For those of you who are tired of playing most of the mediocre games that are out for the N64 and wish there was something more like good ole Mario - has Rare got a game for you! The team has spent over a year finishing the wonderful little gem entitled Banjo-Kazooie and it is well worth the wait.
You play as a bear and bird team, Banjo and Kazooie, trying to rescue Banjo's sister, Tooty, from the evil clutches of the witch, Gruntilda, who wants rob the cute little cub of her pretty looks. But this is not an easy task as you will have to go through 10 levels in the witches lair before you can succeed. Lucky for you there are some helpful friends along the way to aid in your quest. One is a mole who teaches you all of your special moves. Another is a sax-playing voodoo doctor named Mambo who will place spells on you in return for masks that you need to collect for him. As you can see, this is not a game for those who have to see blood and violence in order to enjoy themselves. But if you can get past the cuteness, you will find that underneath is a very solid game packed with variety and fun.
The game is set up much like Mario. To get to the next level you have to collect puzzle pieces by exploring the area, solving puzzles, and helping people out. You also collect musical notes which help open doors in Gruntilda's lair. The nice part about the setup is that you do not have to complete everything in a level to proceed further. So if there is one piece you cannot find or one puzzle you just cannot figure out - skip it!
This game has many advantages over other games in its genre. There are a total of 24 moves that Banjo and Kazooie can perform including everything from super jumps to beak attacks to shooting eggs out of Kazooie's backside. The nice thing about the moves is that you have to learn them as needed along the way making each level fresh with new things to do. And just when you feel at a loss for moves you can visit Mambo who will turn you into a walrus, a termite, or many other animals opening up your movement options even more.
Another advantage is the gorgeous scenery. While the game does not offer very many new scenes (although pretty much every type of level in such games as Mario 64 and Croc including Sahara, Ice, Haunted House etc. are represented in Banjo) the beautiful texturing and pure-fun graphics and characters make running through the levels a pleasure for the eyes.
The problems with this game are similar to the problems of most of the 3-D platform games on the N64. The camera control is not always helpful to the player. Sometimes you may find yourself running behind a wall blindly because the camera will not spin. There is a useful feature that will keep the camera constantly behind you, but even this is not foolproof. Another problem is the sound. Being that it is a cartridge game and not a CD, there is no real talking and no spectacular music. A memorable soundtrack is not essential on a game like this (well...the jug band songs are kinda fun), but personally I would really like to hear all of the cute and funny characters actually talk instead of just grunt and squeak.
All in all, I give the game a very high rating. I like the characters and the puzzles that they have to get through are varied and challenging. It can get frustrating at times but I bet that after you pick up a copy of it you will be dying all day to get home and play it just to get one more piece or all 900 notes.
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