Game Corner: Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair (Xbox One)


Released: October 2019
Developer: Playtonic Games
Also Available For: Nintendo Switch, PC, and PlayStation 4

The Background:
After Rare was purchased by Microsoft in 2002, anticipation was high for the company to continue their track record of releasing extremely polished, high-quality titles as they had during their tenure with Nintendo. Chief amongst the Rare properties most fans were looking forward to revisiting was the Banjo-Kazooie (1998 to 2008) series, which was an extremely well-made 3D action/platformer collectathon for the Nintendo 64 with a quirky sense of humour and memorable, likeable characters. Unfortunately, Rare were disappointingly underused by Microsoft and, while their famous bird-and-bear duo did return, it was in a highly altered form that let down most gamers. Eventually, key members of Rare left the company and formed Playtonic Games, an independent games studio that would allow them to make the types of games they wanted to which, coincidentally enough, meant going back to the Banjo-Kazooie formula with a spiritual successor to that series, Yooka-Laylee (ibid, 2017).

Impossible Lair is inspired more by Donkey Kong Country than Banjo-Kazooie.

While the first game received mostly mixed reviews, I really enjoyed this welcome return to the quirky 3D action/platformers of old and revisiting the Banjo-Kazooie gameplay style of large, interconnected worlds with many peculiar characters and things to collect and discover. The game did well enough, however, and Playtonic’s new characters were popular enough to warrant the production of sequel, in which Playtonic Games decided to veer away from the Banjo-Kazooie style of gameplay and instead draw inspiration from the 2.5D sidescrolling platformers of their 16-Bit days, specifically the Donkey Kong Country (1994 to 2005) series. This was surprising to me, considering the series was meant to be a throwback to the Banjo-Kazooie formula, but I was happy enough with the first game and charmed enough by its oddball world and characters to give this slightly-revised sequel a fair shake of the stick.

The Plot:
After being defeated by Yooka and Laylee in the previous game, Capital B has returned to cause havoc; this time, he has enslaved the Royal Stingdom using the Hive Mind, captured Queen Phoebee’s Royal Beettalion, and locked himself inside the titular Impossible Lair. In order to overcome the Lair’s enemies and obstacles and defeat Capital B, Yooka and Laylee must travel to numerous new worlds and free the Royal Battalion, all while restoring peace and order to the Royal Stingdom.

Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair is, primarily, a 2.5D action/platformer in the style of the Donkey Kong Country series; players control Yooka, a laid-back chameleon, and Laylee, a wise-cracking bat, simultaneously to explore the large overworld, traverse the game’s numerous stages, and battle the assortment of quirky enemies found within.

Many of the duo’s abilities return from the first game.

Many of Yooka and Laylee’s abilities from the previous game return here; the duo can run, jump, and roll along in a ball like a certain blue hedgehog. Yooka can use his tongue to grab at certain objects to spit fruit or bombs at enemies or switches or open new pathways and secret areas and the duo can flutter and twirl in the air to extend the reach of their jumps or perform a powerful downward stomp to defeat enemies or drop down to lower levels. Unfortunately, the duo are missing some of their more useful abilities from the last game; you can only spit out projectiles when you find one in a level, and you can no longer turn invisible, walk while in water, or form a protective shield. While the game does provide alternative means to do some of these moves, there is no way to use Laylee to glide, fly, or have Yooka use his tail for a high jump. Instead, you’re tasked with chaining together high-speed rushes with well-timed jumps to gain extra height and cover large distances, which is fine but I can’t help but feel it’s a missed opportunity to not have the duo flying at some point in some way.

Get hit and you’ll lose Laylee, leaving you vulnerable until you find a bell to call her back.

Also missing from the first game is a health and power bar; you no longer need to consume butterflies to restore your health or wait for a meter to fill up before you can perform one of the duo’s special moves. Instead, when you get hit by an enemy or obstacle, Laylee will fly erratically around the screen for several seconds like Baby Mario in Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island (Nintendo EAD, 1995). If you can’t retrieve her in time, she will fly away and you’ll be left with just Yooka and missing the few moves the game provided you with; take another hit and you’ll die and be returned to your last checkpoint, with Laylee restored to you. You can, however, find special bells you can ring that will return Laylee to your side and use certain Tonics to extend the length of time you have to retrieve Laylee but, honestly, of all the things to be inspired by! Luckily, Laylee doesn’t whine and cry in an annoying screech like Baby Mario but it can be extremely harrowing and dangerous to retrieve Laylee but, if you don’t you might miss certain collectables and secret areas.

