Review: Banjo Kazooie (N64)

By Drew Wilson

Banjo Kazooie is an adventure game that was released on the N64. We take a look at this game and see how it stacks up today.

Banjo Kazooie was released in 1998 that revolved around a bear named Banjo and a bird name Kazooie (stored in Banjo’s blue backpack) and aided by other characters like Bottles, Mumbo Jumbo and Cheato. The premise is that a witch named Gruntilda (frequently referred to as Grunty) has kidnapped Tooty so that she could steal her youth and good looks to be the most beautiful woman in the land. Banjo and Kazooie must save her.

Throughout the game, you are required to collect puzzle pieces (jiggies) to complete portraits found throughout Gruntilda’s lair. Each completed portrait will open a new world that allows access to more jiggies. Also, the player must collect musical notes. Unfortunately, the player cannot keep these notes after exiting the world, but instead, must simply maintain a high score. Each world has 10 jiggies and 100 notes. 10 jiggies can be found in the main lair and, with 9 worlds, a player can obtain a maximum of 900 notes and 100 jiggies total. Each world also has 5 Jinjo’s the player can collect. Each time a player rescue’s all 5 jinjo’s, the player gains access to one of the 10 jiggies found in each world.

As the game progresses, the player can obtain new moves that are often needed to progress through the game. These can be obtained by finding one of Bottles molehills that exist on the earlier levels. One such move is the ability to shoot eggs. That is needed later on to pay tolls to open bridges in Rusty Bucket Bay.

Another item that can be found throughout the game is empty honeycomb’s. If the player obtains 8 of these honeycombs, the player receives an extra unit of life. 8 are found in Spiral mountain and two are found in each subsequent world.

As one can gather, this game relies heavily on picking up items which is a staple for many adventure games like Donkey Kong Country 64 and Super Mario Brothers 64. I found that the item picking up in this game fairly well executed as it’s simple enough to remember what you needed to collect and, if one wanted to see their status of a particular world in terms of getting a level complete, the player can find the totals in the pause menu.

There are many ways one can collect jiggies. Sometimes, it’s simply a matter of collecting certain special items like the presents in Freezeezy Peak. Another way is to defeat a level boss such as the mutant snippit’s in Clanker’s Cavern. Sometimes, the player needs to solve a puzzle such as the concentration-like game in Gobi’s Valley. In any event, there are lots of things to do throughout the game – especially when you are, like me, attempting to do an exhaustive run.

One of the lesser known facts about this game is that once the player beats the game with 100 jiggies, it is possible to collect the Ice Key and the mystery eggs. The problem is that they can only be obtained when very long codes are entered in the sand castle in Treasure Trove Cove. Luckily, there are various guides online that will tell you these codes (the obtaining of these codes were apparently the result of hacking the game by the Rare Witch Project). These items, as part of the infamous Stop N’ Swop system, actually don’t do anything after you collect them (except maybe offer a chance to have bragging rights or find another neat feature in the game) and only served to create rumours about the game until Banjo Tooie came out. In the sequel, the eggs were used to unlock features, but the crossover connection between Banjo Kazooie and Banjo Tooie was loose at best in this area. I would argue that the eggs and ice key found in Banjo Kazooie was simply a miscalculation on the developer’s part in the end as they clearly had plans for it, but the plans, at best, changed after the game was completed.

I thought this cartoon style game was pretty well done. The character interactions such as Kazooie’s constant rudeness added a nice depth to the game. The continual evolution throughout the game while still sticking to the core idea’s at the same time made this game nicely varied. Perhaps the only annoying part in the game was trying to find 100 notes in Click Clock Woods. While it wasn’t really necessary, it was really annoying to have found 92-96 notes and you have already gone through every single season already. I ended up scaling that darn tree about a dozen or so times trying to find those last stray notes and I knew that I couldn’t leave the world unless I want to lose all that progress at the same time. I do know, though, that beak buster move makes a great “brake” while navigating those slippery branches in the winter season.

The graphics were well done. Sometimes, you forget items and rooms are made with simple polygons while other’s, it’s deliberate to add effect such as the honeycomb shape in some tunnels. I really have a hard time coming up with anything to complain about in this area.

Audio was well done. There’s a theme song to each world, but that theme varies depending on where you go. For instance, if you jump in the water in any world, the music changes. If you walk into special rooms such as the inside of the pyramid in Gobi’s Valley, the music will change again while keeping to the same theme of the original song. Sound effects were good, though I found a parrot-like bird would make the sound of a crow when it tries to attack you from inside a wall (found in Click Clock Woods).

Overall, this was a good game to play. Had plenty of fun trying to get everything and liked pushing the number of lives I have past the visually capped 9 (I don’t know how many lives you can collect, but it’s definitely more than 9). I thought the last world (Click Clock Woods) may have been a little over-sized, but that’s about it.


Furthest point in game: Beat the game a few times. Managed to get all notes and jiggies twice and collected all Stop N’ Swop items.

General gameplay: 23/25
Replay value: 8/10
Graphics: 8/10
Audio: 5/5

Overall rating: 88%

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85

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