Review: Banjo Tooie (N64)

By Drew Wilson

In this review, we check out a sequel to the largely successful game Banjo Kazooie. Does this adventure game live up to the expectations built up by the prequel, we look into that and give Banjo Tooie a try.

Banjo Tooie was released in 2000 and continues where Banjo Kazooie left off. It would try to answer questions like the supposed hidden sections of Banjo Kazooie only accessible via the sequel (well, it was accessible via very long cheat codes in the prequel, but that’s a minor detail in the overall suggestions left by Rare).

In this game, Grunty’s sisters rescue Grunty from under the boulder where she was left after beating the first game. After Grunty emerges from under the boulder, she realizes she has become a zombie. In order to rectify the situation, Grunty’s sisters build a machine that would steal the life force from everywhere in the land. That life force would then be put into Grunty, reviving her to her old disgusting self. In the midst of all of this, Grunty blows up Banjo’s house and kills Bottles who were in the middle of a poker game.

Once you obtain control of Banjo and Kazooie, you, as the player, retain all the skills you earned in the previous game. One thing that is immediately obvious besides Grunt’s landscaping of Spiral Mountain is that items are distributed a little differently. Instead of individual items being placed throughout the area, they are distributed in packs. This can be seen through the eggs and red/golden feathers item pickups. Items of a certain type will cycle through gradually, allowing you to pick up whatever kind of item you want in that given type as long as you have good timing.

Before you even have the chance to really enter the first level, you’ll end up fighting one of Grunty’s minions after following their trail of destruction. It’s relatively straight forward if you know all of Banjo and Kazooie’s moves. After defeating him, you’ll eventually find yourself at King Jiggy Wiggy’s palace. This palac ends up being your means of traveling to different worlds as every world is locked up at the beginning. If you obtain enough Jiggy’s, much like the previous game, you can attempt a new puzzle which you must solve in a limited amount of time. From there, you have to locate the world entrance (if you haven’t already) and enter it to obtain more critical Jiggy’s as well as notes.

Musical notes are also obtained differently. Each note is actually worth 5 notes and a treble cleft is worth 25 notes. This reduces the number of note pick-ups overall in the game. Another item making a return are empty honey combs. If you collect enough of these, you can increase the total capacity of your overall health.

Jinjo’s are another kind of “item” you collect (or, rather, rescue). These Jinjo’s are distributed differently in the game in that you are now trying to complete a family which is based on color. Complete a family and you get a Jiggy. One thing that is different in this game is that some Jinjo’s are fake and attack you when you get close to them.

Mumbo Jumbo makes a return in this game. However, this is where we travel into the differences in this game. While you can use Mumbo Jumbo’s magic, you can only do so if you collect a “Glowbo”. This is a departure from the previous game in that instead of collecting Mumbo tokens, you collect a single Glowbo to activate Mumbo Jumbo. Mumbo Jumbo is also different in this game in that you don’t get transformed by his magic. Instead, you are simply allowed to play as him. Using him will allow you to activate Mumbo pads which allow you to trigger critical events throughout the game. Sometimes, you are activating a level specific playable character, other times, you are simply changing one element in the level that allows you to obtain a simple Jiggy.

Pads play a prominent role in this game. Some pads are warp pads which are activated when you set foot on them, others are split-up pads that allow you to split Banjo and Kazooie up in particular parts of the game that require this. Sometimes, it’s to activate two switches at the same time, other times, it’s to play particular minigames that require splitting up. Sometimes, it’s to complete specific objectives that allow you to obtain extra Jiggy’s. In any event, you need Jamjars help to activate this and many other features.

Jamjars is the designated “teacher” of this game (where Bottles was in the previous game). You get new moves from him that allow you to obtain a vast majority of the Jiggy’s available. To obtain new moves, you need to spend notes just to get the moves. This is another departure from the game in that notes were used to break Grunty’s spells in the previous game. In this game, it’s relegated to a simple form of currency. I don’t think this was a great change in the game as the notes made more sense as spell breakers than currency. Finding some of JamJars silo’s is a challenge in and of itself to begin with – and even then, sometimes you need to be there in a certain “configuration” just to obtain the move. Adding the note requirement on top of it seemed a bit excessive to me. While a certain number of the new “moves” are merely being able to outfit Kazooie with new shoes, most of them are simply to give Banjo and Kazooie their own moves when they are split up (i.e. Banjo’s all purpose backpack).

Another new feature of this game is the introduction of Humba Wumba. Humba Wumba effectively takes place of Mumbo as the designated “transform you into something crazy so you can obtain a few more of those hard to get Jiggy’s” person. Like Mumbo, she needs a Glowbo in order for her magic to work.

A returning character is Cheato. Unfortunately, Grunty ripped out his pages. In order to obtain new cheats, you must obtain a certain number of pages. After that, you have to spell out the special word on the wall in order to activate the cheat code. These cheat codes generally increase you capacity of certain items, but they can do other things as well like turn off damage when you fall.

