(Nintendo 64)

Banjo Tooie (Nintendo 64)

Game Review

Banjo Tooie Review

Europe PAL Version

Posted by Thomas Bowskill

Can you bear second helpings?

Banjo Kazooie was a game that revolutionised platforming on the N64: Rare's off-the-wall-humour, creative level design and sublime controls made it the pinnacle of platforming on Nintendo's console. Fans of the original will most likely remember Rare's lavish promises about the second game, Banjo Tooie, including the ability to swap items with the original Banjo game (hence a lot of hidden Stop 'N' Swap items hidden from view in the first game). And while these dreams never materialised, we were still left with a pretty impressive sequel.

Starting out at Banjo's home in Spiral Mountain, Tooie begins a couple of years after the events of the first outing. Banjo & co are all snug and safe playing cards in his house, Grunty is still wedged firmly under a boulder, Klungo’s despairing over her mistress’ most pressing fate, and things couldn’t be better. Which, of course, just means things are bound to get worse, and promptly on the scene arrives Grunty's gruesome sisters Daz and Damo Mingella and Blobbelda; two ugly sisters whose noisy arrival through a rock-face in Spiral Mountain via means of a monstrous digging contraption heralds a great tragedy in the bear and bird’s lives.

Upon arriving in Spiral Mountain, Mingella and Blobbelda whip out the spell book and liberate Grunty from her worm-ridden enclosure – discovering that our rhyming hag has been reduced to skeletal form. Then, once reunited, the threesome assault Banjo’s home, killing Bottles in a spell of malevolent magnitude before escaping in the digger. With this shock start to the game, Banjo and Kazooie set out to seek revenge on skeletal Grunty and her siblings, following them to previously uncharted locations in an attempt to rid the world of these hags. While they are tracking down the sisters, however, the gruesome threesome is plotting the most heinous acts: they're using a contraption called the Big-O-Blaster to suck the lifeforce from the whole world and thus restore Grunty to her gruesome glory. Starting with King Jinjo, the wicked witches set the clock ticking on the world’s energy, and only Banjo and Kazooie stand between them and victory... unbearlievable!

From the outset, just like the story, everything in Tooie seems grandiose, large and slightly overwhelming when compared to its humble predecessor. Arriving in the Jinjo village for the first time will register the sheer magnitude of this game: there's a lot to do and explore here, and this is just the first area outside of the levels – and there are countless other parts of Hag Island that could swallow Spiral Mountain in one gulp! Entering a level in Tooie is a little like it was in Kazooie; each world's size is quite a surprise (sorry, Grunty's rhymes are contagious - I know our readers find this outrageous!). Instead of having levels that can be completed in one sitting, all Tooie's stages have been specifically designed to tie in with each other, meaning you can't actually finish a level until you're most of the way through the game, when you can then access the linked areas. This is puzzling at first, as it's not clear that hopping between levels is required – you'll be wondering how to get some Jiggies, only to find that you gain access to them via another level a few hours later. But this design to connect all the levels together is befitting of the expansive approach of the game and good fuel for your typical completionist – there's easily over 10 hours of content here, and while it can get overwhelming, it's still thoroughly enjoyable.

The levels themselves are indeed richly designed, and it's obvious a lot of effort has gone into bolstering the series’ content: from the prehistoric to the circus; from the ocean depths to a run-down mine, the settings are diverse and atmospheric, and really show off the '64 at its peak. You'll marvel at the level designs and feel enchanted by this quirky fairytale. The core of the game is still there too, with Jiggies remaining the blissfully unchanged lifeblood of this fairytale: you get a few Jiggies, a new world opens up; repeat until witch is defeated. Of course, keeping to the score of its predecessor, Banjo Tooie is all about collecting the musical notes and all manner of other weird and wonderful objects – but now there is a lot more of it to do. Gone are the days of completing a level in 30 minutes; Banjo Tooie opens and expands the floor totally, and a few cracks start to appear...

Some of these cracks are caused by the game possessing a trait not often exhibited by sequels: our heroes actually retain all their moves from the first outing, which is pretty handy as they have a lot to take on. Or is it? We find it somewhat ironic really that, because Rare opted to keep the moves from the past game – something which many people get irked about not happening in sequels – they put themselves in a bit of a pickle: if there are no new moves, then there's little variety to be had and not much to expand with, so they had to introduce additional ones. With Bottles' lack of a corporeal form putting a downer on the moves situation, the intrepid adventurers look towards Jamjars – Bottles' tough-stuff brother – to teach them a series of new moves.

