Video game developer Rare was no stranger to creating massively successful games. The Donkey Kong series was cooling off when Rare shifted its efforts to a new series. Released in 1998 for the Nintendo 64, Banjo Kazooie was developed by Rare and published by Nintendo. This explorative platforming collect-a-thon combined many different elements into a masterpiece that is rarely duplicated today. It’s time to rescue Tooty in this Banjo Kazooie Review.
Banjo Kazooie Plot:
In the land of Spiral Mountain lives a bear named Banjo and his bird pal Kazooie. Banjo has his own house but for some reason, it appears that Kazooie has made her nest in Banjo’s backpack, but for whatever reason, it works. Spiral Mountain is also home to Grunty the Witch, a fat green hag who has self-confidence issues. (I would too if I looked like her) She decides that Banjo’s younger sister Tooty is more beautiful than her and plans to kidnap the young blonde-headed bear.
Grunty has created a machine that will transfer Tooty’s “beauty” to her and send her ugliness to Tooty. After a successful kid(bear)napping, Banjo, and Kazooie set off to rescue Tooty from the evil and ugly witch. Together they collect hundreds of musical notes and puzzle pieces to unlock different portions of Spiral Mountain that were sealed by Grunty’s magic.
Banjo and Kazooie make it to the top of Spiral Mountain where they are entered into a game show hosted by Grunty. After successfully answering trivia questions and surviving dangerous tasks, Banjo and Kazooie make it to the end of the game show board where they are presented with their prize of Tooty. As the pair collects their “prize”, Grunty runs out the back door.
Banjo Kazooie Gameplay:
In this Banjo Kazooie review, there are many different aspects of gameplay. This N64 exclusive was brilliantly put together. The first portion of this Banjo Kazooie review that I was to discuss is the music. Typically, I don’t notice music or sound effects unless they are great. It’s just not something that I pick up on, so when a game grabs my attention with the music or sounds, you know it’s good.
Banjo Kazooie intertwines the ongoing theme music throughout your playthrough but shifts the tone and pitch depending on your environment. In the outer world of climbing Spiral Mountain, the theme will play continuously. If you enter the water swim underneath, the pitch changes to an underwater effect. When flying throughout the game if you fly too high the music grows quiet until it disappears completely. It’s not just the volume that changes but the tune itself. When you are on a snowy mountain, the song changes to a Christmas theme, the same goes for when you enter an Egyptian desert. It’s fun to listen to the notes as they change depending on where you go. This attention to detail makes great games phenomenal.
This Banjo Kazooie review is off to a great start but how does the platforming score? Banjo and Kazooie are two different characters but they are one in the form of a perfect platforming element. Banjo may be bigger and Kazooie lives in his backpack but one isn’t greater than the other. If anything, I’d argue that Kazooie is more useful as she can swim, fly, climb up tall hills, and sprint. Banjo may be the transport, but Kazooie has all the bells and whistles.
There were nine different worlds to explore during my Banjo Kazooie review. Each had a unique theme and each was sealed away by magic. World themes included snow, deserts, forests, swamps, underwater, and other elements like beaches. Within these worlds, you’ll explore rather than battle enemies. You’re looking for puzzle pieces that can be found or awarded for completing tasks or mini-games. These tasks can be anything from memorizing the order of singing turtles, stopping monsters from eating happy Christmas lights, to freeing a huge mechanical whale. All of these are fun challenges, but they are challenging. I couldn’t complete all of these tasks but each one of them was enjoyable. As I mentioned earlier in this Banjo Kazooie review, you explore the worlds and look for puzzle pieces rather than fight the enemies that inhabit the area. You can fight them but the majority of the time they are better left alone.
Exploring is a huge aspect in Banjo Kazooie and that goes for both the world realms and the outer world on Spiral Mountain. You’ll have to seek out puzzle platforms to stick the pieces on the board to complete the picture. When the picture is completed you can then enter that world. Everything from the musical elements, challenging mini-games, and unique combo of Banjo and Kazooie help craft a near-masterpiece. It’s close, but there is one nagging issue that I kept having to deal with during my Banjo Kazooie review. Camera angles can be frustrating when you need to carefully walk a platform or jump onto a floating raft. It’s a small issue but it can lead to a few frustrating instances of missing a jump.
The final experience in my Banjo Kazooie review was facing off in a game show hosted by Grunty which came completely out of the left field. (that means out of nowhere for you non-sports fans) I was expecting to face off with Grunty but instead and not necessarily mad, I was treated to a board game. Landing on squares I had to relive my experience of playing the game. How well you paid attention to the characters and areas played a big role in how successful you were in making your way toward Grunty. Some squares had me guessing where a photo was taken, the voice of a character, and “interesting” facts about Grunty including a striptease she does. Players who ignored the details during their playthrough will suffer, especially if they land on the instant death squares if they get an answer wrong.
Remember when large retail stores like Walmart or Meijer had video game kiosks? Well…they did. When I was a kid my parents would drop me off at these while they went shopping. One of these times Banjo Kazooie was featured and I happily played it. I was fairly young, perhaps seven or eight so I wasn’t very good but I had fun exploring the world.
Fast-forward many years later and I picked up Rare Replay. I was finally able to see for myself what the magic was all about and complete my Banjo Kazooie review.
Banjo Kazooie Review Score:
This was a rare experience (no pun intended) where all elements of a video game come together for an amazing experience. You’ll collect, explore, and platform your way around nine amazing worlds filled with secrets. Banjo Kazooie is an experience that everyone should have and one that still feels fresh over 20 years past its release. Aside from a few difficult camera angles, this game is near perfect.
Banjo Kazooie scores a 9.9 out of 10.
What would you write in your Banjo Kazooie review? What was your favorite world? Who did you play with more, Banjo or Kazooie? How did you fare in Grunty’s game show? Let me know your thoughts and comments, I’d love to read them.