Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts

Pros & Cons:
Pertaining to My short list below.

The graphics are sharp, detailed and colorful, with a mostly solid framerate (it'll sometimes drop with lots of things on screen); long draw distance (how far you can see); very little pop-in for it's scope; and brief load times (at about 12-15 seconds).

The worlds themselves are very imaginative and non-linear, meaning you can approach most objectives in any way you can think; it's a blast to explore Showdown Town for Mumbo crates and Notes; and the vehicle creation is extremely satisfying, rewarding and plain fun--you could just spend hours building vehicles and see how they turn out.

And even after exhausting the the extensive vehicle creation system (which will take a long while), there's plenty of replay value, as even after beating the story--which takes a good 15+ hours--it'll take an extra 10+ hours to collect the 131 Jiggies, 1900 Notes, 97 T.T. trophies, 57 Mumbo crates, and complete all 72 Jingo challenges.

On the negative side, targeting with your wrench could stand to be more accurate--you often pick up things you didn't want to; two of the game's worlds are far too small, cramped and restricting, making you flip over and knock into things; and some later goals can get frustrating because of the non-optional vehicles they provide, which are heavily unbalanced and very touchy.

But overall, this is an incredibly unique game, and although it departs from the previous installments, the inclusion of the vehicle creation system and highly imaginitive worlds make this stand out on its own--if you want different, this is it.

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Content review for this game:
Pertaining to the ESRB rating and My age rating.

Content-wise: Concerning the violence, it's no worse than a Saturday morning cartoon, and although there is some goofy, and mildly demeaning banter between the game's characters, it's all done in text. Which brings me to my next point: the entire story, including all the game's instructions are done solely in text. This means kids 7- will have a pretty hard (or nearly impossible) time enjoying the game's story, let alone know what to do. However, they could run and drive around the huge hub world, and if you set things up and supervise them, they'll have a great time, as the graphics are colorful and the characters are very animated. Otherwise, this game is simply over their heads.

Difficulty-wise: Other than brief instructions for basic vehicle creation--which is quite intricate--there's very little explanation, and you'll have to calculate for things like fuel levels, engine power, weight distribution, geometry, traction and drift, right out of the gate. This intricacy is furthered by the fact that the physics system is quite touchy; if a vehicle isn't created just right, it'll knock into walls, flip over, and lose fuel and/or power immediately, and you'll plainly have to use trial and error to find out what works with the individual objectives. Taking this, the vague gameplay objectives, sheer presentation of options, the fact that you have to be moderately resourceful, and a pretty good pilot/driver, and I think younger age groups would be confused and overwhelmed--it's just more suited to ages 10+.

Fun for: Although this game may looked suited to the 7- crowd in appearance, it's very deceiving, as it's completely over their heads. Instead, the overall gameplay is more suited to kids 10+ and adults--they'll find the nearly limitless vehicle creation very deep and quite worth their time.

Gameplay sum up: Banjo-Kazooie's hub is set in Showdown Town, with numbered doors in set areas of the town representing the individual acts in the game's six worlds. To continue on, you'll have to complete challenges and collect the game's "Jiggies," resulting in them opening more of the game worlds, and in turn, more acts. So in all, there are six worlds with six acts, and one to six objectives in each.

The base gameplay consists of entering the game's worlds, completing challenges (which involves checkpoint racing on/in ground/air; retrieving and/or repairing objects; transporting objects from point A to B; protecting, escorting and/or taxiing targets, etc.) and in turn collecting Jiggies (unlocking more worlds/acts); finding, buying and collecting the hundreds of vehicle parts/schematics with Notes (the game's currency); and creating custom vehicles (like race cars, speed boats, helicopter, planes, tanks, motorcycles, etc.) with acquired parts in order to complete specific challenges.

Several challenges will pit you against Grunty (your rival), where after winning the challenges you'll receive upgrades to your trolley, which are used around the hub, like high traction wheels (for getting up steep slopes); floaters (to traverse water); a spring (for jumping gaps and high places), etc. And to get to the many Notes and Mumbo crates (parts for vehicles) in the main hub, Banjo will use his platform skills to jump, grab on ledges, shimmy up poles, and walk on tightropes, and can upgrade his Speed, Strength and Stamina at the local gym.

Beyond basic gameplay, you can replay challenges for better times and trophies (every four you collect gets you another Jiggy); play silly, simple but fun games at the arcade; compete in extra "Jinto" events, where you fling the small bird-like creatures as far as you can, escort them to a specific target, knock them out of a circle before they do the same, etc.; and scattered around the hub are wrongfully imprisoned Jintos, who can be freed from their prisons, and then replaced by the real culprits.

Cartoon violence: After ten years of downtime, you find that Banjo and Kazooie have had they're better days. During this, "solace", they've had plenty of time to binge on pizza and video games--making them terribly obese. But things are about to change; they quickly discover that Grunty (now just a hopping skull) has miraculously revived (again), and just when they're about to have an anticlimactic showdown, a mysterious talking tv head interrupts and represents himself as the "Lord of Games." He proceeds to magically put Banjo and Kazooie into shape, gives Grunty a robotic body to put her skull in, and informs them that they are now joined in his games. If they ever hope to get home again, Banjo & Kazooie will have to win challenges in customizable vehicles, while Grunty tries everything to stop them. Let the games begin...

The tone of violence is mild and very cartoony, with Banjo being able to run over and hit civilians (like humanoid rhinos, penguins and pigs) with his wrench and/or vehicle in the hub world. He'll wave them out of the way in attempts not to hit them, but if he does, the effect is quite harmless, resulting only in their running, then grumbling, and complaining; Banjo's wrench can pick up anything (with its magnetized tether) from chairs to statues, and most of these objects can be moved or knocked over, causing a moderate mess; and Banjo is eventually supplied with optional vehicle weapons like egg shooters, grenade guns and lasers, which he'll use to fend off the metal ball-like enemies, who try to hinder his progress by knocking apart his vehicles.

Lastly, a corrupt (literal pig) police chief is keeping six innocent Jintos in cells, which are scattered about the hub world. If you free a Jinto, the chief will send his men to patrol the hub, and if you bump into a patrol car or are seen carrying your own stuff, they'll attack. You can destroy their cars with your wrench, or visit the corrupt officer and bribe him with notes, temporarily getting them off your back, but the only way to solve this issue permanently is to find the six real Jinto culprits, replacing them with the innocents you freed. However, all the above is done in a very light-hearted, silly, harmless way--concerning content, this game is suitable for all ages.

Comic mischief: Some situations the characters are put through could be considered along the lines of Looney Toons-type mischief, and they'll frequently tell each other off with words and phrases like stupid, butt ugly, idiot, dumb, fool, and freak--but other than some silly sounds and gibberish, it's all done in text, and the tone presented isn't any worse than the aforementioned cartoon. There's also mild crude humor, with the occasional mention of "Armpits stinking," you see a couple of the characters pick their noses; and one objective is to stop a cat from urinating in a pool.

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