(GBA / Game Boy Advance)

Banjo-Kazooie: Grunty's Revenge (GBA / Game Boy Advance)

Game Review

Banjo-Kazooie: Grunty's Revenge Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Dave Letcavage

The dynamic duo go portable

When we at Nintendo Life think of Rare’s masterpieces from the Nintendo 64 era, we think of expansive and adventurous games like Donkey Kong 64, Jet Force Gemini, and of course the beloved Banjo-Kazooie series. Off-the-wall characters, exuberant locales, and an epic sense of scope added to the hook of what made these gaming experiences so unique and memorable. So how would a series like Banjo-Kazooie translate to the technical limitations of a handheld device like the Game Boy Advance; is it possible to cram all of that platforming goodness into a cartridge with a fraction of the capacity? We’re happy to report that Banjo-Kazooie: Grunty’s Revenge is not only a "bear-able" experience, it’s sometimes quite "egg-scellent" as well (sorry, no more puns from now on).

Banjo-Kazooie: Grunty’s Revenge is a spinoff game in the series but plays like a sequel to the first Banjo-Kazooie on the Nintendo 64. To sum things up, the evil witch Gruntilda travels back-in-time in an attempt to prevent Banjo and Kazooie from ever meeting. With the help of our favorite shaman, Mumbo Jumbo, Banjo is sent after “Grunty” to foil her devious plan. And while that’s about the extent of the story telling, it’s OK, because collect-a-thons like this are about adventuring; for the most part, Banjo-Kazooie: Grunty’s Revenge delivers, even if it’s a unexpectedly short experience.

The game plays exactly how you might imagine Banjo-Kazooie to play on a handheld system. Most of the signature moves remain, and you’ll even rendezvous with Mumbo on occasion to transform into a handful of different critters and other various things such as a tank or a candle. The biggest difference here is that instead of a presenting the game in a full three dimensions, you’re limited to an overhead fixed camera angle and a pre-rendered graphical style. This all works relatively well, and even considering this change, still largely feels like a Banjo-Kazooie game.

There are five worlds to visit – six if you include the hub-world Spiral Mountain – each containing the myriad of collectables that should be familiar to veterans of the Banjo-Kazooie series. In each one of these worlds you’ll need to obtain a certain amount of puzzle pieces (called Jiggies) which will grant you access to the next area. To earn Jiggies you’ll need to do some tricky platforming, complete fetch quests, win at mini-games, and so on. If any of this sounds familiar to you that’s because it is – Banjo-Kazooie: Grunty’s Revenge is a very straight-forward and conventional adventure platformer.

Aesthetically, Banjo-Kazooie: Grunty’s Revenge feels faithful to the series, even if most of the locations and enemies don’t quite capture the same magic as those of previous instalments. The pre-rendered graphics look great and often feel reminiscent of the Donkey Kong Country trilogy, which suits the series rather well. However, with a fixed-angle overhead view, some of the terrain often blends together to make it troublesome to judge height and depth while platforming; this very rarely led to our untimely demise, although it did complicate a couple of situations.

As far as the controls themselves go, this is where things can get a bit trickier. Considering the Game Boy Advance has a limited number of buttons - two face buttons and two bumpers – it’s a bit perplexing that the game still requires a demanding amount of button combinations to execute the duo’s expansive arsenal of attacks and abilities. For the most part these actions can be administered without a hitch but there were many instances where we fumbled with the controls because certain combinations felt unresponsive. This by no means was frequent enough to drastically hinder the experience, though we’d be lying if we said it didn’t lend itself to a few minor headaches. But at the same time it should be noted that we couldn’t imagine a Banjo-Kazooie game without most of these signature moves included, so we do understand that limiting the bear and bird's repertoire would've had a catastrophic effect on the game play.

Thankfully there are a handful of mini-games thrown in to distract from the intermittent platforming woes, and while these are ultra simplistic in approach, many are surprisingly fun. Most notable of these will have you fishing for X amount of fish in a limited time. This functions in a simple way; move right and left, and hold B to cast your line according to the distance of the fish. To make matters worse, some waters will also be crowded with crabs – called Snippets – and you’ll have to avoid catching these in your line or risk losing a honeycomb’s worth of health. Don’t expect the mini-games to be robust or in-depth; these are short, simplistic, brainless segments that add a bit of diversity to an otherwise straightforward platformer.

One of the weakest areas of the game is the repetitive boss battles; in each of these you’ll face off against either Grunty or her clumsy partner-in-crime, Klungo, in an arena style battle. These are by-the-numbers battles and rarely will you have to memorize more than one or two patterns of attacks. They don’t do anything wrong per se, they’re just uninspired and underwhelming. Fortunately, the final boss battle is lengthier and more robust, as it’s broken up into multiple segments and features some of the enjoyable game-show puzzles and quizzes we’ve come to enjoy from the series.