Foremost amongst the new moves from Jamjars is being able to split the duo up: Banjo and Kazooie can venture through levels on their own, with a whole host of new moves (Kazooie even learns to hatch eggs!) The gameplay is drastically changed when the duo are split up, and you have to think outside the box (well, backpack in our feathery friend's case); however, getting split up and lost from your partner is not fun, and with the scope of the levels it is something unclear what it is you actually have to do. Jamjars' other additions, such as using Kazooie as a gun (FPS-style), the bill drill, spring shoes, and the new egg types (trying to circumnavigate though the five types of egg for our beloved breegull learns to fire isn't eggciting!) range from fun to just a little too much to manage, especially when the moves from the first game are all still there!

And then we have the introduction of Mumbo Jumbo as a character. Essentially, all he is used for is to find the special Mumbo pads and activate them, after which you will return to his hut and be better off for it (the poor shaman adds relatively little value). Still, Tooie manages that almost perfect level of difficulty and precision with the controls that many platform games fail to emulate: it's only fractionally less fluid than the original when it comes to the new moves, which still puts it way above most other games. Transformations are ever-present as always (you actually get to be a washing machine this time, and a dinosaur!) but it's the sumptuous Humba Wumba who works the magic and changes our bear and bird – poor Mumbo really gets a raw deal. Level bosses also come into the fray for the first time too, ranging from a giant patchwork-balloon dinosaur to an old, grumpy lump of coal, and even a pterodactyl. These additions lift the level of humour in the game and really add to the level of depth we didn't experience in the first outing – maybe even more depth than we needed, but only just.

But is it really a major flaw in a game for it being too big? Not in our opinion. Banjo Tooie is a fantastic game filled with all the variety and imagination you'd expect from Rare's glory days; we're simply disappointed that the vastness of the game makes it hard to squeeze every single drop of fun from this title – it's that good you want to get all you can from it. With the option for four player Goldeneye-style deathmatches, things can get hilarious with a few friends around, even if it's relatively short-lived. The only other thing to slightly dim this fairytale adventure is the backseat position of our villain Gruntilda – no longer does she tease and provoke the duo with her rhymes; she just seems to be there at the end to dish out a good beating to – maybe the hag felt a bit too haggard? Still, compared to the overall beauty of this game, those are only slight nuances.

Conclusion

Banjo Tooie is a wonderful game: the levels are fantastically crafted, the humour is ever-present and a lot of care has gone into creating an adventure of epic proportions. It stands above many of the good platformers out there, but it does fall short of the 'perfect' 10 simply because it overreaches: the worlds are slightly too big, there are a few more moves than necessary, and playing as Mumbo Jumbo is a feature that adds no value to the series – the experience feels a bit superfluous. Still, don't let this detract from the fact that Banjo Tooie is one of the gems in Nintendo's platforming history: with rich level design, brilliant gameplay and a charming story, this one is well worth getting hold of.

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User Comments (47)

Objection

#3

Objection said:

This is a really great game that I never mangaged to beat in my youth. I plan to dig my N64 out in about a month and give it another shot though. ;)

Odnetnin

#4

Odnetnin said:

@pixelman No, because Rare is owned by Microsoft.
The original was the first--and one of the best--game I ever played.
My cousins let me try out this one, but it just wasn't as good. I did like the Mumbo Jumbo bits, though.
Thanks for reviewing this, at long last. Oh, and I never knew her sisters were named Daz and Damo.

castlehominid99

#5

castlehominid99 said:

I was never really a fan of the banjo games because I don't like this time of platforming though I did like nuts and bolts beside for the fact that I have a 17 inch tv so it was very hard to read the words

WanderFan91

#6

WanderFan91 said:

Love the intro for this review. ;)
I never played Tooie, but I have played Kazooie, if only briefly (during visiting hours at my cousins' house). I remember playing the latter and having fun with it years ago.
But judging from this review, Banjo Tooie sounds like a good game. Maybe someday (once I purchase a Nintendo 64) I'll give this a go.

Reala

#7

Reala said:

This and Kazooie are still my favorite 3D platform games of all time, though I did miss Gruntildas taunting rhymes from Kazooie, still both are 10/10 games to me, ahead of Galaxy and even Mario 64 IMO.

MetalMario

#9

MetalMario said:

Loved the first one more. Liked this one alot. Good job, Microsoft. You bought Rare, and that helped ruin a good series. (It was okay, but that isn't Banjo.) Bigger isn't always better.

