Does Banjo-Tooie live up to its legendary N64 predecessor?
With the understandable hype surrounding 2017’s Yooka-Laylee, it’s high time to take a look back to the second installment in this soon-to-be trilogy of sorts, 2001’s N64 classic “Banjo-Tooie”.
Although Yooka-Laylee will not directly follow the lore of Banjos Kazooie & Tooie, it’s clear to most that developers Playtonic Games (comprised of numerous ex-Rareware folk) are aiming for the game to be a spiritual successor to those titles, with gameplay designed to evoke nostalgia of the turn of the millennium, and no doubt generate some hard earned cash from the millions of people who loved those games back in the day (a goal that it has already achieved with the aid of a great KickStarter campaign).
Now, Banjo-Kazooie really pushed on from the incredible foundations laid down by Super Mario 64, and its vibrant, colourful worlds and cast of quirky characters have cemented it a well-earned place in almost every N64 owner’s collection. But what about its younger, slightly pricier brother?
By the time Banjo-Tooie hit the shores of the UK in early 2001, the tide was just beginning to turn on the genre now known as the “collect-a-thon”. Well received at the time, it was soon out of favour, as the newer generation of consoles offered action on a different level, and platform games as a whole took a back seat. Tooie, much like DK64, was labelled “overinflated” and “cumbersome”, taking up too much of the player’s time with mundane tasks and backtracking paths.
Yet after going dark for such a long time, the genre is coming back into favour, perhaps thanks to the dearth of such “collectathons” even in today’s gaming smorgasbord. Yooka-Laylee has undoubtedly tapped into a wealth of excitement to revisit a childhood standard, but does that mean that you’ll have fun with an older example, like Banjo-Tooie?
Well it’s got a lot going for it. Tooie continued the series tradition of diverse worlds, characters, and a host of charming collectables such as (anthropomorphic, no less) jigsaw pieces, musical notes, honeycombs, eggs, feathers, book pages and other such detritus, and added some neat extra features, too. The train station connecting a few of the game’s vast worlds helped speed up some of the (admittedly lengthy) travels, the mini-games present in this sequel are in some cases worthy of a good chunk of play time, and allowing players to keep all the moves learned in the first game was another smart design move.
Spanning a Mayan Temple, a Theme Park, a Dino domain, a Gold mine and plenty of other interesting locations, the levels offer some great sights to see, and akin to the best 64 games. However, even with added extras like a tense temple shoot-out and a Mayan sports tournament, the huge levels don’t quite hit the heights of the season altering beauty of Click-Clock Wood or the Christmas wonderland of Freezeazy Peak from the first game.
The script manages to retain that brand of Rare humour which made the flimsy story a joy to play through, the music is cleverly dynamic and brilliantly memorable, Banjo is just as loveable and the magical character-switching is still as cool as ever, but there’s no doubt that by now we had seen it all before, and to some extent know what to expect.
In many ways it’s a better game than its predecessor, you could argue that there’s a bit more to do in each of the levels, and the game took some steps to try and alleviate the burden of running around from place to place, but the sheer scope of the world on offer, and the staggering amount of collectables is probably slightly on the heavy side. Even when aiming to repeat such a style, I’d expect to see a slimmed-down approach from Playtonic when we get our hands on Yooka-Laylee in a few months.
So all in all, Banjo-Tooie is a fantastic example of what the “collect-a-thon” genre had to offer. It excels in many ways, and with all the Rareware charm of their heyday, it’s still a pleasure to play, especially if you’re one of the vast numbers of people who are itching to return to collecting ‘Jiggies’. However, whilst it reminds you of what the N64 and Rare were capable of in terms of landscapes, characters and music, it might not let you forget why the genre has seen such a decline over the last decade.
If it’s a case of climbing back up into the attic to dust off a copy*, then what are you waiting for, get the ladder down! But if you have to fork out at least the price of a new PS4 title to get your hands on the game, then perhaps it’s best left to, well… the collectors. Apt.
*It’s perhaps more readily available via XBLA, or as part of XB1’s “Rare Replay”.
Available on: Nintendo 64, Xbox One
Created By: Rareware
Rarity factor: 3/5
Price: £40/60 Unboxed, £90/110 Boxed (N64 version)
Reviewed by: Tom Middler
Reviewed on: N64