When it’s all said and done, it’s completely possible to see everything Banjo-Kazooie: Grunty’s Revenge has to offer in about 4-5 hours. While this may seem like a short adventure for Banjo-Kazooie, it’s not too uncommon for a handheld game, it’s just too bad there isn’t any incentive to keep playing once you’ve wrapped up the main quest. Needless to say, if you’re looking to browse auction sites or retro sections of stores to make a purchase, you may want to do so at a bargain price, because there isn’t much replay value. Thankfully, it’s a thoroughly enjoyable 4-5 hours that should please most fans of the series, regardless of its compressed length.


In the end, Banjo-Kazooie: Grunty’s Revenge is a solid little platformer, even considering its various shortcomings. Fans of the series and genre would be safe to add this “collect-a-thon” to their library as long as they understand the brevity of the adventure and don’t expect quite the same level of charm present in Rare’s Nintendo 64 releases. This is the closest thing you’ll get to a true Banjo-Kazooie experience outside the originals, so if you’re longing for another trip to Spiral Mountain, you’d be silly to let this one slip by.

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User Comments (52)



mookysam said:

I really, really enjoyed this game. When I first started university I was hooked on it, with me and my GBA huddled under my desk lamp so I could see what I was doing.



Squashie said:

Doesn't look like a bad game, however, I think it has really slipped through the net!



bahooney said:

I was expecting this to score a lot lower! When I was a kid, I would get new GBA games, and I was so bummed every time they were this isometric type of platformer. Bionicle, Spyro/Crash, Banjo-Kazooie... the list goes on. Not to mention Grant Kirkhoppe doesn't do the music for this entry. It's not a bad game, but I have no desire to pick up where I left off years ago.



StephenYap3 said:

I played it. I'd say at best, it deserves a 5 out of 10 from me. It's not bad as a game by itself, but (obviously) not good as a Banjo-Kazooie title. To be fair, I thought it was a good idea to make a portable BK. I don't know about Banjo Pilot, but I just hope this game is much better than that.



Knux said:

People wanting Banjo-Threeie need to go with this because this is likely the closest you will ever get to an actual ''sequel'' to Banio-Tooie. This game (unlike Nuts & Bolts) is good fun.

I wish I could find my copy of this game...



Dpullam said:

I loved the originals as a kid. I'm just not sure if this style of gameplay would hold my attention long. The main thing I loved about the originals were their huge, open, and colorful enviroments with classic soundtracks.



NImH said:

Sad that it wasn't better...
But, cheers on the retro review! It's been too long.



Geonjaha said:

Good to see retro reviews finally being revived!
Although I've never been a fan of Banjo-Kazooie or Donkey Kong Country.



Handy_Man said:

I actually found this game to be worse than Nuts & Bolts, so I was expecting a 5 out of 10 or something. I think a 7 is being too generous.

Also, somewhat off-topic, but I wonder how that spiritual successor to Banjo-Tooie is going. You know, the one with all of Rare's best former employees joining together to make a game based off of Kazooie and Tooie, and with them using Banjo as a placeholder model. I can't wait to see what comes out of that!



NintyMan said:

This brings back memories because I happen to own this game.

It wouldn't go toe-to-toe with the original and Tooie, but I think it handled a portable BK experience quite well. The controls are all I thought needed a little more polish, but the rest of the presentation was solid.



BlatantlyHeroic said:

The problem with a lot of you is that you're giving it a low score because you don't like this particular style of game, if that's the case then why should you be allowed to voice your opinion?



ShadJV said:

I got this game about a year ago in pure desperation over the fact we likely will never get another real BK game. My opinion... Well, if you don't like BK this wouldn't change your mind. As a fan, I was a bit disappointed. It hardly felt as expansive as the console ones (which is to be expected) and I didn't feel it had as much of the humor. If you really want one more Banjo Kazooie romp, go for it, just don't expect it to live up to the first two.



Mayhem said:

I enjoyed it back at the time, I think I gave it 7/10 as a review score. The only real problem, as noted, is that it's a bit short.



Pianist88 said:

Oh how I pine for a new collect-a-thon! Replaying games from the N64 era is only gratifying so many times...



Rod64 said:

I love to see websites review old games. Congrats Nintendo Life!
Persoanlly, I think this game is excellent, and despite being a GBA game, it's still a true Banjo-Kazooie experience.
I still have my game in my collection, and probably always will.



C0mmanderVide0 said:

I don't even like Banjo Kazooie on N64, didn't enjoy it one bit. But I actually really enjoyed Gruntys revenge back in the day.



shrew said:

good review! got a copy off ebay a few years back and enjoyed it. Felt a lot like a 'banjo kazooie mini' with the original's feel/charm still intact; despite having its structure substantially miniaturized the gameplay doesn't suffer too much and is adequate to the hardware..speaking of which it's definitely a technical marvel on the gba, visuals and audio excel at every turn. Controls are good. Recommended to any nostalgic banjo fan.



NESguy94 said:

This one didn't hold my attention for very long. I found a CIB copy about a year ago and played it for a few days and never played it again. It feels like so many other GBA games that had more to offer. 7/10 is fair.



