It has been ten years and two console generations since the team of Banjo and Kazooie stormed the Nintendo 64 to rave reviews and not much has changed, at least not much for platformers, or so say Rare.
"We felt the platform genre hasn't really evolved much," said one of the developers showing off Banjo Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts to the press yesterday. "Up until recently things really haven't evolved much."
The team decided they wanted to tweak the formula, adding "fun physics" to the franchise and making it more about vehicles than traditional platforming. The change seems to be turning the franchise into what appears to be a sort of platformer on wheels that is centered more around challenges than a linear storyline.
I say appears to be because we were only shown a small part of one level of one of the game's five worlds. In it Banjo and Kazooie have to complete a short challenge for one of the game's characters. The challenge can be completed on foot, but it's not really meant to be. To complete it quickly you have to use a vehicle. It's the customisation of these vehicles that seem to be the heart of the game.
Customising a vehicle is a relatively quick. You can either build or customise vehicles in the garage, by selecting components and slapping them onto one another.
After the relatively short demo of the single player game, we were walked over to a group of 360s to try our hand at a Sumo match of multiplayer. In this particular mode the object is to keep your vehicle on a raised platform longer than everyone else.
My first try at the mode was done in a pre-fab vehicle that I added a few things to, like an egg machine gun, steel-gloved ram and bigger engines.
After quickly losing the match, I tried my hand at creating a vehicle from scratch. First I grabbed a bunch of body parts, essentially hunks of variously shaped steel and slapped them down next to one another to form a rectangle. Next I selected four Monster Truck wheels and quickly attached them to the body. Then I picked two jet engines which I placed on the top of the rectangle and then filled the gap between the metal squares with gas tanks, to hold plenty of fuel. To wrap the thing up I added bumpers to the front, which spring things away when they make contact with a wall or vehicle.
After creating this vehicle, which took less than five minutes, I took it for a quick test drive to see how well it worked. Which it didn't, but that's not the point. The point is that creating these vehicles, with the myriad of options was a lot of fun. You can add weapons, bat-like wings that pop-out of the sides of a vehicle at the touch of a button, gadgets, just about anything you want.
While vehicle creation is a ton of fun, it was hard to tell, without really seeing multiplayer and not knowing how single player is going to play out, if this game will be a hit with gamers, let alone Banjo Kazooie fans. Early impressions leave a lot to be desired and more than one person who saw the game asked the developers on hand if these single player challenges and vehicle creation was all there was to the game.
The reply: "Creating vehicles to complete the challenges is the crux of the game."