retro polygonal feel to them, but that appears to be an intentional design decision when you consider how nice everything else looks.

Soon enough, we were set free in a level known as Banjo World. It bears this name because the entire area is a massive homage to previous Banjo levels, all assembled together into one mishmash of landscapes. You'll see rolling green hills quickly turn into arid desert, which just as rapidly transition into tall snowy mountains. Missions are prompted by strolling up to a character and hitting the X button. After a brief series of dialogue balloons explaining what's wrong, as well as what needs to be fixed, you're given an outline of your objectives, three tiers of possible ways to complete your goal, and, if possible, the ability to select which of your vehicles you'd like to use.

Our first mission, "Ice to See You," tasked us with rescuing an ice sculpture named George. This frozen-head-shaped chunk of ice has rolled from the snowy peak down to the desert terrain. The character offering you this mission already has a vehicle in mind, a sort of tractor with bracketed arms in front that is useful for corralling objects and pushing them forward. This stands in contrast to the default vehicle we began the mission with, a light and agile green number great for zipping around but utterly useless in pushing objects. The goal is reached when you successfully push George from the bottom of the hill to the top. When you accomplish your goal, you're given a Jiggy as a reward, which is deposited back in mysterious globes in Showdown Town that you need to transport to the city's central bank while avoiding the ire of local police.

Another mission we tried out--one we probably should have done first--was a tutorial for vehicle movement called "Mumbo's Stunt Spectacular." With this one, you need to perform various feats of daring with Banjo's car, like springing upward to reach green circles, as well as doing barrel rolls and backflips. You'll also need to launch off a ramp big enough to keep you airborne for three full seconds. This mission, with its introduction to all the acrobatic maneuvers you can do with your car, helped cement our initial suspicion that the vehicles basically act as an extension of Banjo's on-foot movements. Sure, they can be used as transportation for cruising through Showdown Town or going from one mission starting point to another, but with all the bizarre attachments you can put on them, these vehicles can be easily considered Banjo special moves in mechanical form.

And you can definitely make those vehicle look bizarre, which was soon evidenced in our next mission. This one had Banjo playing a soccer minigame against a team of mechanical gremlins. The default vehicle you're given for this task is a straightforward number with a boxing glove attachment with which you kick the ball. It worked well enough, but unlike the other tasks we tried out, this one allowed you to import your own custom-made vehicle. Custom vehicles begin with a foundation of blocks and wedges (the chassis, essentially). You can then add wheels, engines, gadgets, weapons, and fuel tanks--all of which come in varying sizes and styles.

Our first attempt was a similar vehicle to the default soccer one, but with a slight twist. Rather than using a car engine like the default one, we threw on a jet engine. It worked great and let us nimbly cut through the opposing team on our way to the goal. But we were feeling greedy, so we hopped back into the garage (aided by a cheat code unlocking every part possible) and created a monstrosity powerful enough to singlehandedly offset the effects of every hybrid car on the road today. This behemoth featured nine jet engines, five high-capacity fuel tanks, monster truck wheels, and retractable wings. Oh, and a boxing glove gadget for "kicking" the soccer ball. This one didn't work quite so well. Rather than a light and nimble vehicle, it was a hulking ball of fire that took off into the air on the slightest bump. It probably wasn't the best vehicle for the minigame at hand, but it was a blast to pilot.

So far, the vehicle editor is looking like an interesting feature. The ability to customize your movement throughout the gameworld should at least offer a nice twist on the standard platforming formula. But the game isn't all about veering from the series' roots. In fact, you can connect to the series' roots when the original Banjo-Kazooie for Xbox Live Arcade is released later this year. The unfinished Stop 'N' Swop feature will finally be completed for this iteration, meaning the two games will be able to interact with each other.

Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts is slated for release later this year on the Xbox 360. You can expect to see more coverage on this game in the coming weeks and months.

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Discussion

55 comments
Om3gad
Om3gad

Surely now it's just a matter of time till Blast Corps 2... I mean, imagine it!

mrclortho
mrclortho

This is great news. I remember playing the Original Banjo in the late '90's and it was one of my all time favoriates. I don't really know why other than it is freaking goofy. I haven't followed the series but I will definalty be picking this one up.

Smoolander
Smoolander

If it lives up to the first game, then I'll be a happy camper.

DDR_Midian
DDR_Midian

"The thought of Banjo-Kazooie being on a different system other than Nintendo's Wii is odd to me. I think RARE will have a problem reaching the XBox360 crowd with this game. Hey, RARE. Banjo-Kazooie is a Nintendo fan favorite. Maybe you should think of a duo release." How about all the people who owned an N64 and now own a 360? There are loads of them.

