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Retro Review! - Banjo-Tooie

When you hear the word 'Sequel', either one of two things will pop in your mind: Either happy images of great sequels like 'The Empire Strikes Back' or ‘The Expendables 2’ or nightmares of horrible sequels like 'Son Of The Mask' or ‘Halo 5: Guardians’. So, what happens when a great product receives a sequel that does improve on the previous faults and introduces new ideas but, at the same time, seems like a step backwards? That's where 'Banjo-Tooie', the sequel to the legendary Rare game 'Banjo-Kazooie', seems to fall. Now, before you raise your pitchforks at me, hear me out: While it does improve all the original faults and issues that I had and I do still like the game, it oddly feels like it takes a few steps backwards as well. What do I mean by this? Well, ready your trusty side-kick and prep your new moves, cause it's time to Beak Bomb into: BANJO-TOOIE.

--THE STORY--

Taking place two years after the original, Gruntilda has returned from the grave and is now teaming up with her two sisters to, once again, wipe Banjo and Kazooie off the face of the planet, this time, with a new toy to help in this quest. Not to be outdone, Banjo and Kazooie team up with two new friends and begin their journey to Gruntilda's new lair to not only kick her boney butt again but to avenge the death of their buddy Bottles. I’ll say that the story is where this game really shines over the original. If the first game was a Disney Movie, then this is comparable to an early Don Bluth classic. Not only do all the characters have more screen time, but they, as well as the newcomers, are more fleshed out than ever before. Of course, all the characters from the first game return, with Mumbo Jumbo now serving as a third playable character, complete with one earwormy catchy song that, I swear, will get stuck in your head. Heck, even Gruntilda's henchman Klungo gets some screen time as he serves as a mini-boss whom you'll fight three times, each one forcing you to adapt to his different battle tactics.

Of course, this being a sequel, there are the expected new cast members and they do a good job at standing out. From the groovy King Jingaling to the mysterious Master Jiggywiggy (I can not say his name with a straight face) to Gruntilda's two sisters to the all new bosses, the new cast really shines. Though there are only two minor exceptions, the first being the new shaman, Humba Wumba. She is not a bad character and has some moments of comedy, but she does suffer from having a stereotypical Native American speech pattern, which sadly does hurt the character at times. The other character is Jamjars, the brother of Bottles. Now, like Humba, he isn't a bad character and has some funny moments. It’s just that his main problem is that...he is one greedy Sargent! Yeah, unlike the first game where Bottles gives you new abilities for free, Jamjars expects you to pay for all the new moves! Though, I will grant the game some credit and that finding the notes to pay for said moves are super easy, so this complaint is more of a nitpick. Even so, if the story and characters are good, what prevents this game from being an excellent sequel?

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--THE GAMEPLAY--

To me, this is where 'Banjo-Tooie' starts to really suffer. Sure, it's the same gameplay from the original game and it does offer some new mechanics, like shooting underwater and in the air and the ability to split up and tackle objectives as either Banjo or Kazooie. I mean, what fix what ain’t broken, right? The main issue is that the controls just feel sloppy and a bit loose. I really don't know how to properly describe it, but it feels like the sensitivity has been upped a bit to where it feels manageable but still loose, if that makes sense.

Where I feel this really shows through is the camera and movement under water and in the air. Firstly, when you use the camera in a POV perspective, the sensitivity is jacked to ludicrous levels to the point where it was kinda hard to aim my shots and I had to gently nudge the stick to aim. This really hurts the new First Person gameplay, which actually shocked me the very first time this showed up when I first played it as a young wolf. Don't get me wrong, this is a fun gimmick and it does make me wonder if there’s a Banjo-Kazooie DOOM mod out there, and movement is fine and all. But what hurts it is the camera when you’re doing precise aiming. Like I said, it's near impossible to aim properly at your targets. Moving onto the underwater and flight controls, because of the new mechanic of being able to aim and shoot either underwater and in-flight, the controls are, again, jacked. Swimming honestly felt like a chore, especially in Jolly Rogers Lagoon where 90% of the level is underwater. Look, I hate saying bad things about any game, especially a series I love, but the controls are what really kills this game for me.

Now, aside from the FPS moments, is there anything I like about the gameplay? Well, as stated earlier, you can now split up and tackle the objectives separately and that is a cool feature. Both Banjo and Kazooie each have their own separate move set and health bars, so you must use different play styles with each of them; Banjo relying on health regeneration and brute force while Kazooie has to use fast movements and quick strikes due to her lower health bar. The other cool new gameplay feature is the ability to play as Mumbo Jumbo. While he only has one means of attack, which is his staff, he is able to use Mumbo pads to help Banjo and Kazooie in different ways on their journey. From fixing a train to making water breathable to healing dead aliens, he is a, pun not intended, lifesaver at times.