Collect the T.W.I.T. coins to lower Trowzer’s Paywalls.

To explore the game’s forty stages, you’ll have to navigate an expansive overworld; while nothing compared to the one from the first game, it’s still surprisingly expansive, with many areas connected to others through secret pathways or blocked off by one of Trowzer’s Paywalls. As you explore the game’s stages, you can find five T.W.I.T. coins in each; it is highly recommended that you go out of your way to obtain as many of these as you can as you’ll need to use them to lower Trowzer’s Paywalls and reach new areas and to obtain an Achievement. Each stage is accessed through a magical book, as in the last game, but rather than expanding upon a stage with the Quills you find in the game’s stages, you use these Quills to purchase Tonics and gain new abilities or game-changing buffs (or de-buffs) or to pay for a hint to locate hidden Tonics on the overworld. You can manipulate and alter the overworld, however, by completing a mini game set by a Pagie found in each area; doing this allows you to find new areas (and more hidden Tonics) and open up new paths to link the overworld together.

Completing side quests adds an alternative mode to each stage.

Some of Yooka-Laylee’s other recognisable characters also make a return but in severely reduced roles; they generally hang around the overworld, offering hints or asking you to complete a series of small tasks that will access a stage’s alternative mode. These tasks this many involve freezing Nimbo the Cloud, pushing a shopping trolley off a lighthouse, causing a boiler to cough up ash, or activating a fan. Each task is slightly different and changes the stages in different ways; the stage may be flipped upside down or on its side, for example, or underwater, frozen, or filled with acid or lava. This means each stage has two sections to it for a total of ten T.W.I.T. coins per chapter and altering a stage can turn even the game’s easiest levels into challenging test of your patience and endurance.

Track down the Ghost Quills for extra Quills, coins, and items.

Each stage also sees the return of the five Ghost Writer Quills; each one flies around the immediate area in a different way, leaving regular Quills in their wake, and generally explode in a shower of Quills once you collect all their Quills or chase them down. Others, however, leave behind a T.W.I.T. coin, a piece of fruit or a bomb to aid your progress, or a key that can access a new area of the stage and lead you to another T.W.I.T. coin. You never know what the Ghost Quills are going to yield as a prize so it’s worth trying to hunt them down and collect their Quills whenever you find them. Every time you clear a stage, you rescue a member of the Beettalion, which is crucial to increasing your chances at completing the Impossible Lair. Unlike the last game (and most games, for that matter), you can challenge the game’s final stage, the titular Impossible Lair, whenever you like but, if you have few or even no Beettalions to aid you, you won’t last very long as the Lair isn’t called “Impossible” for fun. Some stages also contain hidden exits that deposit you in different areas of the overworld and lead you to one of the six secret members of the Beettalion and it is highly recommended that you don’t attempt the Impossible Lair without all forty-eight members of the Beettalion to form a protective shield around you.

Graphics and Sound:
Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair is just as gorgeous as its predecessor, perhaps even more so thanks to its extra polish and shine. The world and the characters that inhabit it are bright, colourful, and cheery; playing the game is like playing a cartoon and all the characters are full of life and charm. Thanks to the game’s shifted perspective to 2.5D, the character animations rely far more on pantomime than fully-animated 3D models, meaning the game’s simple animations are far less egregious. Thankfully, the game still uses the charming gibberish of the Banjo-Kazooie series; whenever characters talk, they babble and jabber away like loons and I absolutely love it. Just a few sounds is all it takes to infuse these characters with personality and you always know who is talking and when thanks to these simple, but effectively, sound effects.

The game looks and sounds fantastic, at least.

The music is just as delightful and affective as ever as well; thanks to the likes of the great Grant Kirkhope, the game’s overworld, stages, and areas are infused with a fairytale-like quality and, no matter how frustrating and difficult some sections might be, you’ll always have a catchy, appealing little tune to hum along to and settle your nerves.

