Taking the new demo for a test drive. Pun intended.
After a long evening of dishwashing, laundry-doing, and paperwork-filling-outing, I finally got a chance to fire up my Xbox 360 yesterday to try out a demo for a game I’ve had my eye on for a few months now: Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts.
I have to say that so far, that this game looks like it will be completely awesome.
For the uninitiated, Nuts & Bolts is a sequel of sorts to the original duo of 3D platform games for the N64. The first game in the series introduced the oddly paired Banjo (the bear) and Kazooie (the bird in Banjo’s backpack), and had players exploring a large non-linear 3D world collecting jigsaw pieces. The game played very similarly to other games of the period, like Mario 64, only with an added emphasis on story and humor. Banjo-Kazooie was a fun, ground-breaking experience, and won two awards at the 1999 Interactive Achievement Awards, for Console Action / Adventure and Art Direction. The original Banjo-Kazooie was released in 1998.
The second game, Banjo-Tooie (see what they did there?), followed two years later in 2000. And though the gameplay mechanic was not dramatically different from the first game, Tooie was met with great acclaim.
Ten years later, Nuts & Bolts has finally landed as a demo on Xbox Live, and the full game looms in the distance, only a week and a half away. I’ve been anxious to try this game out, as I’ve always enjoyed N64 era 3D platformers, and I’ve been wanting to check out the vehicle creation system Rare crafted.
Nuts & Bolts takes the classic platforming play of old and throws vehicles into the mix – vehicles that you design yourself. As you explore the world and complete tasks, you’re given an ever-expanding arsenal of parts from which you can construct vehicles of all shapes, sizes, and utility. At any point in the game, you can enter the garage and edit your vehicle, and you can save and load different designs you’ve already created, and edit all to your hearts content. With the release of the final game, you’ll also be able to send plans to friends, so they can cruise around their game in vehicles of your design.
I played Nuts & Bolts demo for about 45 minutes, and I had a very good time with it. Lots is included in the 1Gb+ sampling, and I’ll probably spend some more time with it this weekend.
The graphics in this game are excellent. Rare never ceases to amaze me in their ability to create rich, living environments, and Nuts & Bolts is just another example of their mastery over this skill. The character animation is nice and smooth, and you really get the sense of a real world that the old N64 games just couldn’t do. My only complaint about the graphics so far, and this is really more of a design issue overall, is that the informational cut-scenes that explain the story and how the game works are all done in the same way as the old games – with lots of text, and squawking heads next to them – and no spoken dialogue. This may change in the final version of the game, but I really would have liked to see Rare put their obvious talents in animation to use and give us fully animated cut-scenes with actual dialogue. Other than this single caveat though, the game is visually incredible, from the anthropomorphic characters roaming around town to vast rolling hills with roads and ramps, it’s all very beautiful.
I was also impressed by the audible quality of the demo. The sound effects are varied and appropriate, and the goofy little sounds Banjo and Kazooie make as they traverse the world put a big smile on my face. The music in the game is especially good, and I was glad to see that Grant Kirkhope and Robin Beanland (responsible for Viva Piñata and Conker’s Bad Fur Day respectively) were behind it, since I have enjoyed a lot of their past works.
Control in Nuts & Bolts was solid, and felt very familiar to the way the older games did while I was running around on foot. Vehicular controls are similar to most other 360 games you’ve played, using the analog should buttons for gas and brake, and the left and right sticks for direction and camera control. The vehicle I played around with felt a little slow, but since I was only playing the beginning stages of the game, and thus had the lowest power engine on my car, this seemed appropriate. Building cars was also a snap, and within only a few minutes I was jumping in and out of the garage, experimenting with all sorts of configurations. Anyone who’s ever used a program like Lego’s Factory, or even built something with Legos before, program will feel right at home.
All in all, I came away from my initial run-through of the Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts demo very impressed. I was intrigued by the handful of screens and video that were released a few months ago, but wasn’t sure if the game would be very much fun or not. After having played the demo, I feel silly for having worried about this at all – Nuts & Bolts is looking to be a lot of fun, and I can only imagine how crazy the later part of the game will get as you gather more and more diverse parts for your vehicle crafting.
Jump on Xbox Live and try out the demo for yourself – if you go into it with an open mind, and looking for some genuine fun, you won’t be disappointed. Let me know what you think if you do!
Image courtesy of TeamXbox