Also, like in Banjo-Kazooie, you are able to transform into different creatures and this is another place where Tooie shines over its predecessor. Unlike the first game, you are able to transform in every stage and each transformation can now attack. In fact, there are two noteworthy transformations in the game. The first of which being the two T-rexes you can turn into: The baby and the Daddy, with the daddy able to absorb ALL damage and the baby able to open special doors. The other one is a bit special: If you find the hidden Mega Glowbo, a variation of the standard Glowbos (which are the equivalent of Mumbo Tokens), and take it to Humba Wumba stationed outside of Witchyword, you can transform Kazooie into DRAGON KAZOOIE. While the same as the original Kazooie, she has one new move: She can breathe fire on the enemies! Guess she went from being annoying to being...too hot to handle? Eh? (Editor's Note: Feel free to smack the reviewer for that joke

--THE LEVELS--

Like the previous game, each level deserves their own review so lets review each level separately then! But, before we do, I got one big complaint about the level structure. See, in 'Banjo-Kazooie' you unlock levels via going to a painting and solving it and you don't have to worry about searching out the level's location due to how close the painting is to the level, save for Click Clock Woods. Here though? You need to go to JiggyWiggy's temple, solve the puzzle, then watch a video showing the entrance of the newly unlocked level, THEN you need to search for the entrance of that location WHILE making sure you have the required move to proceed. The issue? Well, the game's map is just too darn big! Sure, it is impressive that a map this size is able to be created on the N64, but it is still a bit too big. I don’t mind huge maps, but I feel there has to be a limit to the size. Anyway, like the previous game, the levels here are connected via a hub-world called Isle O' Hags and, yeah, it's a nicer hub than Gruntilda's Lair and it’s nice being outside instead of inside all the time and, even though I complained about the size, the world is still fun to explore. As for the levels?

==MAYHEM TEMPLE==

The first level in the game and it's decent. I like the Mayan theme to it and the music is catchy as all heck, but, unlike the first game, it doesn't do a good job of easing new and returning players into the game. What does hurt it a bit more is the fact that some of the jiggies are inaccessible until you unlock the next world. Yeah, that's another mechanic I forgot to bring up: You can not obtain all jiggies in a world on your first try until you unlock the next world or find an entrance to a previous world. I know there were some levels in Banjo-Kazooie you couldn’t complete without backtracking, but here it's a bit more annoying and I'm glad the next game didn't repeat this mistake. Then we got the boss of the world: Targitzan, who does have a cool design to him/it and he/it offers a great test of your FPS combat as well. Oh yeah, you also get your first transformation here: Stony Bear. With this, you can understand the various stone creatures and participate in a game of Soccer, which is a cool mini-game but suffers from a pulled-back camera and iffy controls.

==GLITTER GLUCH MINE==

Next we go below the grounds and into the mines for a somewhat mediocre level. While it has a cool design, with a western motif to it, and the music is catchy, it's just a mediocre level with nothing worth bringing up. The transformation here is, while a neat idea, is one of the worst: TNT Bear. Why? Well, every time you blow up, when you aren't connected to a TNT Pile, you lose health. So, this one is not worth using to attack enemies. The boss here is equally as disappointing: Old King Coal, the owner of the train. He can't attack you and is easily one of the easiest bosses to beat. In fact, you can take out the boss in less than 20 seconds if you use the new Ice Eggs (which can only be used in the Boss Replay mode in the main menu). There’s also a race with Canary Mary, which is a annoying button presser and one jiggy I end up skipping.

==WITCHYWORLD==

Out of all the worlds in the game, this one is my personal favorite, mainly because it reminds me of the classic arcade game CarnEvil, with its whole evil carnival design to it. Heck, it lives up to the CarnEvil feeling by having run-down, deadly rides, mascots who want nothing more than to bash your brains in, and a very creepy soundtrack. Too bad the same couldn't be said about the boss, Mr. Patch. While a cool concept for a fight (you have to stay in the air to fight him), he ends up being a let-down due to him having only one method of attack and it is one of the easiest, if you got a handle on the flight controls, to avoid. Being a carnival, you'd expect some games to play and these are, while fun, somewhat lacking in challenge. The first of which are Dodge'Em's: Your main objective is to collect a certain amount of points in the given time. The problem? It's just too easy to acquire all points, even when you unlock the hardest level. Heck, the enemies here are more a nuisance than a legit threat. Then there's the Saucer Of Peril, which is pretty much a rail shooter. Again, cool idea but hampered by the aiming controls. Finally, you got Crazy Castle. Unlike the Bugs Bunny games, here you control either Kazooie or both Banjo and Kazooie as you complete a challenge to rank up points to get a jiggy. Out of both challenges in Crazy Castle, the only one that is any fun is the Kazooie one where you jump through hoops, literally, in a set amount of time, with the only issue being the camera not behaving when you have to jump through small blue hoops. Your transformation in this world is the invincible Van. While not having any normal means of attack, it is able to run over and destroy enemies and you are impervious to all attacks. The Van is also used to unlock attractions via paying pay boxes located throughout the world. The only other note-worthy thing to bring up about this level is the return of Bogey's kids from Banjo-Kazooie and the introduction of his wife, Mrs. Bogey. There’s also the return of Gobi The Camel, who’s now rocking a nice long beard.