Enemies and Bosses:
Yooka and Laylee’s world is mostly populated by mean-spirited little goblins called Meanyions; you’ll come up against blue versions that simple wander back and forth, red ones that you can only defeat by jumping on them, yellow ones that jump when you jump, and green ones that hover around in a jetpack or with propellers on their heads (which protect them from your jump attack). There are also fatter, blob-like Boundalong Meanyions who bounce you backwards (usually to your death), the spider-like Webwhacks that can only be avoided thanks to their spiked behinds, cannons that blast projectiles or homing missiles at you, and laser-spewing spheres. Generally, though, you’ll find most the most danger and frustration coming from the many death traps in the game’s stages; giant instant-death boulders, laser beams, and saw blades chase you, spikes, icicles, saw blades, and other spiked surfaces can either cause you to take damage or instantly die, acid and lava pits are abundant and, of course, there are the numerous bottomless pits scattered across the stages. A lot of the game’s challenge comes from using the duo’s skills and carefully bouncing from one enemy to another to clear these gaps; make a mistake and you’ll pay, usually with your life.

Getting through the Impossible Lair is easier said than done…!

The game only features one boss battle and it’s against Capital B within the Impossible Lair. You might think that this means the game is lacking in challenge but you’d be wrong; not only do you have to first get through the game’s stages to unlock enough (or all) of the Beettalions to allow you to get through the Lair’s many enemies and death traps, you then have to face Capital B in four separate, increasingly difficult encounters. This wouldn’t be so bad but, to reach each of these battles, you first have to survive the Impossible Lair…which more than lives up to its name. Every type of enemy, trap, obstacle, and gameplay mechanic you’ve encountered and bested in each of the game’s stages is incorporated into the Lair; every time you take a hit or fall to your death, you lose one of the Beettalion and there’s no way to get them back. You can return to the Lair from the start of each battle with Capital B but this only really helps if you reached that fight with a decent amount of bees left and can defeat that phase of the boss battle without incurring much damage so you have the best chance of getting through the next stage of the Lair.

Capital B can be tough but getting to him is even tougher!

Thankfully, actually fighting Capital B is much easier than in the last game; he has very clear and predictable attack patterns but it’s very easy to mess up and take a hit in these fights thanks to the lack of a high jump and the surprisingly large hit box of both the titular duo and the boss itself. Add to that the fact that he Impossible Lair is more frustrating than challenging and you have a significant portion of the game that is more of a chore to get through than being fun and charming like the rest of the game. If you really want to torture yourself, you can take on the Lair’s alternative mode, where you must try and make it through without any of the Beettalion to protect and save you…and if you can do that then good luck to you; you’re a better person than me.

Power-Ups and Bonuses:
Like the Banjo-Kazooie games of old, and its predecessor, Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair is a bit of a collectathon; each stage is filled with Quills to collect, T.W.I.T. coins to find, and hidden areas that generally contain one, or both, of these items. Clear a stage and you rescue a member of the Beettalion and can use the Quills and coins you’ve earned to unlock new skills and areas of the game. The Tonics from the last game return here; Tonics are scattered across the overworld and, while some are in plain sight, others are hidden and you’ll have to pay sign posts for hints on how to find them. Either way, simply finding a Tonic isn’t enough to use it; you have to pay for it with the Quills you’ve collected, meaning you’ll have to revisit some of the game’s easier stages again and again to farm for Quills to unlock every Tonic.

Different Tonics have different effects, buffs, and de-buffs.

At first, you can only use three Tonics at a time but, eventually, you earn the ability to have a fourth Tonic slot (either temporarily or permanently, if you find every single T.W.I.T. coin in the game. You have to be careful, though, as some of the more useful Tonics (like increasing the amount of checkpoints, letting you hold on to your T.W.I.T. coins after you die, or having special attacks that destroy all onscreen enemies) reduces your Quill count at the end of a stage. So, to get more Quills, you have to use the more obtrusive Tonics (which turn the stage upside down or mess up the controls, for example) but, no matter how you play the game and which Tonics you use, they’re completely redundant in the Impossible Lair as you can’t use any of them…which really makes you question why you put all that effort into finding and unlocking all of them in the first place.

