Game Review: Banjo-Kazooie (N64)


When Banjo-Kazooie was released in 1998 it came at a time when Rare were at the heights of their success. They could do very little wrong & this period is one of the reasons I rate them so highly.

It wasn’t just the Rare name that attracted me to Banjo-Kazooie but the look of it. I’ve always been a fan of bright & colourful games & when the game play matches it I’m rarely disappointed.

Banjo is a bear; Kazooie is a bird who lives in Banjo’s backpack. They live happily together on spiral mountain. Until the witch Gruntilda finds out that she is not the prettiest female in the world. That honour goes to Banjo’s sister, Tooty. Gruntilda is so incensed that she kidnaps Tooty & plans to use a machine that transfers beauty between 2 people. Banjo & Kazooie set out to rescue Tooty from the evil witches grasp.

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After the initial training level (Spiral Mountain) the game is set inside Gruntilda’s lair. It acts as an over world with paths into 9 different levels. These paths are opened by collecting jiggys (puzzles pieces) in the preceding levels. In each level there are 10 puzzle pieces as well as a number scattered throughout Gruntilda’s liar. As well there are musical notes, puzzles to solve, new moves to earn & cheats to unlock throughout.

Each level has a variety of ways in which you can complete it; the puzzles may require a certain move that you may not have at that stage. Also with the help of the shaman Mumbo Jumbo you can be transformed into other creatures to get into tight areas (termites, pumpkins etc).

Eventually with enough jiggys Banjo & Kazooie can gain access to the final area which is a quiz game played across a board, the questions being about the game & your experiences throughout. Beat her at this & you will gain access to the final boss fight on top of the castle.

The game spawned a sequel called Banjo-Tooie which was more of the same & was eventually re-released on the X-Box 360 Arcade.

Ok, I’m going to try & not gush here but man I love this game. I think I’ve finished it at least 5 times & I will no doubt do it again in the future. There is so much to enjoy about the game but I’ll try & keep it simple.

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As you would expect it looks lovely, the bright setting & level of detail in both the characters & areas are amazing. Each area is vastly different to the last with the areas of Grunty’s lair matching up to the incoming level. For example when approaching the level Rusty Bucket Bay the area becomes beach like with a pirate ship & the level door being a treasure chest. Later on you reach Gobi’s Valley which is set in the desert. The area leading to the level is Egyptian like with mummies & desert. The variety is impressive & this flows into each individual level.

The levels range from desert levels to haunted mansions to ice worlds & underwater sections. Every level is different & offers up its own unique challenge. My personal favourite is Click Clock Wood which may seem small at first but the aim is for you top explore it in all 4 seasons (Spring, Summer, Autumn & Winter). It is brilliant & very tricky!

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One of the other great features is the music….the pre-dominant theme of Grunty’s lair is the ‘bears go into the woods song’.

Depending on what area you are exploring at the time will depend upon what version of the song plays. It’s the same tune but if you are in the snow level area it takes on Christmassy sound or if you are in the desert area it takes on a Arabian style. It doesn’t stop to do this, it just seamlessly changes.

The controls can be a bit fiddly depending on who you are using – Banjo is slow while Kazooie can move really fast. The switch is easy to do & I found I used Kazooie more often then not for getting around. The problems came when I had to move on thin ledges or small areas, often I would fall to my death. A small niggle & the quality of the game outweighs it.

…and there it is. Any small issue that exists in Banjo-Kazooie is easily outweighed by the excellence of the level designs, the quality of game play & wonderful music.

The game is easy enough to finish but collecting everything that is available to collect will take quite a while. There is more then enough content to keep you going…

It’s one of the best games I have ever played.

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Banjo-Kazooie
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