Wetty01
Wetty01

The fact that It will be on Xbox and not nintendo is discrimination of origin!!!

benji70
benji70

The thought of Banjo-Kazooie being on a different system other than Nintendo's Wii is odd to me. I think RARE will have a problem reaching the XBox360 crowd with this game. Hey, RARE. Banjo-Kazooie is a Nintendo fan favorite. Maybe you should think of a duo release.

DaShockerJack
DaShockerJack

I'm really looking forward to this game. One of the many, many reasons I bought a 360.

nintendave86
nintendave86

Wow! I'm so excited about Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts! The first two games were fantastic and even thought this one is a little different, it still looks like it will be great as well!

grambyte
grambyte

This game never got me warmed up... still doesn't.

Calebman
Calebman

I really want to play this. I hope it doesn't suck like another Rare sequel I could name.... OK, fine, I'm talking about Perfect Dark Zero.

gamah_killah
gamah_killah

I love the cartoonish theme. Seems like a great game indeed

Cheeg
Cheeg

This game is looking good!

Yoshi_da_man
Yoshi_da_man

This game looks to be awesome, and even perfect the already amazing banjo kazooie formula.

HVPinc
HVPinc

HOLY **** OMG OMG OMG!!! I'M SO DOWNLOADING BANJO KAZOOIE AND RE-BEATING IT(THEM) JUST TO USE THE TOP 'N' SWOP!!!!

w4rgasm
w4rgasm

This seems horrible...

broncofan21
broncofan21

what happened to the classic platformer we've come to know and love? I didn't like building my own vehicle in kingdom hearts, and i won't like it here either. Nevertheless i will still get this game... blah... blah... blah... I LOVE VIVA PINATA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Da_Mainman_3
Da_Mainman_3

We already used up the Ice Key and three of the secret eggs in Tooie. Does this mean that only three eggs will be usable here, or will they hit the reset button and say "The stuff in Tooie was gained from breaking open BK cartridge-shaped enemies. This time, it's actually going to work via Sn'S, so you're allowed to use them 'for real'." Also, Stop n' Swap has finally lived up to its expectations as the greatest cross-game unlockable system EVER.

Grouchu
Grouchu

I watched a friend of mine play I think it was Banjo Tooie or whatever. Looked interesting. Now that I know this is coming out, I may have to get it.

Senor_Kami
Senor_Kami

I never played the N64 ones despite owning a N64. $40 is a great deal. I'll probably spend the left over cash (from $59.99) to buy one of the N64 games on XBLA.

Strife88
Strife88

It's going to be a good deal for $40.

jakeboudville
jakeboudville

i could give this a try but then again it doesn't sound that impressive to me

fonzieahmed
fonzieahmed

didnt play the original games, but sounds interesting.

JigSawX
JigSawX

wow it sounds amazing and we get the original banjo!

Hungry_bunny
Hungry_bunny

The "driving" sounds fun but the "building"... not so much. I guess you have to try it to appreciate it... or fully understand it.

ttime32
ttime32

Banjo Kazooie and Banjo Tooie were a couple of my favorite games back in the day. Hopefully this will bring those good memories back.

dragonlife29
dragonlife29

We'll have to see if it's just as amazing as its counterparts.

baltor3
baltor3

@-Twilight- : I agree, this game doesn't look like we may though but maybe it will be a great game!

chazasul
chazasul

They're finishing Stop 'n Swop!? Holy crap!

Pete5506
Pete5506

I dont know but this idea just turns me away from this game

playstation_wii
playstation_wii

This game is looking to be one of my favorites. It looks really good!

-Twilight-
-Twilight-

I love Banjo and Kazooie as much as the next guy, but this game looks to be either a big hit or a hell of a miss. Yeah, Rare is behind the project, but that doesn't spike my expectations at all.

bantha_fodder50
bantha_fodder50

I was psyched about this game but even more so now that the original BK coming to XBLA with Stop 'N' Swop. *nerdgasms*

Cube_of_MooN
Cube_of_MooN

Not really my type of game, but it looks interesting.

SirFrosty
SirFrosty

Wow, this looks really interesting. I'm excited ^_^

jfpime
jfpime

The vehicle concept looks interesting.. I'm sure it will be fun! (never played the previous banjo games though, but from what I have seen this game looks pretty cool) ;)

akif22
akif22

Stop 'N' Swop? I'll believe it when I see it!

fernan17893
fernan17893

I heard it was good despite the change.

baltor3
baltor3

Yeah it's a bit disappointing...

Cheeg
Cheeg

I'm quite looking forward to this!

winnipegjets
winnipegjets

Wow, the original Banjo-Kazooie. Never thought this day would come.

Sharvie
Sharvie

Sounds like a good addition.