JamieOStaff

#10

JamieO said:

I join the other comments in that I've never played this, but I enjoyed reading right through Thomas' review. It sounds like a lot of us have missed out, this time.
'Grandiose' is such a great word, reading that one word you know exactly what to expect, the concept that "you can't actually finish a level until you're most of the way through the game" seems like a really fresh idea (originality is not surprising coming from Rare, with the possible exception of 'Starfox Adventures', though I still loved that game, too).
It actually sounds like it came fairly close to the elusive 10/10. I ought to take respite from all of Nintendo Life's brilliant Retro content, I keep reaching for my wallet after reading recent reviews (I'm still deciding who I should by Demon's Crest from).
Nah, I can't get enough of all Nintendo Life retro goodness really. My Lotto ticket is on top of the TV, I'm off to check my numbers.
Thanks Thomas. :)

Aenaida

#12

Aenaida said:

This game is fantastic. Definitely one of the best platforming-adventure games out there.

Knux

#13

Knux said:

This review reminds me to play the XBLA version of Banjo-Tooie after I complete the XBLA version of Banjo-Kazooie, because I never played Banjo-Tooie before. Great review! :)

CorbsAdmin

#14

Corbs said:

What's weird is I consider the original Banjo Kazooie the greatest 3D platformer of all time. (I just finished 100% the XBLA version) Yet I can't stand this sequel. Go figure. :)

Ren

#17

Ren said:

It's strange how I never even touched either game, because they looked to me like cheesy knock offs of Mario 64 which was blasphemy to me at the time.
I should give them a shot sometime. I've considered more and more that I may have to get an actual N64 someday just to preserve the Rare games since there are 4 or 5 that I really want that will never come to VC now.
Those characters seemed so generic, but then Jet Force Jemini had the same kind of generic hero and it was also fantastic. note to self: grab that next 5$ N64 from the thrift store.

Ricardo91

#18

Ricardo91 said:

I haven't played either Banjo Kazooies. I need to download them off XBLA and see what all the fuss is about. :)

astarisborn94

#20

astarisborn94 said:

I loved this game when I was a child, I still wish my Nintendo 64 wasn't broken (Sigh).

Now I can only hope this comes on the Virtual Console (Don't respond to this message please).

@pixelman: Considering that Rare was Nintendo 2nd party when the game was release, it is possible, but unlikely at best (Again, no one but Pixelman should respond to this).

blank_user_1

#21

blank_user_1 said:

I got my 64 packed up in a box, forgotten and jumbled in wires. Seeing this review reminds me of old B. Kazooie-- great game. Never played Tooie, which is a shame, because I never will. Nice review.

Is it really 4 players? I might get it just for that.

TanookiMike

#22

TanookiMike said:

I've never fully completed Tooie.

Too much going on in that game compared to Banjo-Kazooie... O.O

Terra

#23

Terra said:

I bought this the day it came out back in 2001 (Very rare for me at the time) and I loved it, fantastic game. I still play it every now and then but haven't done so for awhile.

mjc0961

#26

mjc0961 said:

"What's weird is I consider the original Banjo Kazooie the greatest 3D platformer of all time. (I just finished 100% the XBLA version) Yet I can't stand this sequel. Go figure. :)"

That's not weird, I feel the same way. I really enjoyed Banjo-Kazooie, but I thought Tooie was really really bad. It's too much like Donkey Kong 64, which I also thought was really really bad.

"@pixelman: Considering that Rare was Nintendo 2nd party when the game was release, it is possible, but unlikely at best (Again, no one but Pixelman should respond to this)."

I'll respond to whatever I want, kthx. And you're wrong, it's never coming to VC. Banjo Kazooie is Rare's property, and now that they are owned by Microsoft, the games are 360 exclusive from now on. Ever notice how Banjo-Kazooie and Banjo-Tooie are on XBLA and Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts is a 360 exclusive? BK is Rare's IP which is now for Microsoft only. It sucks, but you guys will not be seeing the two BK games for N64 on Virtual Console.

maka

#28

maka said:

My experiences with Rare have been very disappointing. Excellent graphics but bad gameplay, but I haven't played any game in this series, and I did enjoy Jet force Gemini somewhat, so I'm not saying ALL their games are bad.... I guess I could give this a chance, but to me, Mario 64 is the best plataformer on the N64 and I know it's not nostalgia talking because I still play it nowadays. No other 3d mario game has ever reached the perfection of the controls in this game, not even Galaxy (although it is the one that comes the closest). My experience with Rare's plataformers is limited to DK64 and that was sooooo bad I just didn't want to try anymore...

