Rare Review: Banjo-Tooie

This area visualises how many jinjos you have collected, but there’s no reason to visit.

Banjo-Tooie is much bigger than Banjo-Kazooie, with vast, interconnected levels, more variety in terms of minigames, new transformations and worlds with some more amazing music from Grant Kirkhope. But is it a better game?

For me personally? No. I still love Banjo-Tooie, and I think it’s an amazing game, but I play Banjo-Kazooie every year, while I only follow up with Banjo-Tooie every now and then, and even then I don’t go for 100% completion. So why is this? Like my Banjo-Kazooie review, I’ll go through level by level.

First of all, starting off at Spiral Mountain, you expect something to happen to explain Banjo and Kazooie’s moves from the first game to be reset. Except it doesn’t, you have access to all the abilities, which are quickly introduced in the starting area. It’s a great feeling starting off with everything, and has you wondering how they’ll even manage to introduce more stuff with the limited buttons on the N64 controller – but they manage it wonderfully.

The overworld is now a vast network of connected areas, with silos added for fast travel. The first few areas are mostly empty, introducing characters and the Jinjos. Jinjo’s are still found in levels, but you get awarded Jiggies for completing families of different colours. On top of this, Minjo’s are also introduced, which look exactly like Jinjos but attack you when you get close.

Mayahem Temple probably feels the closest to a Banjo-Kazooie level, but also shows the main issue with Banjo-Tooie: the levels just feel needlessly large. You could make Mayahem Temple half the size and it would be a lot more fun. To aid travelling, warps are added, which just makes the worlds feel emptier (although later levels do use them in interesting ways). Notes are also now in bundles of 5 and 20, so there are far less to collect, which makes the levels feel even emptier.

In the world you’ll find Mumbo’s Hut. The design of it in this game matches the rest: needlessly large. It’s two stories high for no good reason, and you’ll have to walk up and down the ramp countless times throughout the game. Mumbo does not transform Banjo in this game, instead you get to control Mumbo and cast magic on specific tiles.

Transformations are still in the game, this time performed by newcomer Humba Wumba. A lot of the transformations are fun, but both the transformation and Mumbo have similar problems: they’re used in every level. In some levels, you’ll just be opening doors, and it just takes up time instead of being a challenge, puzzle or anything. The transformations were wonderful in the first game because they felt special, due to not being a requirement in every level.

Also introduced in Mayahem Temple are the first person shooter sections. I quite enjoy these, even though the controls don’t feel that great. Using Kazooie as a gun to fire eggs is a natural extension for Banjo and Kazooie, and it is used sparingly throughout the game instead of being forced in all levels.

Next up is Glitter Gulch Mine, a level that is very easy to get lost in. This is where the game will start teasing you more about jiggies you can’t collect yet. While most levels in Banjo-Kazooie can be completed the first time you enter it, a lot of Jiggies in Banjo-Tooie require later levels, or for you to perform actions in other levels. This does make all the worlds feel collennedted, but I personally dislike the amount of backtracking back and forth this requires. That said, there’s something charming about Glitter Gulch Mine.

Witchyworld is next up, a theme park world. Both the transformation and Mumbo in this level are essentially unlocking doors, and one frustrating thing is that there are some multi-part tasks which can only be partly completed at this point. The theme of the level is very nice, so it’s a shame a lot of the tasks are minigames.

Then the dreaded water level – Jolly Roger’s Lagoon. Except I actually really like this level. The swimming controls are really nice (especially if you’ve found the upgrade) and the water gets oxygenated, so there’s no running out of air. The submarine is also a ton of fun to use, firing torpedoes at everything. It’s a really fun level overall.

Then we have dinosaurs with Terrydactyland. The use of Humba and Mumbo is great, as Mumbo can resize things, including Humba’s wigwam, meaning you essentially have two transformations: a baby T-Rex and a daddy T-Rex. It’s an awesome feeling. The level itself could be more condensed, but is overall pretty good.

Grunty Industries. If you’ve played the game, you will sense the hate in those words. It has some clever ideas, utilising warp pads well, but is difficult to navigate and find your way around. I really like how you initially can’t enter the main building, and that you have to activate a train switch so you can reach the inside from another level, but when you mix the complexity of the level, the drab design and some annoying enemies, you get a frustrating level. I think with different enemies, and a more colorful design, it could work much better.

Most platformers have fire and ice levels, here they are combined with Hailfire Peaks. They mostly feel like two separate levels, both of a better (smaller) size than the other full levels, which I love a lot. The hand enemies are very annoying though, and don’t do much other than slow you down or knock you off ledges if you’re unlucky.

The final level is Cloud Cuckooland, a fun land in the clouds. It’s divided into lots of sections and is a lot of fun, with an amusing boss battle. It does have an almost impossible Jiggy in the form of Canary Mary, and I simply can’t do it without a turbo controller.

The core gameplay in Banjo-Tooie is still a ton of fun, and it’s still a joy to play. My main issue with Banjo-Tooie is the amount of walking back and forth, combined with how long it takes to get anywhere due to the size of the levels. Despite this, it’s worth it to get through these sections to get to the fun gameplay in between.

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