One kind of item promised in this game is an ice key and secret eggs. While they do provide a role in this game, they don’t do a whole lot to alter the game compared to other features – though turning Kazooie into a fire breathing dragon wasn’t a bad move in my books. Still, I felt that the eggs were a bit of a missed opportunity in the end.

In all honesty, generally speaking, this game is a great example of something that fixes many things that weren’t broken. The notes system was fine in the old game. It was fixed and is now currency. Why? I don’t know. It was nicely ingrained in the game last time, but in the sequel, they are simply worked into something they were not – currency. The notes made far less sense in this game than previously.

Another thing in this game that irritated me was the level size. It’s not to say large gameplay areas are a bad thing, but it’s like the developers wanted to increase the size of the stages for the sake of it. In Banjo Kazooie, everything was nicely compacted into their own levels and, minus Click Clock Woods (which I though was the worst designed level in the whole game), everything was a nice short walk away. Now, you have a long and drawn out hike to get to anywhere. There’s still same number of things in the level, it’s just that they are now much further apart. This took away from the enjoyability of this game as you spend most of your time pushing the control stick up and avoiding bad guys just to get anywhere. In fact, this is the single largest irritant in this game. It’s like the designers took the level that had the worst design in the previous game (Click Clock Woods) and decided to continue to build levels in that style. In fact, a number of levels are simply a circle with most or all of the Jiggy’s on the outer circle with a major hub area in the middle. The first world is like that and the last world is more like that. There seemed to be little creativity (minus, perhaps, Glitter Gultch Mine which at least tried to be creative in the overall setup). there are warp pads that make traversing these huge area’s supposedly easier, but at that point, it becomes a game of trying to remember what was near key locations in the game. I found this to be less fun in and of itself as it became less about exploration, and more about remembering where things were.

I can agree that there are some improvements to the game (like passage ways that go from one level to the other), but all the flaws found in this game overshadow this.

Another thing that was fixed when it wasn’t broken was the removal of magical tokens. Now, everything costs one Glowbo. I don’t know why this change was made unless the designers felt lazy and didn’t want to sprinkle the levels with these kinds of pickups. I didn’t mind the token level from before, but I guess this was more or less scrapped for no good reason.

The minigames in this game were both a positive and negative in this game. They were a positive as some of them became much more elaborate than, say, spelling words out or flipping tiles over with ground pound. There’s a first person shooter minigame that I thought was a great idea overall. There was a kickball tournament that I also thought was great. Unfortunately, all of this is in the first level. After this, the minigames become more of a point collecting game with green, blue, and red colors denoting certain numbers of points you can get. In fact, I wonder if half of them worked off of this system as it got more and more repetitive as I went along.

Another element in this game that I was disappointed in is the fact that the Banjo Kazooie icon is no longer animated. This was such a nice touch in the previous game, yet this was removed for reasons that escape me.

The noticeable theme in this game is that things get progressively worse and repetitive as you went along. Levels were long and drawn out. Minigames became the same old thing over and over again, and it just became difficult to find any interest to play this game as I got further along. I did make it to the point where I was going to fight the last boss in the game, but I got so bored with this game, I just set the controller down and moved on to something that would effectively entertain me.

There are a few shiney elements in this game. I thought the general writing in this game was well done (I’m talking about dialogue outside of characters that explain the rules). Kazooie fit her role well in this game and is more rude than ever before. In fact, the line about asking aliens in their space craft if they had their green cards was so rude, I’m a bit surprised it even made it into the game.

Some of the puzzles in this game were interesting like the timed puzzle solving challenges.

I did get some entertainment value out of the first few levels. The only thing really memorable in the later levels is the part where you shoot the Jiggy’s with the eggs – though it was quite difficult to get the higher level prizes in that game.

Graphically, this game was, overall, an improvement over the previous game. Unfortunately, some of the graphical features that were nice touches were removed in this game. Still, the cartoon style really worked for this game, so I would say that the graphics were good all around.

Musically, this game is what you would expect from a Banjo Kazooie game. Unfortunately, with a few exceptions, it does little to serve as a positive departure from the previous game. You pretty much game the same sort of music you got from the previous game with merely melody changes involved. Glitter Gultch Mine stands out as an exception to this. There is an old southern swing style that wasn’t really found in the prequel which was a nice refreshing take on the musical soundscape in here. Beyond that, there isn’t much in this game you haven’t heard in Banjo Kazooie. The sound effects, however, were nicely done as always and I wouldn’t want a change from the previous game here. This game is successful in that area.

Overall, gamers were promised a game that knocks Banjo Kazooie out of the park. Instead, this sequel ends up being a disappointment by failing to be a strong game all the way through. With a second half of the game being more annoying than a positive gaming experience, there’s really no replay value to be had at all. If you complete the first four levels, it’s like you’ve soaked up all the fun you can get out of this game. Stick to the first Banjo Kazooie game if you want to get into this series, at least that game shows all the potential this series can provide.


General gameplay: 16/25
Replay value: 2/10
Graphics: 7/10
Audio: 3/5

Overall rating: 56%

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85

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