Kid_A

#29

Kid_A said:

One of the greatest platformers ever made--perhaps topped only by Super Mario Galaxy. I would've given it a 10, but it's a great review regardless.

Token_Girl

#30

Token_Girl said:

I'm just going to have to rebuy the N64 at some point. It's a shame. If only they could work a deal with MS (and perhaps make an N64 classic controller w/rumble support).

orlick

#31

orlick said:

I would say this game review is quite high. Also I am not sure why so much detail goes into the story in this review. Actually that reminds me of the ponderous begining of the game.....

Anyway, this game pretty much lost the charm of the original in my mind. Just felt like a big empty space, a lot like DK64. WAY to much collecting.

Anyway BK I would give a 9, BT I would give like a 5.....

Aviator

#32

Aviator said:

It was either I bought this or Mario Party 2. I bought Mario Party 2. I'm thinking i might have been wrong.

ballistikboy

#34

ballistikboy said:

I played Banjo-Kazooie on the N64 and loved it (was a college student at the time) and wound up selling it all since i was poor ;-/ Missed that game, and I def want to play the sequel! is it just available on one system?

B

JimLad

#35

JimLad said:

I don't think BK revoltionized 3D platformers, that award has to go to Super Mario 64. I love Banjo and the rest of Rares platformers, but they were all following lead from Mario.
Goldeneye however, was definately a revolution.
Still haven't played Tooie yet, looking foward to doing so though.

LEGEND_MARIOID

#36

LEGEND_MARIOID said:

Hmmm, don't think I played it, but I remember ppl expressing there game-asmic joy over playing it back in the day. Insta-download if it appears on the VC (soon pls Ninty, ta.)

Metroid_Italia

#38

Metroid_Italia said:

i loved Banjo Kazooie, wonderful game! unfortunately i missed the sequel, in Italy its price was 90 euro!

Bassman_Q

#39

Bassman_Q said:

This game rightfully deserves a 10/10. The levels are huge, and that should be considered a good thing. And I thought that the connections between levels were just genius. This one is definitely the best Banjo game out there, since you don't have to finish the level in one go.

RetroNL

#40

RetroNL said:

Probably one of the best platformers I have ever played, it has not the charm of Banjo Kazooie though this game has more extras to it, but that doesnt take away that this game is truly very great.

CanisWolfred

#41

CanisWolfred said:

I was suprised how much I liked this game! It fixed every problem I had with Banjo-Kazooie(which were many), making the game truly enjoyable and polished. I love the darker tone in this game, so refreshing after the childishness of the previous game.:)

CanisWolfred

#42

CanisWolfred said:

Wait, taking points off because "its world was too big", and it "had more powers than necessary"? Since when was more variety a bad thing? If they added less, it would've been too much like the previous game, especially since they rehashed enough already.:P

SKTTR

#43

SKTTR said:

Man I'm glad I never sold my N64 and have all Rare games available.
This and the first game (along with Super Mario 64 and Conker's Bad Fur Day) are still among the best 3D-platformers of all time.

I still hope Rare's N64 games come to the VC since all my N64 controller's are almost dead.

Deviant_Mugen

#44

Deviant_Mugen said:

Great review, I love this game; I remember I borrowed it from a friend quite a few years back and passed it with 100% completion and never gave it back to him. Kind of a dick move, I know, but he was never that big into games anyway... XD

I should start a new file on it sometime...

EDIT: I should really track down a copy of Banjo Kazooie, since I had mine stolen by some other 'friend'--Ha ha ha! Poetic justice...

Bass_X0

#45

Bass_X0 said:

Never played this until I downloaded it on XBOX 360 yesterday. Currently looking for the entrance to the second world...

Rarewarefan7495

#46

Rarewarefan7495 said:

Still to this day I consider it the best game of all time. Mainly because it's the first game I truly fell in love with. The worlds were huge and there was always something to do in them. Although some people feel that the worlds were too big, I love it. I tend to think of the levels as part of an open world game like GTA. The multiplayer was fantastic, unlike that mediocre DK64 one and the new set of moves added with the old ones added even more variety. I would sometimes spend hours at Spiral Mountain just trying out and playing around with the moves. Man I could go on for hours talking about how much I love this game. There are some things that I found strange though. The graphics were slightly worse than Kazooie which was puzzling and the final boss is just ridiculously hard. But that doesn't change my opinion about this fantastic game.

DarkCoolEdge

#47

DarkCoolEdge said:

My girlfriend bought it for me as a present a few years ago. It 's quite expensive in Europe. I think it cost her 50€, maybe more. Yikes! Worst of all? I barely played it, I got a Wii a month later :(

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