==JOLLY ROGER'S LAGOON==

Like Clanker's Cavern from the previous game, this is a solely under-water level...and BOY is this a hard level! The first few jiggies on land are easy to grab, but the moment you go under-water, after making it breathable with Mumbos's magic, is when the game REALLY ups the difficulty level. Sure, there are few enemies down here, the only real enemy being the Octopuses blocking some locations, but that's not the issue with this level. My issue is that the bad swimming controls really show through in this level, not helped by the fact that one jiggy in particular is a defense stage where you protect a pig from being bacon bits for sharks while he takes pictures of a temple. Expect a lot of trial and error for that jiggy. The boss here, Lord Woo Fak Fak, is another low point of this stage. All you do is shoot his boils then eyes and the only way you'll get hurt by him is when he does a lightning attack on you or you run into his mouth. A neat concept for a boss, but again, is hampered by swimming controls. The ONLY standout of this mission is the transformation: A Sub-Marine which can not only attack with torpedoes but with a sonar that can make quick work of those octopuses. The last thing I want to bring up is a cool little Easter Egg located in the one tavern. If you go to the one back room, you'll find the pirate Captain Blackeye. Who is he? Well, he was originally planned for the original version of Banjo-Kazooie, Project Dream. In fact, he does bring up how he hates that Banjo & Kazooie stole his thunder away from him. That aside, this is still a bad level, hampered by bad swimming controls.

==TERRYDACTYLAND==

Next on our journey, we arrive at the dinosaur land and this is a cool level. The whole level has a cool prehistoric backdrop to it and the music is really catchy as well. The only thing that hurts this level is the jiggy where you have to eliminate this guards by sending a new egg, Clockwork Kazooies which are remote controlled time bombs, behind them and blowing them up. The issue I have is that, well, you have to be in a specific area so the guards are facing one way so you can send the bomb the other way. The boss is, well, interesting to say the least: Terry. While not a bad boss, she actually has a cool twist: After you beat her, she goes on to say that she was only attack you cause someone stole her eggs and now tasks you to get those eggs back. Neat idea and it gives Kazooie a chance to learn a new move: Hatching Eggs. You also get not one but two new transformations: A Baby T-Rex and a Daddy T-Rex. The baby is there to unlock special doors and offer some weak attacks while the Daddy is the main cheese. Able to absorb all attacks and able to give out a roar that scares all who are below him, literally. Though, to get that transformation, you must first have Mumbo enlarge Humba's tent, then quickly switch back to Banjo-Kazooie and race back to Humba's tent before it shrinks back. The only other thing I want to bring up is a mini-game you have to do for a jiggy. After being eaten, yes eaten, by a dinosaur, you go First Person and must kill all his stomach ulcers. Cool idea, but it is VERY easy to win this on your first try. How? Just stand in the middle, hold the trigger down and spin round in circles, shooting all the ulcers. You'll easily gain 100 points before the timer hits 10 seconds.

==GRUNTY INDUSTRIES==

I've been told that this is the hardest stage of the entire game and, yeah, I do see where they are coming from, but I kinda found this one, save for a few jigges, to be somewhat easy. Set in a faculty that has this, oddly, Resident Evil feel to the whole location, with its grimy locations to the puzzles. Like Mayhem Temple before it, there is a First Person level here, with this one, by far, being the HARDEST one to do. In a set amount of time, you have to clear all the vents of these 'poop monsters' before time runs out and the air becomes toxic. The issue? Well, half the time it is impossible to find these dang creatures and, at times, when you do, the aiming problems come back with a vengeance. You do get an, um, interesting transformation here: A Washing Machine that shoots dirty underwear at enemies. Its main use is to clean the dirty overalls of the bunny workers there. That's it. Those low-points aside, this is a fun stage and I don't see where the complaints about it being hard comes from. Oh yeah, the boss. Weldar, the living Wielding Machine, is, on the surface, a hard boss to fight due to his many attacks, but is somewhat a pushover once you learn its patterns.

