Game of the Month October, 2003:

System: Nintendo 64 Developer: Rare
I can't think of a better game to feature as "Game of the Month" for October than Banjo-Kazooie, because if any game comes to mind when I think about Halloween, this is it. That's mainly because of the Mad Monster Mansion level and the fact that the villain is a witch who rides a broom. It's also because BK is a light-hearted adventure, reminiscent of a night of trick-or-treating. (Okay, I don't know what I was thinking when I wrote that, admittedly, the Castlevania series would've been a better "Halloween" choice, but maybe next year!) BK is, admittedly, not a game for everyone. Some will be turned away by its cartoon-style characters, brash humor, and treasure hunt game play. But for those who don't mind, or actually like that sort of thing, this game is about as good as 3D platforming gets.

Banjo: That shark still looks fake.

Hey look! Over there! Where? Over there! Where? Banjo is quite similar in style to Super Mario 64. You will need to collect jigsaw puzzle pieces and musical notes the way you collected stars in SM64 to open up paths through the Witch's Lair. The Witch's Lair acts as a "hub", with portals to different levels of the game scattered throughout it. These levels are completely 3D and, once you've accessed them, are yours to freely explore. What separates this game from Super Mario 64 are the special moves that you can use. These moves are performed by using Banjo (the bear you play as) and Kazooie (the bird that lives in his backpack) in tandem. These moves include flying, running, and different ways of pummeling enemies and objects, and you will need all of them to uncover the game's many mysteries and secrets. Aside from being a useful partner, Kazooie is also a source of hilarious dialogue and funny scenes.

The world of BK is very large, sometimes easy to get lost in, but this is a game where there is always something to find. A giant snowman may, at first, seem like just an overdone decoration, but you can find a jigsaw at his feet, run up his scarf and take a wild sled ride back down, fight a boss on his hat, and heck, even his pipe has something hidden in it! Other tasks include solving puzzles, racing through timed mazes, defeating bosses, and helping friendly characters. Although the difficulty of this game is a step down from Super Mario 64, the abundant creativity nearly overshadows it. Where else in a game can you help raise an eagle from egg to adulthood, match notes with a ghostly hand on a church organ, or solve a riddle on giant Ouija board? Just when you think you've seen everything the game has to throw at you, you'll stumble into a gameshow-style Furnace Fun quiz in which you're asked questions about various aspects of the game (and in which losing results in a serious hotfoot). To top it off, the final boss fight is one of the most challenging and dramatic, yet not unfair (I hated trying to throw Bowser onto those spiked balls in Super Mario 64), that I'd seen in awhile.

I wonder how long it took to build THAT snowman!

With extremely well-done graphics (some of the best on the N64), and decent music, Banjo-Kazooie is as much a pleasure to watch and listen to as it is to play. If you really want a decent Super Mario 64-style platformer, and you're not put off by the cutesy theme, then BK is worth trying (and I still contend that it's much better than the lackluster Donkey Kong 64).

Banjo-Kazooie Links

  • My Banjo-Kazooie Review - A complete review of this fantastic game.
  • BlueMoon007's Banjo-Kazooie Page - This site was owned by someone I knew from N-Sider a long time ago. It's dead now, but it was one of the first B-K sites I ever visited on the internet.


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