Xbox 360 Spring Showcase: Hands-on with Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts

There were bunch of events that took place this past week in San Francisco. So much so, that I now finally have time to talk about all the games Microsoft were showing off at their Spring Showcase the other day. So throughout the day, expect quite a few posts on the upcoming Microsoft games.   

So then, let’s start off with the game everyone has been talking about the most: Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts. The series, as we all know by now, has gone through a very dramatic change. Will the heavy vehicle aspect of the game now hurt the series, or is it going to breathe new life into the much-beloved franchise? Hit the jump and find out.

The Banjo-Kazooie presentation was split off into two parts, starting off with Lead Programmer Salvatore Fileccia walking us through the single-player portion of the game.

The story in Nuts & Bolts is a simple one: The Lord of Games is this magnificent being who has created all the games ever played. He’s become sick and tired of Banjo and Grunty always fighting, so he has pitted both characters against each other in a competition with winner taking all. Nuts & Bolts is going to be light on story, as the main focus here is playing through all of the challenges.

Salvatore first walked us through the starting area, which is the HUB world to the game. Basically, think Mario 64 and Peach’s castle, where you could mess around in the castle and jump into a painting (level) whenever you were ready. The first few seconds of the above video (up until the first vehicle is shown) is of the HUB world.

After a few minutes, Kazooie uses Mumbo’s magic wrench wand to levitate a sphere and carry it. Banjo and Kazooie take the sphere to a device, which then opens up the first world you will be exploring. Banjo and Kazooie hop into the portal and are taken to Nutty Acres, the first of five worlds in the game.

The first thing that we’re shown entering the level is Mumbo’s garage. He’s going to be your mechanic now and will help you pimp build your rides. There are default vehicles you can use, but seeing as how a huge chunk of the game is focused on vehicles, you’re really going to want to build your own rides.

The building process is extremely simple. You have a ton of objects you can place on your vehicles, such as rockets, propellers, wheels, and weapons, plus a whole mess of others. There are a ton of parts you can use with endless amounts of vehicles that can be created. You have to be smart, though, when designing your vehicles. You need to make sure you have an engine, that weapons are placed correctly, that Banjo has a place to sit and so on. Mumbo will help you out and let you know if you’re doing it right or wrong, and the building process is color-coded, so it will indicate whether the piece you’re placing will fit where you want it to or not. 

Rare wants to make sure you have fun here, so the building process isn’t a giant pain. The whole process is reminiscent of LEGOs. You just connect the pieces together and it’s very easy and fast to do. Plus, you can always take the default vehicles and add whatever you want to them as well.  

After the vehicle was created for this demo, we were given a tour of the HUGE world you can explore. During the tour, Banjo came across spare parts several times scattered throughout the map. When you find parts, you can add them to your vehicle right then and there, and any part you don’t use is automatically taken back to Mumbo’s workshop.

The vehicles are very versatile. So for instance, when we came across a propeller, it was first stuck on top of the vehicle, which turned it into a helicopter of sorts. It was then moved the front of the vehicle so now it was like a plane. Later on, it was stuck behind the vehicle and with the addition of some flotation devices placed on the sides of the car, your vehicle was now a boat. Again, I can’t stress enough that this whole process is damn easy to work with.

After this, we came across another vehicle that was placed on the map. Banjo blows up his ride (with all the parts making their way back to the workshop) and hops into the new ride. This ride has a secret, though: as you’re flying around in it, you can detach yourself from it and you’re now riding on a smaller plane. A vehicle within a vehicle? Reminds me of Road Rovers.  

The last part of the demo has Banjo taking on one of the many challenges in the game. In this challenge, Banjo needed to collect giant nuts and take them back to a machine that sucks up the nuts. There are enemies in this challenge that will try to tip the truck you’re in and knock out all the nuts. Now you can keep on doing this the hard way, but if you’re a clever person you’ll find a much better way of doing the challenges. So for this challenge, the demo-er hops out of the truck and gets inside of a helicopter. The helicopter releases a giant sticky ball attached to a chain and takes hold of the machine that collected the nuts. Banjo then takes the machine over to the nut field and the machines sucks up all the nuts as you hover over the field.

Every challenge is timed, and the faster you do the challenges the better your rating. The ratings are A, B, C, D, and F; and the longer you take, the worse your rating gets. So long as you get a D rating, though, you’ll pass the challenge and you’ll receive jigsaw pieces for winning the challenges.

After taking the jigsaw piece to the bank, it was time to play the multiplayer. First, I took a default car and added a couple of rocket jets, springs underneath the car, and springs in the very front of the car. After I created my ride, I was taken to a little test map where I got to make sure my ride worked out alright. After I was all set, I went up again against Nick Breckon from Shacknews.

The game we got to try out was called Sumo. The goal was to knock out the other player from the circular platform; the longer you stayed in the platform, the more points you got. The match was relatively short, and I had a hard time getting used to the physics of the cars. I flipped my vehicle over quite a few times and ended up losing. One thing to note is that much like the single-player mode, you can always get out of your vehicle at any time for whatever reason, such as flipping your car back up. 

A little later on in the night I came back and tried another game called Crown Chase. Here, you had to follow a Crown around through the map. When no one is in the Crown, it stays in one place. The second you get in the Crown, it starts to move randomly across the map. You have to try to stay within the Crown as it moves to accumulate points. By now I became used to the controls and easily won this match.  

All in all, I like where the new Banjo-Kazooie game is heading. A lot of the game wasn’t finished, and not many more details were given out other than what was on hand. So it’s still too early to really have a good impression of the game, but it’s nowhere near as horrifying as the Internets is making it out to be. Expect plenty of more details to come this E3 on Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts.

[And when I asked what was up with Banjo blowing up the Mario statue at the end of the first trailer, all I got was a “No comment.” Oh dang!]  

Hamza Aziz