==HAILFIRE PEAKS==

This is the level I like to call the 'Backtracking level'. Why? You have to backtrack not only between the two worlds, one lava and one snow, but to the past levels WITHIN in the world just to progress to get jiggies and notes. Trust me, you'll be spending a lot of time just going through caves to go to the otherside. BUT! This level is saved from being totally bad with some of the coolest, again pun not intended, moments of the game. The first of which is the return of a long dormant Rare character SaberWulf, which while it does involve backtracking, it is one of the more fun quests out there. The other cool moments are the two bosses: The dragon brothers Chili Billi and Chilly Willy. Each boss requires you to fight them with the opposite of themselves and they are kinda fun to both beat and listen to. Finally, if you rescued them from Witchyworld, which is required for a jiggy, the ZZ-Top bearded Gobi the Camel makes an appearance here and, like in the original game, you'll, once again, have to smash his hump to drain him of his water, this time to cool off your train. Lastly, there's the transformation: The Snowball, and this is a kinda lame one and is mainly used for one jiggy, though I do like how you regain health by rolling in snow and can become a bigger snowball. 'Hailfire Peaks', for all its constant backtracking, is honestly still a fun stage and one I sometimes find returning to a lot, just to explore.

==CLOUD CUCKOOLAND==

You know, it's funny. Most gamers consider Grunty's Industries to be the hardest stage. Cloud Cuckooland is the one I consider to be the hardest stage. Why? It has the constant threat of falling to your doom and one of, if not THE hardest jiggies to obtain in the entire game. How do you obtain it? You have to beat Canary Mary in a race again, this time on a wind up mouse and it is a button presser in the worst way. Expect TONS of frustration when obtaining this one. The only real standout for this world is the transformation: The return of the Bee and, this time, it's armed. Aside from flight, you can now shoot enemies with your nose stinger machine gun, finally evening the odds. Oh there is one other stand out moment. When you first arrive, you'll find not one but two Mumbo Huts, one red and one blue. "Why are there two huts here?" You may ask. Well, the one is a standard hut, while the other houses a deadly secret: A impersonator named Mingy Jongo, a terminator with the skin of Mumbo. Out of all the bosses in the game, he is a somewhat freaky boss due to coming out of nowhere and being a somewhat hard boss to beat, it will give you a challenge. Also, it might be the goriest death for a Banjo game I've ever seen as, once you defeat it, Mingy's head pops off and green blood sprays out. Not too gory, but remember this was a year before Conker's Bad Fur Day, so this is still kinda shocking to see in a kid’s game.

==CAULDRON KEEP==

The final level of the entire game follows the same setup as the previous game's last level. It starts with a trivia game, which is played like a demented Jeopardy and ends with an epic boss fight against Gruntilda. But she isn't flying this time. Now she has a tank with a HUGE Drill attached. And this time, no Jinjos will help you out. You must rely on your huge move-set you've acquired and memorization of her attack patterns. Learning from the first game, which is a shocker for any returning game boss to do, she stays within her tank and ONLY pops out to either quiz you or unleash her magic on you. The stages in the battle are easy...until the last stage, where she goes full hell on wheels and unleashes ALL of the tanks attacks on you in one last stand. Once you pass that, you will have one more stage: She summons up the mother of all spells that killed Bottles and prepares to use it on you. Just fire one egg on her and...BOOM! Gruntilda is defeated once again and teases that she'll return in 'Banjo-Threeie' (Oh, child...). A GREAT boss fight and an amazing way to cap off a mediocre game.

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--FINAL THOUGHTS--

While 'Banjo-Kazooie' is an amazing game, 'Banjo-Tooie' is somewhat a mediocre sequel and follow-up to the original. If it wasn't for the bad controls and some backwards decisions, this would've been an amazing sequel and I would have no problems giving it my highest recommendations. Sadly, because of the issues, I can only give it a medium recommendation. Like the first game, you can either pick this up on N64, Xbox 360 or the Rare Replay collection, though I'd say stick to the N64 version as the problems I listed in the N64 version REALLY show through in the Xbox versions. I don't know how, but the controls are REALLY iffy here to the point where it makes playing it harder than it should be.


Gameplay: 3 - Though solid as ever, the controls feel just a bit on the slippery side at times.

Graphics: 4 - Looks just as good as the original, if not better with more attention to details and more variety in locations.

Sound: 5 - An immensely catchy soundtrack with some incredibly fun paw-tapping beats and a Mumbo Jumbo song that will never leave your brain.

Final Score: 4/5

"Takes a few steps forward, but more steps backwards compared to the original classic."

DJ MetalWolf
Author: DJ MetalWolf
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