There was a time when the platform genre was synonymous with only two companies: Nintendo and Rare. Funnily enough, at the time Rare was a second-party Nintendo developer, and if you'd told a Nintendo Fanboy back then they'd one day see Rare games on a Microsoft console, you'd probably be buried in a shallow grave somewhere.
Of course just that has happened, and with Rare now wholly owned by Microsoft, the deal brought across a few of their well-known franchises as well. Most notably, Banjo-Kazooie.
You may have already checked out the original Xbox Live Arcade release of Banjo-Kazooie, and therefore may likely be interested in picking up the game's sequel and subject of today's review, Banjo-Tooie. If you didn't grab the first one, don't fret, it's not at all imperative to have played it and I'd be more inclined to suggest Banjo-Tooie over Kazooie, anyway.
At the height of their platform-development prowess, Rare were kings of making you do stuff
. Actually the whole game [Tooie] is wrought with in-jokes about collectathons, and as far as playing item fetch – Banjo-Tooie is the absolute cream of the crop.
For the uninitiated, Banjo and Kazooie and a bear and bird team. Kazooie (the bird) lives in a backpack donned by Banjo (the bear), and together they fight the evil witch, Gruntilda. As a duo of absolutely opposite proportions, the pair have a host of unique moves that include flying, jumping high, shoulder-barging, beak-stabbing and dropping out eggs (yep). It's utterly crazy, and while it might sound a bit kiddie, has a lot of adult undertones with great videogame references and industry in-jokes.
So how has an old Nintendo 64 game translated to the Xbox 360? Alarmingly well, actually. Outputting in widescreen at 720p, the game looks an absolute treat. Even the low-res textures of the day look great, and Banjo and Kazooie have never felt more at home. What's interesting is upscaled and in HD, you get a real feel for what Rare managed to squeeze out of the N64 back in the day, and watching elements such as individual droplets of water make their own ripples every time you swim or jump in just shows how good the old British dev team was.
It's also as responsive as you may remember, and having dual analogues now just improves the whole experience ten-fold. You can naturally sweep the camera around while moving the bird and bear with ease, and pretty much every move in their repertoire is intuitively mapped to the Xbox 360 controller.
The overall experience here is a massive one. Like Mario titles, your ultimate goal is to collect Jiggies (like Mario's Stars), and there are whole bunch of them. Levels are massive and also include various other items to collect such as music notes, feathers and more. It's all very typical platforming with various worlds branching from the game's main hub. You'll fight sub-bosses and big bosses, take part in on-rails sections and interact with various friendly NPCs.
Of course being a total XBLA converted game means there are the all-important Achievements to collect, which in thinking about Rare's games and their style of game development, fit here perfectly (though the first one is probably a waste because it's a little *too
* easy. There are also Leaderboards to show off to your friends and the world just how much of a life you don't
have, because leading in this game (ie collecting) will take you a very, very long time.
Multiplayer has remained intact and features bouts of up to four players locally, but it's the single-player game here that's the meat, and anyone who played Rare's N64 greats will definitely want to check this out. It beats dusting off your Nintendo 64, playing with those massive controllers and looking at the game running in 4:3.
Banjo-Tooie is a rare gem of a platformer. It has all the hallmarks of the Mario series with a slightly more Western feel. The game is massive, you have Achievements to unlock, Leaderboards as well as an upscaled HD presentation that looks pretty damn good given the game's age. Seeing this just makes me want Rare's other classics such as Jet Force Gemini
and of course, Goldeneye