Additional Features:
Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair is full of Achievements to earn; you get one for saving certain amount of bees and finding certain secrets but also for finding all the T.W.I.T. coins and, of course, there’s one for beating the Impossible Lair without any bees…so I won’t be getting that one any time soon.The Tonics can help to spice up the game and add some replayability to the stages; you can alter the art style and colour scheme to resemble the Nintendo 64 or the Game Boy, slow down time, and alter other elements to increase (or decrease) your chances to somewhat customise the difficulty of the stages. There is also some downloadable content on offer for the game but it mostly boils down to more Tonics at this point rather than adding new game modes or levels to extend the game’s story and playtime.


The Summary:
I really like the Yooka-Laylee series; I feel it’s a great spiritual successor to the Banjo-Kazooie and Donkey Kong Country series at a time when Microsoft seems perfectly happy to let the bear-and-bird disappear into obscurity. Both games have their flaws, of course; being independently created, largely crowdfunded videogames will do that so some compromises are expected but none of that changes the fact that this series is keeping alive a gameplay style that seems to be dying out these days. Unfortunately, for everything that is good about this game, it is let down by the titular Impossible Lair. I have no problem with testing my skills and being faced with a challenge but the Impossible Lair is such a kick in the ass that it sucks all the fun and enjoyment out of the game’s biggest selling point. This almost makes all of the previous stages and achievements you’ve accomplished redundant; you can’t use any of the Tonics, you can’t collect or replenish the bees once you take a hit, and it’s so easy to slip up and drain all of your bees that, generally, it’s easier to simply quit out and try again than reach Capital B without enough of the Beettalion to make it worth pushing forward. It’s not that the game isn’t fun and there aren’t things to like about it; the graphics and music and controls are, generally, top notch and the game is full of the quirky charm the Banjo-Kazooie series was famous for. But the Impossible Lair lives up to its name maybe too much; I feel the developers were maybe being a bit too clever in piling on the difficulty and precision platforming for this stage and it makes the game more of a chore to get through in its final stages rather than being a fun experience from start to finish.

My Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Pretty Good

What did you think of Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair? Are you a fan of these characters and their games? Did you have any problems with the Impossible Lair or were you able to beat it without too much difficulty? Which of Rare’s platformers was your favourite back in the day? Would you like to see Banjo and Kazooie get another shot, perhaps even alongside Yooka and Laylee? Whatever you think about the Yooka-Laylee games, feel free to leave a comment below.

Game Corner: Yooka-Laylee (Xbox One)


How powerful is nostalgia? That is the question Yooka-Laylee (Playtonic Games/Team17, 2017) poses. The spiritual successor to one of the greatest 3D platrformers/collect-a-thons ever, and one of my personal favourite videogames, Banjo-Kazooie (Rare, 1998), Yooka-Laylee once again throws players into a vibrant world full of colourful, squawking characters but, released some twenty years after Banjo’s heyday, is it enough to satisfy modern gamers? Obviously, this is a question many have debated and answered long before I got around to playing Yooka-Laylee and, if you listen to those opinions, you’ll largely hear a sense of apathy, disappointment, and frustrating with some of Yooka-Laylee’s design choices and gameplay mechanics. It amuses me, however, to imagine the same people who criticised Yooka-Laylee’s gameplay are probably some of the same people who were disappointed that Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts (ibid, 2008) was just a kart-constructor and not a fully-fledged 3D platformer. But then, as I’ve always said, you can’t please everyone. Luckily, my needs are far simpler: all I wanted was a throwback to all the things I loved about the Banjo games on modern consoles and, in that sense, Yooka-Laylee delivered.

Yooka and Laylee must search high and low for their missing Pagies.

Rather than the classic bird and bird duo of yesteryear, Yooka-Laylee sees players taking control of the titular Yooka (a green lizard capable of rolling, attacking with his tail, and spitting fire, ice, and grenades) and Laylee (a purple bat who allows a degree of flight and whose sonar highlights secrets and acts as a protective shield) who must fight against the minions of the nefarious Capital B, who plans to use a magical book to take control of the world. Yooka and Laylee happen to be in possession of the book and, when its pages are scattered across various worlds, they take it upon themselves to journey far and wide to collect the missing Pagies and put an end to Capital B’s plans. The world of Yooka-Laylee is both familiar and new; boosted by the power of modern consoles, Yooka and Laylee are able to traverse diverse worlds that are tall, deep, and wide, with numerous side quests, hidden treasures, and additional content that keeps them busy. Worlds are accessed from the game’s central hub, Hivory Towers: Yooka and Laylee can jump into Grand Tomes and enter any of the game’s five worlds, each with a familiar theme (ice, space, casino, etc).

