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Joystiq E3 hands-on: Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts

Justin McElroy

I'm no great fan of Banjo-Kazooie. In fact, if memory serves, I once stated on the Joystiq Podcast that a bear who had a bird in his backpack is the single dumbest idea for a game in history. So it was no small amount of dread that I sidled up to Banjoe-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts last night at a Microsoft party.

As a game, I still don't feel like I get BK:NaB. In the sliver I was playing I got a sense that I needed to win some races to collect some puzzle pieces, and that frankly wasn't enough to inspire me to keep playing.

Sure, it looked really gorgeous, with zero pop-in and tons of color, a welcome respite from a lot of the grays and browns I'd been seeing during the week. Controls were pretty solid too. Some of the vehicles were disorienting at first, but they didn't take too long to get a hold of.

Regardless, it could have been the result of the selection I was playing or how much time I could spend with it, but I was bored and almost ready to pack it in, secure in the knowledge that my preconceptions were once again on the money.

But then I tried the vehicle editor.

Gallery: Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts

Well, I and X3F's Richard Mitchell tried it out, and then, almost at the same time, I'd wager, we fell and fell hard.

It happened like this: We hopped into the garage and started tearing apart the Rare-provided ride, stripping it down to its base components. We then souped it up, strapping on four jets and retractable wings on each side.

Modding vehicles may look daunting at first, but it's actually surprisingly intuitive. If you can attach a piece to the spot you have it, it turns green. If it won't, it turns red. Simple. Each vehicle has a few layers you can cycle through before you use the control stick and d-pad to adjust the alignment of the specific part.

We saw dozens of add ons, from light and heavy propulsion (like jets) to wings and wheels and some specific gadgets like a spring that launches you into the air. Once you're back in the game, the gadgets get automatically mapped to the face buttons.

It's such a pleasure that even when your vehicle doesn't work out thank to the surprisingly realistic physics, it's no chore to give it another try.

Once we had outfitted out jet-powered fly car we took it out for a spin. Richard rocketed off a ramp with his jets and, moments before he crashed into the ground, extended his wings which sent him soaring towards the room's ceiling. It was in that moment that the real draw of the game became completely apparent.

For the next half hour I played with our rocket car, with each crazy build providing a completely different feel and, more often than not, a lot of fun.

So no, I still don't know if Nuts and Bolts will be a good game. But what I can say pretty authoritatively? As a toy it's already brilliant.

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