Back in the days of the good ol’ Nintendo 64, a little developer from Blighty almost couldn’t seem to put a step wrong. Rare were churning out A+++ titles, paw over claw. The original Banjo-Kazooie pushed the N64 like no game before it, featuring unbelievably rich graphics and, of course, winning game play.
The sequel, Banjo-Tooie (oddly enough), upped the ante by increasing the level sizes, which also increased the draw distances. If Kazooie used the N64 100%, Tooie exceeded the little console’s limitations. Sometimes this was noticeable from slight dips in the framerate. Luckily the Xbox 360 has no such limitations and we get a silky smooth port with upscaled graphics.
While Tooie may be slightly sparse compared to today’s games, it still looks good. The game features attractive art and bright graphics. The animation is smooth and you can’t help but feel some joy as you trample through the game’s levels. There are also a lot of little touches you will see around the game, such as posters for another Rare game – Jet Force Gemini – in a character’s house.
For those that have yet to play Banjo-Kazooie, or Tooie, these games are essentially platformers. Most of the gameplay consists of jumping and collecting items. The good news is that the controls and the worlds you are given to explore are top-notch. Sticking your snout into every nook and cranny is hugely satisfying and entertaining.
Where Kazooie’s levels and objectives were fairly straightforward, Tooie is a rather complex beast. Levels are often sprawling, sometimes even interlinked, while earning lovely ‘Jiggies’ often requires a whole series of events to unfold. I found levels slightly overwhelming the first time you enter them, but after some exploring things start to fit together and falling into place. One sudden inspiration can unlock a whole chain of progression. Your progress will halt to a screeching stop sometimes, but this just makes it even sweeter when things do click. Tooie requires time and dedication as it’s quite a large and involved game, but it really does suck you into its (slightly twisted) world.
Things aren’t perfect though; this game is two generations old now and it does show in places. The camera is usually quite good, but can get stuck sometimes, or you just can’t position it where you would like to. The game play has mostly aged well but there is the odd frustrating task, usually involving mini-games such as the first-person sections of the game. Often tasks you really hate can be avoided for a while and you can go explore another area, or try to earn a different ‘Jiggy’ so there aren’t any game wreckers here, just the odd annoying quirk.
Talking about annoying, the game’s sound effects are a love it or hate it affair. I don’t mind it when playing the game myself, but hearing someone else play the game is torture. Every action is complimented by a sharp squawk or other equally abrasive noise, which gets very repetitive quickly. Again, I really didn’t notice this so much until someone else in the house was playing. Headphones are recommended if you don’t appreciate objects hurtled towards you.
Sure, Banjo may have lost the ‘wow-factor’ the games originally had, but if you are prepared to sit down and invest some time into the game, you will find plenty to keep you occupied. As an XBLA download, Tooie is fantastic value. Much cheaper than the actual cartridges go for these days.