Sunday, March 22, 2009

Nuts And Bolts: A Love-Hate Relationship

Earlier in the week I added Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts And Bolts to my completed pile and it was a great feeling. It has been a while since my last completed game and with so many other games to still get through, it's nice to not have to worry about Banjo anymore.

After reading the above paragraph it wouldn't be too hard to sense some negativity towards the game and well, I'd love to be able to point out that I love it, because I do, but unfortunately I also have some negative thoughts about it. Despite admiring the new vehicle-based direction Rare took with the game, I just can't help but feel as if overall Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts And Bolts was not for me. The structure of the game and its challenges are the concern for me here, with the idea of doing various challenges such as racing and transporting objects being fun to participate in but not all that compelling. The use of vehicles dictates the kinds of challenges you end up doing and while, as mentioned above, I admire the idea, it definitely started to grate. Maybe I am not a creative person but having to build a vehicle for every single challenge got tedious after a while and I certainly did not have the patience to continue doing it. The vehicle builder is the game's best asset and yet I just could not engage with it when I needed to. For a while I enjoyed experimenting by creating my own vehicles with the process reminding me of the many hours I have spent building Lego throughout my childhood. With 97 challenges to complete however, I soon lost the motivation needed and I just wanted to progress without having to worry about what parts or weapons I would need beforehand. Seemingly easy challenges were instead frustratingly difficult because I didn't have the 'right' vehicle and my frustration only escalated once I realised that it was my own fault by not having the patience to continually build vehicles suitable to the tasks at hand.

Building vehicles to help overcome the challenges is the meat and potatoes of the game so failing to engage with it is a shame. That is why I feel that maybe Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts And Bolts isn't for me, but it doesn't mean that I disliked it either. It may be my fault for not having the patience required, but it is Rare's fault for making a game that is so charming, so beautiful, that my frustrations are mostly irrelevant. Levels are expansive and it is an absolute joy to be able to see them from the land, sea or air -- in fact soaring through the skies and seeing the lush worlds below is so enjoyable that it is almost exhilarating. The vibrancy of colours helps this, and is a fresh breath of air after playing a darker game such as GTA IV: The Lost And Damned. It is, quite simply, gorgeous to see. Throw in some memorable tunes -- a lot of them remixed from earlier games -- and the self-referential humour that both Rare and the series is known for and you get a game that provides something a lot of others don't these days: fun.

As I mentioned in my previous post about Nuts And Bolts, the good far outweighs the bad. For every annoying challenge there is something funny, gorgeous or exciting and for this, Rare deserve to be commended. The problem, however, is that they aren't. They are not getting the recognition they deserve for the game and that is a downright shame. As far as I see it, there are two reasons for this: the game was released during the holiday rush of last year and went alongside other massively hyped and big-name titles such as Gears Of War 2 and Fallout 3. The other reason is, unfortunately, Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts And Bolts fell off a lot of people's radars after the vehicle creation aspect was revealed. Long-time fans of the series jumped to immediate conclusions and cried foul, claiming the game was completely different to its predecessors and that Rare were making a big mistake with this new direction. Because it was not another platformer in the same vein as the original game a decade ago, these people chose to ignore it and weren't even willing to give it a chance. Again, that is a downright shame because after playing it myself I firmly believe that, had they given it a try, a good portion of them would have thoroughly enjoyed it. With that said, a good portion would have justified their hasty conclusions too, finding the creation of vehicles wasn't for them in the exact same way that I did, as I outlined above. What I think separates me from these people though is that I was willing to give it a chance, was rewarded with an immensely fun game and can recognise that Rare had good intentions with this new installment -- intentions that ultimately paid off by delivering a fresh take on the bear and bird duo and preventing the franchise from becoming stale.

Surely that can only be a good thing in an industry where profits are a higher priority than trying something new, advancing the medium or even bringing it back to its bare essentials by providing the mechanics and elements necessary to entertain the player and ensure that they have fun.


ThrawnOmega said...

I agree completely with everything you've said here.. I also love the game, but having to make new vehicles all the time really started to get old. It would have been nice if a build was good for more than 1-2 challenges. That's the reason I still have not finished the game. I consider myself "on break" from it, but I'll be back to finish it up for sure. I'm also looking forward to the DLC. More Banjo is never a bad thing. =P

Steven O'Dell said...

Yep, I am also eagerly looking forward to the upcoming DLC though in the meantime it does hurt that completion percentage of mine. I am expecting it to release alongside Banjo Tooie so if I am right, two helpings of Banjo goodness will make me one very satisfied consumer. I do fear that it may be too soon after my completion of the main game though and I seriously hope it doesn't influence my opinion on the new content. Time shall tell with that one, then.