Yooka-Laylee‘s worlds have many hidden secrets.

Once they have collected a certain number of Pagies, players have the option of using some of their Pagies to expand each world, opening up new areas and, in some cases, adding entirely new sections to existing worlds where more collectables can be found. In order to reach Capital B, players have to collect a set number of Pagies but, in order to complete the game fully, players must find all 145 Pagies, each of which is protected by either a boss battle, a puzzle of some sorts, mandatory on-rails kart sections, races, and retro-style arcade games. Players can also find and collect various other objects; Quills can be collected to purchase new moves from Trowzer, a shady sales-snake (and finding all 1010 is necessary to obtaining every Pagie), Power Extenders extend your power meter and allow you to use the duos abilities for longer, butterflies can be eaten to restore health and your power meter and there are Health Extenders to get an extra hit point, and five hidden pieces of pirate treasure are also hidden within each world.

You can purchase new moves and abilities.

To assist with their exploring and collecting, players can access a wide variety of moves upon their purchase. Eventually, players will be able to fly, turn invisible, absorb the properties of beehives to access new areas (eating fire-flies to light dark areas, for example), and even encase themselves in a bubble to walk underwater. Completing certain objective will also allow players to assign one of Vendi’s tonics, which all grant the duo certain buffs (such as an extra hit point, a faster regenerating power meter, or removing damage from falls).

A variety of wacky transformations are at your disposal.

Furthermore, Dr. Puzz can be found in each world and will transform Yooka and Laylee into a variety of other forms, similar to Mumbo-Jumbo in Banjo-Kazooie. Players can become a plant, a snowplough, a helicopter, a swarm of piranha, and an adorable little pirate ship; each transformation allows players to solve puzzles and earn new Pagies as well as access other areas of their respective world. Yooka and Laylee also have to contend with a boss battle in each world, each more ridiculous than the last (they range from a giant ice block and a lovesick, anthropomorphic asteroid). While most of these aren’t particularly difficult and can be bested with a combination of skill, memorisation, and having enough health and power, some can be quite tricky and frustrating, with the final boss battle in particular proving quite the headache. Similar to the final confrontations with Gruntilda in the Banjo games, Capital B takes numerous forms and requires the uses of all of Yooka and Laylee’s skills to win the day.

Even Shovel Knight shows up. How indy is that!?

One of the criticisms I heard about this game long before finally getting it was that the worlds are perhaps too large and too sparsely populated and, in truth, it feels like there could have been ten very distinct worlds instead of five that are extended further and basically force the player to remain in each one for extended periods of time with little reprieve. However, each world is alive with gorgeous, colourful characters and locations; they stretch far up, deep down, and right across and each one has so much to see, do, and explore. The downside to this is that there is so much ground to cover and so many areas and sub areas in each world that it can be difficult to know where to go, where things are, and how to proceed. This is a good thing, in that the game doesn’t hand-hold the player, but it does make finding the game’s many collectables (especially those damn Quills) very difficult and frustrating, especially when you have searched every square inch numerous times. However, each world has a lot packed into it and their own unique theme; players will find themselves completing a variety of mini games in capital Cashino, for instance, in exchange for coins that can be further exchanged for Pagies but, in Moodymaze Marsh, have to traverse a murky swamp filled with spiked plants.

Seriously, screw this guy and his damn kart sections!

Playing Yooka-Laylee is, mostly, a breeze; Pagies can be found and collected without too much difficulty but, if you want to get everything in the game, you’re going to have to endure some frustrating sections. Kartos, the anthropomorphic kart, can be found in each world and beating one of his increasingly-difficult on-rails kart sections is mandatory for earning all Pagies. Similarly, Rextro the Dinosaur’s arcade-style mini games must be beaten twice to earn two Pagies; these are nice, fun distractions but can be annoying to have to play due to the controls, janky hit boxes, and equally-janky controls. It’s nothing you can’t get through with time and patience, though, and adds some variety, if nothing else.

