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X3F Impressions - Banjo Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts

Alright fanboys, time to get the difficult news out of the way first. Banjo Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts is not much like its predecessors at all. The main gameplay focus is still on platforming, only it's now platforming with vehicles too. Like most platformers, the specific objectives you have to complete are slightly varied, but are mostly different takes on collecting items.

To do so, you'll have a massive tool kit at your fingertips. The vehicles seen in the gallery can all be broken down into various pieces, and a large portion of the gameplay stems from mixing and matching vehicle parts to suit the task at hand. Or y'know, to just suit messing around with infinitely customizable vehicles in a physics playground. That playground can be taken online as well, and the game's multiplayer is very physics-focused and custom-content heavy.

Hit the break for more on Banjo.

The more traditional platforming elements of the series' history come to the surface in the game's overworld, Showdown town, and there the player will use more jumping and on-foot platforming than in the other levels. The half dozen levels are really big, incredibly colorful and creative, and seem to be designed to offer as much variety as the theme allows.

To traverse the levels you'll use custom created vehicles assembled in the game's garage or reconfigured "in the field." The vehicle creation mechanic utilizes a 3D area of invisible cubic spaces, and a standard building block is the size of a single cube. This single cube then becomes the standard unit of measurement and movement for the assembly of the vehicle. While there are many pieces that do not conform to the shape of the unit cube, when they move their "attachment axis" does so along the invisible grid.

The system definitely doesn't over-complicate things, and with a few mandatory pieces (power, propulsion, seat, etc) that don't even need to be in contact, you'll be on your way. The garage has a limit on the specific amount of each type of part that can be used, which serves to provide a modicum of balance. From what we saw, the types of pieces, freedom to combine them, and ability for the changes to be visible immediately in both a gameplay and graphical sense could lead to endless emergent gameplay.

While many will decry the change, we could see ourselves spending many hours creating vehicles and experimenting with how they effect the world and vice versa. In a memorable moment, we walked up behind a fellow attendee who appeared to be piloting some sort of submarine (as the vehicle was underwater) when suddenly he pulled up and the thing pointed to the clouds and took off into the sky. It was really impressive until he ran out of fuel and hit the ground where the vehicle exploded into all of its component pieces.

The beauty of the game is that if one was dedicated enough they could retrieve all the pieces and rebuild the vehicle without ever entering the garage. The garage of course facilitates all the new additions to the vehicle, so any in-world editing is limited to the pieces already in-world. But there will be items to be found only in-world as well, and the in-world items can end up playing a crucial role in the multiplayer.

The Rare folks were only showcasing a single multiplayer gametype that they were calling Sumo, which is essentially a variant of King of the Hill. Using custom vehicles, four players play bumper cars within a specific area, trying to force everyone else out. Oh, and did we mention that the building pieces include weapons of all sorts, creating even more gameplay options? While an objective-based mode was what was shown, it will likely be the simple physics based interactions of free-form play that will be the most appealing to people.

Unfortunately, much of the game is still under wraps or unfinished, and the full extent of the feature set is still to be determined. After creating a particularly fun plane, we inquired about the possibility of sharing our creation with others online and a wry smile crossed the PR woman's face and she said, "We can't talk about that." So take that for what you will.

All in all there is a good reason that Rare did not decide to title the game Banjo Threeie. It's something new. Sure you could argue that Banjo and Kazooie are both superfluous now, but their design and history flavor the world and story. Besides there still is traditional platforming in the game. But in a similar fashion to the platforming genre at large, the more traditional stuff is hidden inside the larger gameplay genres that have since been born. Whether Rare should have made Banjo Threeie isn't important. They made Banjo Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts, and its going new places and trying new things.

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