Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts hands on.

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So I had a good go with Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts at Rage but unfortunately this was by far the oldest code on the floor and wont be a true reflection on the final product, I hope. The first thing I felt when I played Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts, was confusion, maybe because I expected Banjo to retain all of his moves from the previous games, instead he felt gimped, this game relies heavily on vehicle creation.

So instead of Banjo gaining abilities throughout the game you collect parts instead which you then assemble into vehicles. So, lets say Banjo wanted to get across an ocean, he could add some floats to the side of a car and trundle across. Or maybe some jets and wings. Or balloons to lift the thing. Or even go the other way, and add ballast to create a submarine.

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Thankfully it’s not just adding stuff to predefined vehicles. There are some standard blueprints and pre-made vehicles for you to choose from but every block can be placed individually including all the superstructure, and then the game’s physics goes to work and, tada, a vehicle.

This is a complete Lego experience, and you can keep on clicking those blocks together. You don’t even have to make vehicles, the potential is there to make anything. Testers have constructed fully functioning space shuttles, complete with ejectable boosters. When they were sent spinning into the ether, a pair of wings slid into place, allowing you to fly the titan.

That’s just awesome, as some of you may know I love making stuff.

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In the actual game, it’s the more functional tweaking where the game goes to town. While it’s possible to pass the game’s challenges with only the standard selections of machines that you can call up, to get higher ratings you’ll have to become a mechanic. And a sneaky one, a clever one and sometimes a mad one.

I tried a long-jump event, where you simply have to hurtle down a ramp which I believe may be a multiplayer event. The machine’s power is then cut, and it’s a test of how far you can make it roll. So first thing I do is cover a vehicle with rocket-thrusters cause I’m thinking speed = distance, a seemingly ideal machine for the task. I shoot down the ramp and get what I believe is a decent score. I then spend around 30 minutes removing the thrusters and making some small tweaks to the vehicle, the building itself in this code was a bit clunky and finicky but we have been assured that its’ since been streamlined immensely. So my vehicle now with only a fraction of the thrusters my previous vehicle had, is now hurtling down the ramp but as it takes to the air, its secret is revealed. The whole chassis is ejected away, revealing a much smaller sphere which speeds through the air without the enormous mass, before rolling ever-onwards after hitting the ground. My original score was destroyed.

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But see here’s the problem, almost everything else about this game pales beside this innovation. Yes, Nuts & Bolts is a technical heavyweight: Rare stresses that the hub-city is the single largest game asset they’ve ever constructed by far. But the vehicle building is just so much better than anything else in the game, the adventuring seemed bland, the pick ups were to far from each other and I didn’t have much to drive me to them, however I do feel that if I was sitting at home on my couch I may have had a different feeling. I believe there’s more than enough fun to be had in the vehicle creation that the want for new parts should drive you onwards in the adventuring sections.

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Before I played it, there was the nagging doubt that the actual process of stopping and tweaking a machine would lead to a disjointed feeling. I was way more excited about the adventuring and was under the impression that the vehicle creation was just tacked on. But the actual process of constructing something proves both accessible and enthralling.

I do wish I could have tried the multiplayer, but unfortunately it wasn’t available however one thing can be certain, if they have indeed fixed the platforming, added some tutorials for the vehicle creation and just generally dipped in the polish that Rare games are used to receiving then Banjo is going to see my Xbox on launch day, and I hope to see you all in my Banjo “robot wars” league that will surface thereafter.

The potential the demo showed for the variation in creations and the many possibilities available to the player means that this game could very well be Microsoft’s answer to little big planet.

Last Updated: October 7, 2008

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