Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts - Xbox 360 review

Whenever a classic series is awarded remake status, quizzical glances from both fans and the press are instant. The number of remakes that have been complete and utter disasters roll off the tongue easier than the bed fellows of one Pamela Anderson. Their names I mean. Obviously.

For those who struggle to remember their gaming past and can’t recall the delights of the Nintendo 64 based Banjo-Kazooie title, it was classic platforming fare. All was about exploring levels and picking up as many “jiggies” as you could stuff in your pants’ pockets.

Nuts & Bolts however isn’t one to hark back to the days of yore. While the titular main characters of Banjo and Kazooie make solid returns, as does the down right laugh out loud humour, this certainly isn’t a hark back to gaming’s platforming past.

All is set out in structured terms as you’d expect. From the hub world of Showdown Town, you’ll be tasked with taking on various levels and challenges to progress, and making sure you collect a vast number of “jiggies” to unlock brand new items.

But how you go about collecting all these items is completely different from what you’d expect. Instead of letting Banjo and Kazooie loose utilising their specialist limbs to their absolute maximum - which have withered and died with no need for heroic animals for the last few years - it’s all about your wheels, and how you design and update your vehicle.

As you progress the number of items you can affix to your vehicles multiplies, opening up the possibilities to the limits of your imagination. From cars, bikes, planes, and even hovercrafts, you’ll be making your way around the game world in as stylish a manner as you see fit.

The actual design portion of the game is simple, yet deep enough to keep you hooked. You’re tasked with doing little more than selecting the item to attach to your basic vehicle, and utilising the game’s intuitive grid system to attach as you see fit. It might not be quite as varied as the likes of Spore and its almost bottomless number of options, but it’s certainly good enough.

Though easy to design, you need to remember that these vehicles are your tools to progress. With the handling coming close to annoyingly twitchy, a poorly designed vehicle can prove an unmitigated disaster. It only takes one wrong bump, or one brush of the wrong tree and you’re left upside down and helpless. It’s certainly a handling system that you get used to once you’ve had a half hour with the game, but those first few tries can go horribly wrong if you refuse to take the time to learn.

There’s certainly ample game here to tuck into. While you can simply progress through the intriguing and downright hilarious narrative, there’s tonnes to collect for the true completists among you. In this one avenue at least, this is a true hark to platforming of old.

The visual design is incredibly Rare like, with bold colours, detailed landscapes, and more little visual touches of flair per level than you’d usually spot in an entire series of games. Unfortunately this does come at a cost. Namely some hints of slow down and a frame rate that’s a long way from solid. It’s rare, but there will be moments where you’ll find yourself failing at your current task because of the few technical problems in Nuts & Bolts.

Verdict

Those expecting a mere retread of the old Banjo-Kazooie titles might be initially disappointed. But the robust design feature for your vehicles, and some delightfully intuitive challenges really help Nuts & Bolts raise the bar.

The controls and few technical problems might stop this being quite as good as its ageing parent, but there’s little doubt that anyone picking this up during the hectic holiday season will struggle to find a huge smile adorning their face.