KeeperBvK said:

Pretty good game IMO. Definitely deserves the 7 or maybe even 8, but anything below or above that wouldn't cut it.



kkslider5552000 said:

Game was fun despite not living up to the N64 games. I remember seeing it in Nintendo Power or Game Informer or something years earlier and than nothing but one day, I just found it at a gaming store. Like people complain about the lack of advertising for Sly 4 or whatever, I was at a number of gaming sites, and NONE OF THEM had reviews of this game even weeks after I bought it. It was really weird. 2003 was a BAAAD year for Nintendo too, which is when this came out right? Same year we had Pacman VS, which was in a Pacman World 2 20 dollar re-release that no one knew existed as far as I saw.



retro_player_22 said:

This was probably the last good Banjo-Kazooie game we would ever get to play and it was also the last Banjo-Kazooie game Nintendo had a hands on before Microsoft ruin the franchise despite it was made when Microsoft already bought Rare.



MasterChordles said:

This would be pretty cool if they made it into an actual 3D game! Still not bad though, especially for a handheld



Pichuka97 said:

My neighbor used to have this game. I loved it and I would kill for a copy. I recently bought the original B&K on N64 so I would like to finish those two first.



parutena said:

This was a bargain bin type of game I got years ago...loved Banjo-Kazooie and recall being kind of disappointed it wasn't THE Banjo-Kazooie. Still fun, though.



shredmeister said:

I do have this in my large collection of GBA games (currently owning about 130), but haven't played it yet. There's also a GBA kart(?) racer for the franchise called Banjo-Pilot, supposedly it's in the same fashion as Diddy Kong Racing (another Rare-made game).



XD375 said:

I'm looking forward to a Nuts & Bolts review on Nlife's Xbox-based website, Pure Xbox. Mostly so kids who haven't even played the game can stop pretending it's bad.



tripunktoj said:

I love the Banjo-Kazooie games and own every BK game on Nintendo consoles, including this and Banjo Pilot. Glad to see it reviewed here.



Henmii said:

It was a pretty fun game, and at the time I was very surprised that Rareware could pull it off: Banjo Kazooie on the GBA!! It worked!!



ThreadShadow said:

And if you have the Game Boy Player you can play this game on your GameCube on the big screen!



SMW said:

Awesome review of an awesome game! I may just dig it out and plug it into my GBA SP to take it for another spin. I haven't played this game in ages.

Also Rare's other GBA gem, Sabre Wulf is pretty sweet. Definitely check it out if you haven't. I became a fan of Sabreman after his cameo in Banjo-Tooie.



Whopper744 said:

I really enjoyed this game back when it came out. Yeah, didn't play it a ton since I beat it fairly quick, but it was pretty good.



AlexSora89 said:

Alas, poor Rare... what's with Nintendo not buying the company back already anyway? Because if the GBA ever makes it to the Nintendo 3DS Virtual Console, I'm afraid the same can't be said about this lil' gem - because, you know, Microsoft. Then again, given the lack of actual Microsoft handhelds, a portable Banjo-Kazooie still isn't tied to the XBox, which is also why Grunty's Revenge, Sabre Wulf and the GBA DKC games were ever made in the first place.

Anyway... yeah. Get 'em back, Ninty.



Wilford111 said:

The Banjo Kazooie series honestly never looked appealing to me...
Neither did Conker's Bad Fur Day...
Really, none of the Rare games look good to me. And I owned and played Donkey Kong 64 and Diddy Kong Racing back in the day.
Maybe it's the fact that most of their games are collect-athons, maybe it's because of the cheesy art style and music? I don't know, I just always felt there was something off with Rare in general.



Bassman_Q said:

I remember first seeing this in a game shop one day when I was about 8 years old. I was so surprised to see that Rare had actually made a new Banjo game for a Nintendo console, especially since my older brother had found out that Rare had been bought by Microsoft. Naturally, I begged my dad to buy it for me, since the Banjo series was one of my favorite game series when I was young. It was a pretty good game, though for years I never was able to find the area in Spiller's Harbor that gave you the Rainbow Wing ability, so I could never finish the game. To this day, I still haven't beat the game, though after reading this review I just might have to pick it up again.



jayblue said:

great game im playing it the now as bought sp just to play gba games that u cant get on eshop i got loads.gba sp is great system.



Olaf-symbiote said:

This is a pretty meh game, more like 5/10. It's too short, FAR too repetitive, and just doesn't have the charm of Banjo-Kazooie or Tooie. I've cleared this game twice, but don't think I can take a third time of this torture...



Millenia said:

I used to play this when I was a young child. It was really absorbing, and I definitely played it for more than five hours xD To be honest I prefer short games. Games don't always have to be a long, drawn out experience.



Aldebaran said:

I trully love the Banjo Kazooie series and this game is the closest experience you'll get outside the 2 original N64 titles, it is such an amazing game for a handheld worth checking out. I wish Nintendo would purchase back Banjo Kazooie IP and we'll get Banjo 3 for the Wii U as it should have been done (I didn't like Nuts and Bolts).



AutumnShantel said:

I thought it was a lot of fun. Perfect length for my attention span back in the day, and I didn't mind the art style a bit.



RegalSin said:

To get the real ending of Banjo-Kazooie you need to die sometime late in the game. Grunty gets her beauty and youth and Banjo's Sister looks like an real bear. Everybody was happy, even the play who got an hard on from Cutie-Grunties new snatch.

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