Review: Banjo Kazooie: Grunty’s Revenge (Game Boy Advance)

In this review, we rescue Kazooie in the Game Boy Advance game Banjo Kazooie: Grunty’s Revenge. We find out how well this adventure game plays.

This game was released in 2003.

At this point, we are quite familiar with the Banjo Kazooie games. We first tried the original Banjo Kazooie. That game was an excellent game worth playing. Next up, we tried Banjo Tooie. That game wound up being less than impressive, though it is passable. So, we thought we’d venture further into the series to see how it develops.

The story takes place between Banjo Kazooie and Banjo Tooie. Gruntilda is still stuck under the giant boulder. Klungo, her main henchman, is still trying to get her out from under that boulder to no avail. Klungo then gets an idea and builds Gruntilda a mech suit. After a bit of time, Klungo brings the suit back and gets Gruntilda to cast a spell so that her soul hops from her body to the suit. The transition is successful.

With her new found freedom, Gruntilda hatches a plan to kidnap Kazooie and take her to the past so that Banjo and Kazooie never meet. Mumbo, however, overhears the whole thing and races to Banjo to warn him of the plot. Unfortunately, he is too late and Kazooie is kidnapped. Mumbo decides to cast a spell and send Banjo back in time to rescue Kazooie and restore the original timeline.

You take control of Banjo after he makes the jump. Unfortunately, the trip makes him forget all of his moves. In order to re-learn the moves, Banjo must collect musical notes. He can take those musical notes to Bozzeye. If you collect enough, you’ll get a chance to re-learn some of your moves.

In all, there are 700 notes in the entire game, but it’s quite easy to get enough to learn all of the moves.

In addition, you’ll collect Jiggy’s just like in previous games. Collect enough and return to Jiggywiggy to unlock the next world. This concept is definitely a carry over from Banjo Tooie. In all, there are 70 Jiggy’s to collect.

A final thing to collect are empty honeycombs. For every two you collect, you’ll increase your total life bar by one. With two in each world, you can collect up to 12 combs for a total of 6 “extensions”. There are no empty honey combs on Spiral Mountain.

Since Mumbo is here, you can bet transformations are part of the game. Unlike previous Banjo games, though, there aren’t that many items to collect. In fact, there is a maximum of one totem on the levels. The good news is that one is all you need to obtain a new physical form. Different physical forms include the rat, candle, and the octopus. To collect the totem, you need to defeat the level boss (which typically is just a fight with Klungo. Return the totem to Mumbo to collect your reward.

There are regular item pickups as well. This includes regular honeycombs that generally restore health. A regular honeycomb restores one health slot. A “2” honeycomb restores two health slots. The “!” honeycomb gives you a chance to restore your whole health bar. All that is required is good timing with the “A” button. Finally, the “?” honeycomb operates the same as the “!” honeycomb, but the selector is random. So, timing and reflexes is great to have here.

Also collectible are various eggs and feathers. There are even special key items you can collect on specific levels to unlock either a mini-game or a Jiggy.

In addition to all of this, there are various pads and switches. The pads will allow you to either jump really high or activate invulnerability. Additionally, switches tend to activate pads or even a Jiggy on occasion. Be warned that some of these are time limited, so speed is crucial in some cases.

My first impression of this game is just how well it translates onto the handheld system. Since I’ve had my share of experiences where 3D games are packed into a 2D environment, I know that it sometimes just doesn’t translate well. This game manages to do this much more successfully than other games out there. While it winds up being a more top down perspective, it still retains a pseudo 3D aspect with impressive results.

Many players are no doubt aware of how many buttons this game used in the N64 titles. In fact, a number of moves required holding down buttons in a certain way just to execute a multitude of moves. Of course, in this game, there are far fewer buttons. While some still required the use of ducking to activate some moves, this game manages to get a very good range of moves in there. In fact, I’d say a vast majority of moves have been retained. An extra pad had to be used for invulnerability, but otherwise, the moves have largely been retained.

What I do like is the fact that Banjo’s moves are better showcased in this game. In other games, Banjo does have a certain array of moves. Unfortunately, with Kazooie being present from the very beginning, some attacks wind up being overshadowed. In this game, you are forced to use Banjo moves early in the game. They have ultimately been improved with the backpack attack and the roll attack. They wind up being very usable in the beginning and stretches out the use of each move in a much more orderly manner.

For the most part, controls are very tight and responsive. It can be a bit annoying to quickly get into the Kazooie running mode quickly, but flaws in the controls are generally few and far between.

One common criticism of this game I hear about is length. I personally completed this game and I wound up clocking in at just over 4 hours to complete. As far as I could tell, I was going at a pretty good clip for a first run. I can’t honestly say it’s a short game for an adventure game. You’ll likely never fit the length of an N64 title onto a system like this, so compromises are pretty much going to happen. Is it on the shorter end of the spectrum of games? Probably. Still, I found it to be a pretty satisfying play as far as length is concerned.

My only real complaint is that this game doesn’t necessarily do a whole lot other than be an accomplishment of cramming an N64 title into a handheld version. The only exceptions I could see are the transformations. Even then, some of them aren’t really a huge part of the game.

Additionally, the mini-games tend to be a bit repetitive with the constant fishing mini-game being a feature. I would have liked to have seen a better variety of mini-games. It doesn’t have to be a crazy amount, but two or three more mini-games would have been satisfactory.

Generally speaking, this game does a very good job at putting a full 3D adventure into a handheld console. While a few moves are a little bit annoying to pull off quickly, the controls are generally nice and tight and responsive. The game does precious little to differentiate itself from previous titles in the series. Also, some more variety in the mini-games wouldn’t have hurt. Still, it’s a pretty solid and enjoyable game all around.

An impressive aspect of this game is the graphics. You can tell the 3D models were compressed down to fit into the 2D environment. Still, you get the sense of 3D anyway in the various characters. Meanwhile, the environments are very nicely done. There has been a lot of detail put into each environment to make it feel alive. My only complaint is that there isn’t much in the way of shadows or indicators of how high cliffs are. That definitely proved to be a bit annoying while playing. The only shadow is for different characters in the sky. Still, it is a great effort here anyway.

Audio winds up being a good highlight for this game as well. The music is pretty spot on. In fact, the theme for Spiral mountain is practically identical to the N64 titles. That, in and of itself, is an impressive accomplishment. Other music works pretty well overall. The voice samples are nicely done, though a little bit on the repetitive side for some characters. Sound effects work quite well too. So, a great effort all around.

Overall, considering some of the reviews out there, I was pleasantly surprised with what I wound up playing. This game features a wide variety of features found in previous console titles. While there is responsiveness issues with the odd move here and there, the controls are still generally very responsive and well thought out. It’s unfortunate that not a lot differentiates this from other titles. Also, there could have been more mini-game variety. Still, it’s a very solid play all around worth the play. The graphics and audio are both great in my books. So, a very solid game to play all around.

Furthest point in game: Beat the game and earned 90 gold coins.

General gameplay: 20/25
Replay value: 7/10
Graphics: 8/10
Audio: 4/5

Overall rating: 78%

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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