Banjo-Tooie
  • Genre:
    • Platformer
  • Platform:
    • Nintendo 64
  • Developer:
    • Rare
  • Publisher:
    • Nintendo
  • Released:
    • US 11/19/2000
    • JP 11/27/2000
    • UK 04/01/2001
Score: 80%

This review was published on 04/20/2010.

Banjo-Tooie is the sequel to Banjo-Kazooie, a 3-D platform game developed by Rare that is very similar in design to Mario 64. In case you haven't already guessed, all of these games were released for the Nintendo 64. The working theory here is that, if you enjoyed Mario 64, then you should enjoy the Banjo series, as well. It's not quite as simple as that, but rest assured, these games are on par with the great revolutionary title of yore. Well, as on par as you can get. You have to remember: Rare wasn't trying to reinvent the wheel, here. They merely set out to achieve a similar type of game, just with their own touch added. With that out of the way, it's about time I begin meticulously comparing Banjo-Tooie to its predecessor.

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So Gruntilda, the evil rhyming witch that was bested by the bear and bird duo, Banjo and Kazooie, has been brought back from her grave by her ugly sisters. She is not what she once was, though, so her plan is to use a large contraption to drain the life-force of the land to fully restore her to the realm of the living, transforming her boney body into a fleshier one. Thus our heroes must once again brave the dangers of their world to thwart this most nefarious plan. But how will they accomplish this? Why, by seeking the assistance of the Jinjo King, Jingaling, and the great Jiggywiggy. By the way, you play as a bear with a bird in his backpack in this game. As you can tell, the plot of this game doesn't take itself too seriously, yet it proves to be an entertaining diversion due to the same sort of comical dialogue and pseudo voice acting that gave the first game's story its charm.

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You've still got your usual hub world that interconnects to a bunch of smaller worlds, where you collect the prime collectibles of the game, Jiggies. Nothing has changed from that front, and this should be familiar to anyone who's played Mario 64 or its numerous imitations. What has changed is that, now, many of these smaller worlds will connect to each other, allowing you to sometimes bypass the hub world. While this introduces an intriguing sense of a contiguous world, it ends up feeling awkward and out-of-place. Their true offense, however, is that they're often needed in order to collect a large majority of the game's Jiggies. Why is this an offense, you ask? Because the Jiggies that you can acquire in the current world you're in are often restricted until you unlock a path from a future world that you've yet to reach, and this ends up convoluting things quite a bit. It wouldn't have been so bad if this was rarely the case, but they make liberal use of it toward the final reaches of the game.

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I'm not too sure how I feel about the world themes. They're not as cliched as the stuff you've seen before, but almost as a direct result of that, they tend to be a little generic and too similar. For instance, the first world is a Mayan Temple themed one, with occasional cavemen and dinosaurs. You later venture into a true prehistoric world, populated with, you guessed it: cavemen and dinosaurs. It's not all bad, though. Some of the later worlds are truly impressive, such as a carnival with various themed attractions, an artful sky world with a Picasso-like sensibility to it, a jolly lagoon with a port-side town you can explore, and a world that mixes your typical fire and ice themes into a single one. And due to the more complex designs, you're not going to be getting through this game quite as quickly as you went through Banjo-Kazooie, as progress within a single world is much slower. Part of it is due to the aforementioned paths that connect the worlds together, but it is also in due part to the great amount of new moves you can learn, many of which are required to access certain areas, akin to Metroid.

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Speaking of new moves, the very same Notes that you collected in the last game are now used to learn new moves from Bottle's brother, a mole decked out in army gear. You start off the game with pretty much every move you learned from Banjo's last adventure, which means that you won't be going through the nonsense of re-acquiring all your old moves again, as you would in, say, a Metroid game. These Notes that you collect are now available in bunches rather than in singles, I suppose to relieve you of some of the tedium of collecting them all. There are quite a few moves to learn in this game, as early on, Banjo and Kazooie learn to split up, allowing you to control them individually rather than as a duo. When alone, the bird and bear have their own sets of moves, many of which are acquired much in the same way as your regular moves. What this amounts to is a game choke-full of new moves to learn, with every level offering about two to three moves. I know this sounds exciting, but a lot of the moves are fairly lame, most likely due to the difficulty in trying to cram in so many moves into a single game. For instance: initially, when Kazooie is alone, she doesn't have any basic attack moves. You learn one a bit later in the game, but what's the point, really? Banjo and Kazooie already have basic attack moves as a duo, why is it that Kazooie has none when she's alone? No reason, really, other than to artificially increase the amount of moves to unlock.

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It is now possible for you to control the great shaman, Mumbo-Jumbo, as a playable character. Unfortunately, he can't do much beyond walk and jump about in a really lenient manner. His only real use is in activating mysterious pads that will cause a special event to occur that inevitably opens up paths for the real heroes to explore. In order to enlist his services, you must bring him Glowbos, stupid magical creature that you have to collect. The convenient thing about these creatures is that they almost always appear right next to the place that requires them. It does beg the question of why you even need them, though. I feel like Rare just wanted an excuse for another collectible. And in case you were wondering, Humba-Wumba, Mumbo-Jumbo's well-endowed female rival, takes his place as the residential transformation expert. She also requires a Glowbo in order for you to make use of her magic. Not much has changed with the transformations; they're still as useless as always, proving only to be of use in certain designated areas.

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When you think about it, Banjo-Kazooie didn't have boss fights. You would fight slightly tougher foes on occasion, but the only true boss was the final one. Tooie aimed to change that. Bosses now tower over you, emitting a menacing growl that quakes the very earth you stand upon. Despite their massive size, the bosses in Tooie are not too intimidating, what with their comical dialogue and exaggerated designs. There's no apparent order or structure to when you get to fight a given world's boss. That has its advantages in that it breaks the tedium of those games that insert bosses at extremely predictable intervals, but it also brings about the disadvantage of awkward boss timing. Not knowing when you're about to face a boss also means you don't have much time to prepare for the impending battle. This ain't an RPG, though, so that's irrelevant. The true terror behind Tooie's boss fights is that they're terrible. Almost every fight has you utilizing an uncomfortable perspective or circumstance (flying, swimming, first person shooter mode, etc) and they tend to last way too long. One fight has you soaring about in a large, open area, and you have to aim in first person mode whilst airborne, in order to shoot your eggs at the boss' weak spots. Given how touchy the aiming scope is and how inaccurate the flight controls are, this is a lot more annoying than it sounds. The fight itself was not hard, it was just frustratingly long. If you think that sounds bad, then you'll love to hear that there's another boss you fight while underwater, in a similar manner. It's the same thing, but with underwater controls, which are considerably worse than the game's flight controls. Is that something to look forward to, or what?

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All in all, I peg Banjo-Tooie slightly below Banjo-Kazooie in quality. It's not that it is a substantially worse game, but the complexities added don't always feel like they're improving the experience. There are times when simplicity makes for a more entertaining game, and Banjo-Tooie may have lost sight of that. On the other hand, I get the sensation that Rare was running out of ideas and desperately trying to come up with new concepts to keep old players interested. Sometimes that made for good level themes. Other times, it made for dreadful boss fights. I still recommend Banjo-Tooie if you're done with Banjo-Kazooie and still craving another game of that description. If it came down to choosing only one of the two, however, then I would go for the first.

Word Count: 1,578

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