SummaryHow to ruin a good game franchise
The GoodI admit that I am glad that this franchise isn't as dead as I thought it would be, Banjo-Kazooie was part of my childhood and is right up there with Super Mario and Legend of Zelda, that is part of the reason why I have delayed this review for months. I can sense that the true game in in there still, the dialogue and humor are still around and the graphics look great, I just wish there was a lot more of the original game in here.
There is a lot of depth to the building part of this game, not really much of a surprise considering everything else is as messed up as it can get, but I am still very positive about this. It's simple enough for kids to build themselves cars with, but the older people can also spend hours perfecting a new hovercraft or aircraft if they want to. Every bit of weight counts and the right weapons on the right vehicles can really make a difference when you're in a tough position.
I admit that levels are actually pretty damn good and at some points it can even be full of atmosphere. Heck, I'd even say that the second level is one par with levels from Banjo and Kazooie, I honestly like it that much. There is also a museum level that I swear is a treasure for spotting Easter-eggs.
The BadOh dear... let's go through these one at a time:
A change of core-gameplay doesn't necessarily have to be bad, Mario does it all the time and frankly it always worked out so far. Where Banjo however falls short is that the racing mechanics feel somewhat clunky and cars control rather funny. Very often I would drive over a slight bump in the road at a brisk pace, but my car would simply topple over. At one point I made a very light car with lots of engines, but giving even the slightest bit of gas launched the thing directly into the air. I have no problem with cartoon logic, but when we are asked to partake in races, it's pretty essential that the core mechanics are at least functional.
The missions are rather difficult, even in the very first level, which strikes me as somewhat cruel. There are several feeds you can accomplish; either you do it top notch and get a prize + jiggy, you do well enough and get just a jiggy or you fail and don't get anything. In some levels though, I even found it near-impossible to achieve just a regular victory, let alone one where I get a prize for. This game is supposed to be aimed at kids, but I doubt children are interested in having to hand-craft a new car for every individual mission's objectives.
Quite often you will be asked to race against other characters or at the very least deal with some enemies, this sounds decent enough on paper, but the AI programming is so lazy that is borders on the unfair. The AI are programmed in a way that racing opponents only care for assaulting you, but the second that has been accomplished they just turn into mindless zombies. In one race in the second level they would constantly bump me off the road or into hazards, but once I was in last place they would form a nice line and calmly ride for the finish. Enemies aren't much better and the main problem is that every single one of them is designed to break off parts of your car, which of course is a major frustration factor when casually driving around.
While the levels are quite beautiful and quite clearly what we expected from Banjo & Threeie, there is still a major flaw to be found in them. What we can expect to be levels designed for an adventure game, feel quite empty and hallow when used for racing purposes. You can walk around and explore every nook and cranny, but all you will find is scenery with no function or context, to the point that you can actually destroy most of it. Enemies have also been scarcely dropped around the map in a very random fashion, so it's not even worth exploring for the sake of combat.
Like all the other Banjo games, this one too has an overworld. This time around however it's not Spiral Mountain, but instead a place called Showdown Town, where all games are made and come together. Well... that's the idea anyway. What could be a heaven for easter-eggs and references is instead kind of a bland and meaningless area with minimal interaction. There are villagers to be found, but they are all generic animals with no purpose in the story. There are crates to be found with new parts for your car, but they are so obviously placed that it's more of a chore than anything else.
I mentioned that the process of designing your car is at least somewhat deep, but while that is true, it's still a very bad construction-simulator. I am not going to complaint about not having to study engineering to grasp this kind of stuff, that's of course a major plus, instead I would rather complaint about how little fun you get out of your car. At first you have only a few car parts, but you can still spend two hours creating your first masterpiece. Cut two levels further and you already have ten times as many parts and trying to upgrade your first model is impossible because you'd have to redesign it completely. What I am saying is: you can never quite stick with anything you have and are constantly changing around.
lack of adventure
This is the most obvious complaint, but that's why I kept it for last. Banjo and Kazooie, as well as its sequel, where both focused entirely on the adventure. You had to enter the levels and find out where to get the jigsaw-pieces with your own wit, but here you see a gigantic holographic sign showing you exactly where to go, followed by a character telling you exactly what to do. Gruntilda, the main villain of the series, is also in for this ride, but she doesn't seem that interested in the game either. She just kinda stands around and occasionally challenges you, she doesn't even respond when you fire a laser at her. She is also the last boss of every level, but that again goes in against her style, she would always wait till the last moment and massively hype up herself as a final challenge to overcome.
The Bottom LineThis is a horrible, horrible game and it's even worse because it's the latest game in one of my all-time favorite franchises. Aside from the franchise it's part of and a pretty nice "build your own car" feature there is just nothing remotely decent about this game, it's one of the worst I have ever played in fact. Banjo should have stayed an adventurer, it could be the worst adventure game ever with the most mindless puzzles and the laziest story ever and I would still rate it better than what we have in front of us now.
If you have little children, they might enjoy it, but everybody else will just see it for the bore it isn't even trying to hide. I am sad to bring this news to you, members of Mobygames.com, but this game is bad, really, really bad. Stay away from it.