There’s lots to see, do, and collect. What more could you want?

Honestly, it annoys me that Yooka-Laylee wasn’t more praised upon its release. Sure, there could be a lot more available in the game, but for a crowd-funded, independently-produced title, it has a lot going for it and is more than a worthy successor to Banjo-Kazooie. I would love to see the Platronics guys get folded back in to Rare and a true Banjo-Kazooie sequel be produced but, until then, Yooka-Laylee scratches that particular itch quite nicely with its large worlds, gorgeous visuals, fun gameplay, biting wit, and some brilliant new tunes from Grant Kirkhope. In the end, nostalgia was powerful indeed, certainly enough for me to have a great time with this fun little throwback to an era sadly neglected in modern day videogames.

My Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Great Stuff

Game Corner: Banjo-Tooie (Xbox One)


To reach Gruntilda, Banjo and Kazooie had to traverse a variety of worlds and collect a multitude of items, the most important of which were Jiggies – which were required to access new worlds and climb higher up Gruntilda’s castle. The game was a huge success for Rare, heralding a number of successes for the company on the Nintendo 64, and has been a personal favourite of mine for nearly a decade now for its charming aesthetics, catching music, amusing characters, and vibrant worlds.

One of gaming’s most unique duos.

Back in 1998, Rare developed an incredibly intricate and amusing platform videogame called Banjo-Kazooie. The game starred a slightly slow, but very helpful, honey bear named Banjo, who first featured in Diddy Kong Racing in 1997. Banjo, humorously garbed in bright yellow short-shorts, carried around his friend and counterpart – a Breegull named Kazooie – in a blue back-pack. Together, the two were tasked with rescuing Banjo’s kid sister, Tooty, from the evil witch Gruntilda, aided along the way by Bottles, a short-sighted mole who teaches the two their attacks and abilities, and Mumbo-Jumbo, a shaman who transforms the duo into other forms to aid their quest. In 2000, Rare finally produced a sequel, Banjo-Tooie, which was released near the end of the Nintendo 64’s lifespan and has consequently become one of the rarest and most expensive videogames around, even when bought unboxed. As a result, obtaining a copy has been a goal of mine for years, ever since I briefly played it in 2001, and in 2013 I was finally able to procure a copy and play the game through to completion. Of course, since then, the title (alongside the original and many of Rare’s top titles from the area, before, and beyond) was given a high-definition remaster that I later picked up as part of Rare Replay for Xbox One.

Grunty is back and out for revenge!

Banjo-Tooie picks up two years after Gruntilda’s defeat. Trapped underneath a giant boulder, she summons her sisters, Mingella and Blobbbelda, to free her so she can avenge her defeat. Now little more than a skeleton, she destroys Banjo’s house, killing Bottles, and prepares a special ray gun that will suck the life out of the planet and restore her physical form. Eager for another adventure and desiring revenge for he death of Bottles, Banjo and Kazooie head out to travel new worlds and put the witch to rest once and more all. The first thing to note about Banjo-Tooie is how much bigger it is than its predecessor. Not only can players run around Spiral Mountain (the tutorial area from the first game) and re-enter the mouth of Gruntilda’s Castle, the player can explore and travel through an all-new overworld that is intricately connected to the playable levels in the game. For instance, rather than opening up worlds to enter in a central hub as in the previous game, the players go from one hub to the next following the path of Gruntilda’s digging machine through a huge overworld. Whilst exploring each level, the player can open up shortcuts to other levels, the most obvious being Chuffy the Train, but other sluiceways, tunnels, and paths also exist which connect one world to the next and allow players to traverse what now feels like an entire world rather than an enclosed space.

Jamjars has some new moves to teach Banjo and Kazooie.

