Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Side-Game : Banjo-Tooie (N64, 2000) - Completionist dream or nightmare?

I have to be honest with you guys : I don't always play video games which are related to this blog. I usually play to two or three different games at once. I try, though, to play as much Resident Evil and Zelda games, in order to post as often as possible, and I try to keep the blogging around two updates a week, minimum.

But I wanted to share my thoughts on another game I'm currently playing. That's why I'm proudly launching the "Side-Game" feature of my blog, in order to tell you about what I think about totally unrelated games. I'm not sure if it's gonna hold any interest for you (let me know in the comments!) but, considering we're all video games passionates here (if not, we wouldn't be reading/writing about it), I think it could.

Because "Bear & Bird & Weird creepy skeleton guy are back!" wouldn't fit on the box.

So I've finally bought a remake on the Xbox Live Arcade of a game that I had never played before : Banjo-Kazooie 2 (or Banjo-Tooie) from the "we made the Nintendo 64 avoid the dumpster" british company Rare. The first Banjo-Kazooie is one of my all-time favorite games on the N64 (and one my all-time favorite platform games, period) and I've been wanting to tackle the sequel for a long time. The series would then evolve to a so-so platform game on the GBA, and to a weird platform/vehicle constructing thingy called Banjo-Kazooie : Nuts and Bolts, which, IMHO is nowhere near the quality of the first game.

Green pastures, check. Pastel colors, check. Cute enemies, check. Ok, let's jump everywhere!
I don't know if any of you guys have played this game, but it asks a question : Can a 3D platforms game be TOO complicated? Let me explain : I finished the first game with 100% completion in about 16 hours (which is still quite a lengthy game for the genre). I've poured nearly 27 hours in this one, and I'm around 70% completion. It may be the biggest 3D platforms game ever, putting Mario and all the other ones to shame concerning length of the game. The problem with that is that I think most of the difficulty comes from really complicated level design and a hell lot of options/new moves/possibilities to cover.

I give you an example. In the first game, in order to gather puzzle pieces (BK's equivalent of Mario's stars), you had to help NPC characters or complete a challenge, which were varied between 5 minutes of play (in the first levels) to a whole 20 minutes for the more complex ones in the later levels, using all the moves at your disposal and gathering stuff all around the level. In this one, I had to spend nearly an hour on a puzzle piece, because it implied going back and forth previously completed levels, and thoroughly explore the actual one, find a really well hidden move for my duo, switch to a dinosaur form (yeah you can find 8 different forms in the game, which are only for the level you're in), make it bigger with the help of creepy-skeleton-guy (see box cover), to open a passageway, then go to another place, unlock something, and on, and on, and on...

Before you call me a sissy, know that I'm an absolute lover of this kind of games, and I've completed all the Mario/Sly/Ratchet/Jak games I could get my hands on, so I usually love this kind of complexity, as it generally adds to the sense of achievement when you succeed. Before that, I never found a star/puzzle piece/music note/other random generic gizmo too difficult to  obtain. But this game is just pure evil...

Pictured : pure evil
Altogether, Banjo-Tooie is inferior to the first game. The first Banjo-Kazooie had just enough moves/levels/puzzles to give a sense of variety and length, coupled with a difficulty/reward scale perfectly balanced. However, when Rare tackled the sequel, they just had to add forty new moves, new playable characters, new puzzles and a really labyrinthine level-design, leading to a somewhat "bloated" sequel, with just too much stuff in it not to find yourself lost at times.

So if you're a hardcore 3D platforming fan, this one is an excellent value for your money as it will keep you busy for a loooong time, especially if you're a completionist freak as I am. Playing the first one before is mandatory, though, because the sequel keeps all the moves and just build on it, instead of going for an amnesia/flash-back idea to justify the fact that the hero forgot everything between the two games, like in a vast majority of games. But be warned : the difficulty and complexity of the beast can be relentless at times, making Super Mario Galaxy look like Cooking Mama.

Any of you has played it? Please let me know if you felt the same way, or if I'm just getting "too old for this shit"...

So after this small deviation, I'm back to killing zombies, and I'll post something about Resident Evil 2 really soon, I promise!


  1. I never played the Banjo series, though, I also have a great deal of respect for this type of platformer. There's really something for everyone in the genre. Look at the sheer number of titles that are similar, but still starkly different. Yuo can go from Mario, Banjo, Ratchet, etc, that have a very cartoony charm that, whuile appealing to younger audiences, also have appeal for adults. Then you can go the route of, say, MDK, One, Shadowman, and stuff like that. The game formula is nearly identical, but the settings, characters, and whatnot are geared more for folks who like things darker, grittier, and just downright dark sometimes.

    A good friend of mine was playing through Jak and Daxter, and I sat for quite some time watching him play, cause it was just fun to watch!

    Anyway, I babble. I for one am very into this new feature. Play whatever you want, and I'll read it!


  2. Thanks, I'm glad you liked it :)

    I agree there is definitely something for everyone in this genre. I've never played One or Shadowman (that I might try one of these days now that you mention it) but I've played through a lot of games in the genre. There is a sheer amount of gameplay variety, usually well done at that (at least in the mainstream games like the one you mentioned) and it's difficult to get bored playing them. MDK, while severely lacking in a few areas, was also a real intriguing experience too!

  3. "One" is a pretty...interesting game. It's something one of my oldest buddies and I will sometimes bring up in conversation because of the sheer amount of time we played it. The game is pretty unforgiving. Lots of fairly difficult platform jumps that end up in Certain death if you miss. It's also a very mysterious game, because if i'm not mistaken, there's a mere single line of plot at the very opening of the game. We always wondered what was really going on, but you never find out.

  4. I see you're getting spammed too Alfred. Hopefully it doesn't happen too much or we'll be forced to reinstate the word validation.

    I'm all for deviations like this one. It's actually refreshing, particularly given you're going to spend a lot of time playing the same series of games.

    It's ironic though that you found "pure evil" in Banjo-Tooie and not Resident Evil! ;)