Banjo-Kazooie was released in 1998 on the Nintendo 64 and is often dismissed as being too similar to Super Mario 64. But to ignore this game on these grounds can only be described as foolish. Developed by British company Rare during their golden age, which also saw them release such titles as GoldenEye and Donkey Kong 64, this game took what was good about Super Mario and improved on it in every way. It looked better, it played better, its characters were better – it was better.
You play as Banjo, a well-mannered bear, and his foul-mouthed companion Kazooie, a bird who lives in Banjo’s backpack. The two heroes must combine their abilities as they make their way through the evil witch Gruntilda’s lair after she kidnaps Banjo’s sister Tooty to steal her beauty. You visit many varied levels full of interesting and colourful characters as you collect musical notes and Jiggys (jigsaw-pieces).
The characters are the highlight of the game, since it’s the humour which makes the game really special. Kazooie insults everyone she meets, and the witch Gruntilda constantly speaks in rhymes. A personal favourite – when flying on her broom, she says: “This broom is hard and as it streaks, across the sky it chafes my cheeks!”
A sequel, Banjo-Tooie, was released in 2000 and was even bigger and better, with even more jokes crammed in. With its release also came the revelation that Rare had included secret areas in the first game which would only be unlocked once you played the second game. Unfortunately, the plan was too sophisticated for the N64 hardware to cope with and so it never worked as it was intended.
If you own an Xbox then you should buy the HD re-mastered versions of these games from the Arcade. After all, what other games let you transform into a pumpkin so that you can flush yourself down a toilet to search for treasure? Exactly.
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