The main aim of the game is still to collect loads of items, but the actual task is much less tedious. Previously, the player was awarded for collecting each world’s 100 musical notes, but the number you collected reset every time you left a world and re-entered it. Now, the number carries over, and they are a lot easier to find and collect. Jiggies, however, are found in a multitude of ways, as before, with each world now being home to a formidable boss battle which will test Banjo and Kazooie’s new skills. Speaking of which, Bottles’ brother, Jamjars, is on hand to teach the duo additional moves. While Banjo and Kazooie are capable of every move from the last game bar one (Banjo’s bear swipes are absent), Jamjars loads the player up with a variety of new eggs to shoot at enemies (which becomes a focal point in the game during its many first-person-shooter sequences), the ever-handy Grip Grab that allows Banjo to hang on to ledges, and the ability to have Banjo and Kazooie separate from each other to tackle switch-based puzzles. Mumbo now becomes a secondary character, as players use his magic to access unreachable areas and acquire Jiggies, while Humba Wumba’s spells are used to turn the duo into new forms, which are new required for a multitude of Jiggy-based tasks and even to conquer certain bosses.

Banjo-Tooie has many secrets and collectables.

One of the greatest things about Banjo-Kazooie was its many secrets, most of which were meant to be accessed in Banjo-Tooie through a unique “Stop and Swap” feature that, theoretically, would have seen players swap one cart for another to unlock new content. Though this feature was eventually dropped, the ever-mysterious Ice Key and Secret Eggs return in this game, now used to unlock new moves and the awesome Dragon Kazooie, though the full extent of this feature would not be made accessible until the Xbox 360 HD remixes. Banjo-Tooie also features a multiplayer mode, allowing for up to four players to take part in Goldeneye 007-like deathmatches and other modes that, honestly, I haven’t played but I imagine are similar to the same multiplayer modes seen in Conker’s Bad Fur Day. Like The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask, Banjo-Tooie features many recycled characters and character models, as characters encountered in the previous game return to aid or hinder the duo at various points.

It’s all about the story…except when it’s not…

In the end, playing Banjo-Tooie was an awesome experience, but a couple of things let it down for me. Firstly, why remove Banjo’s bear swipes? This seems like a nit-pick, but I expected Banjo to have the attack when he goes solo and he never acquires it, meaning that he is limited to his Pack Whack move. Second, when you acquire a Jiggy, Banjo and Kazooie no longer go into a cute little celebration animation; the Jiggy is simply collected and you move on. While I don’t necessarily mind this, as the lack of the celebration means you don’t get any wasted momentum, it kind of makes acquiring Jiggies mean a lot less as the characters no longer seem to care. Next, the game takes a long time to get started – the opening cutscene is quite long and, at various points at the game’s beginning, the action cuts to a cutscene that shows Gruntilda’s plan in motion. Then you never hear anything of her plot until the final boss, which is pretty jarring – Gruntilda uses her restoration ray once and you never hear anything of it again, so the threat seems diminished and an afterthought by the conclusion. You also never confront her two sisters, which seemed a given, though the addition of a boss for each level kind of made up for that.

There’s a bunch of new transformations to play around with.

Certain other aspects are a bit tedious as well; before, when you tried to exit a level as a transformed Banjo and Kazooie, Mumbo’s magic would automatically wear off. Here though, you must return to Wumba to transform back into the duo to exit – similarly, Mumbo and either character alone cannot exit levels and must switch back to do so, which can get a bit tedious. There’s a ton of backtracking in this game, which can be frustrating but it’s great to see how characters and events in one level can affect and influence the other, so I didn’t mind this too much and it didn’t really feel like it was padding the game out, more that the world was big and interconnected, so backtracking is more like a given. Also, in comparison to the first game, the ending felt a little limp and the overall game time seemed less – I finished the entire game in just under 25 hours, whereas I remember working on Banjo-Kazooie for a long time, but that may have just been rooting around for more secrets and such.

My Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Great Stuff

In the end, the game is a masterful example of how to make a great action/platform title – colourful worlds, great music, amusing characters, loads (and loads) to do, see, and collect, great controls (flying and swimming can be a bit testy, as before, however), and a pretty simple premise. Games like this aren’t really made much anymore – once you beat videogames these days, there’s not much incentive to pick up and play again, but in the Banjo titles there’s always more to do. As the Nintendo 64 copy is quite expensive, I recommended Xbox owners download both titles (or purchase Rare Replay) and play them to death and think themselves lucky to be able to experience the full games.