Rare Review: Banjo-Kazooie: Grunty’s Revenge

Screenshots don’t do this game justice, it looks amazing in motion

The criminally overlooked Banjo game – even by myself. Banjo-Kazooie and Banjo-Tooie are loved by many, Nuts & Bolts get unfair hate (it’s a brilliant game) but at least it gets some attention. Banjo’s outing on the Game Boy Advance however, barely gets mentioned, and I didn’t even properly play it until now.

Turning a Banjo-Kazooie game into a GBA game sounds like a daunting task to me. The obvious route would be 2D, but I don’t think that would capture the spirit of the game. Instead, Rare went for an isometric-like viewpoint (it’s more head on, so you’re not mainly walking diagonally), and somehow managed to squeeze the feeling of a Banjo game into the tiny GBA.

Most impressive is Banjo and Kazooie’s moveset. Most of the moves from the first game are here and work really well with the limited buttons on the GBA. Firing eggs has been changed drastically, as Banjo now holds Kazooie like a gun (like the first person segments of Banjo-Tooie), allowing you to move around a bit more freely to line up shots, which works really well. You also get access to different egg types like electric, fire and ice.

The gold feathers and red feathers suffer the worst fate. Gold feathers are now only activated from a pad, so are only utilised a few times, while flying is not in the game at all. However, I can see how flying in this would be a nightmare so it’s understandable. Even with these, moving around really does capture the feel of Banjo-Kazooie perfectly.

There is one main flaw with the viewpoint: sometimes it’s difficult to judge where a platform is, as you can’t tell how high it is. One thing that does help is that Banjo’s shadow is visible to help you aim, but you’ll still mess up a fair few times. Grunty’s Revenge is more lenient with lives as it has none, instead allowing you to continue from your last “door”, having saved everything you have collected. This alleviates the unfairness of jumping on platforms as it means it never takes long to try again.

The graphics look lovely on the GBA, it gives the game a 3D feel despite being in 2D, which makes Banjo and Kazooie look more natural and like their N64 versions. Each level is accompanied by catchy music with 10 jiggies to find (one of them being finding all 5 jinjos) with a wide manner of ways to find or earn them. Each level does have a minigame which consists of a fishing game, a shooting game, a slide or a sort of dodgems game. These are easily the weakest parts of the game as the minigames are not fun (the shooting is fine).

Each world can be completed the first time you go through it, with the exception of the swamp level, which needs a later transformation for one jiggy. Transformations also return, with Mumbo providing them. They work slightly differently here: once you have unlocked a transformation, you can then use it in any level. This gives them a bit more time to shine, and it’s usually clear as you explore levels as to which ones you’ll need. They’re all adorable, especially mouse Banjo.

Grunty’s Revenge is a short game, taking between 4-5 hours, but for the most part it’s an incredibly fun experience that captures the feeling of the N64 Banjo games extremely well.

All Rare Replay reviews (Note: this is not part of Rare Replay, but I am including all my Rare reviews here).

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