Carjacking, fleeing from the cops, and an open world in which you rub elbows with corrupt weasels and lowlife thugs doesn't sound like something you'd expect from a Banjo Kazooie game, but Rare may be giving impressionable boys and girls their first taste of Grand Theft Auto-style gameplay. We'd seen Banjo Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts at previous Microsoft get-togethers, but going eyes on with Rare's latest at Tokyo Game Show made us realise just how far they'd taken the former platformer.
Sure, it's still a grind of a collect-a-thon and the eyes are still as googly as the fur is furry, but Nuts & Bolts' repeatable missions and vehicular combat made us realise that Rare has something rather unique on their hands — a wide-open world without the ultra-violence.
While we knew all about the vehicle customisation and creative puzzle solving, we didn't know that acquiring a "jiggy" following a successful challenge would turn into a high speed police chase. Turns out the cops are corrupt in Showdown Town, that hauling your bird and bear asses back to your safe house from the Jiggoseum was such an important part of the game.
Sure, it may have more hugs than hookers, more furry woodland creatures in overalls than drug dealers, but GTA-style game design looks to have had an influence on Rare. (Who says their skills aren't applicable today?) That players can carjack each other's rides via Xbox Live — you can lock your vehicles to prevent such a thing — makes us wonder if Rare will be the ones actually corrupting our youth.
Banjo Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts also has plenty of the Metroid-style backtracking and unlockable areas courtesy of new upgrades. But watching Rare's demo of the game today made us immediately compare it to Rockstar's most popular efforts, not so much classic Nintendo fare.
We'll see if the open world sandbox gameplay finds an audience. Nuts & Bolts, with its LEGO block-esque vehicle customisation and cuddly free-roaming adventuring sounds like a winning combination (and the budget price doesn't hurt). We wonder if it will be a worthwhile pacifier for the underage crowd who want to go hog wild in a virtual sandbox.