Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Banjo-Kazooie Nuts & Bolts Demo Impressions

Talk about neglect.

Finally got to play the Banjo-Kazooie N&B demo today, and I just couldn't really get into it.

Showdown Town still had platforming objectives, but I felt like my ability to navigate the world on foot had been severely hampered, and I wasn't able to simply jump my way up buildings. Instead I had to climb up a pole and walk across a tight rope using what felt like a balancing mini-game.

It felt like an artificial means of progression in lieu of just having fun jumping around the world to explore it. I don't understand why I have a much more limited move set than previous titles.

It's seems like Rare is afraid of people not utilizing the vehicles so they didn't give them any platforming utility. But the vehicles just aren't as adept at moving through the world to collect things. Missing a note in a vehicle is rare but can completely break the players pace. They can't simply run right back at it after passing it by, instead they have to make a U-Turn, realign, and then continue on with whatever it was they were doing.

Vehicles end up feeling like arbitrary ways to make the missions more complicated than they really are. Banjo games always had unique missions, but now they seem like very boring, standard, and repetitive concepts like racing and pushing an object from point "X" to point "Y" that are dressed up to seem unique. Making things worse is that the missions felt separated from the actual world. Having to be pulled out of exploring the level to begin a mission ends up creating a divide, and the missions end up feeling like they were deliberately placed around the world rather than being a part of it.

The levels themselves are far too open for players to genuinely explore. One of the things that sort of stands out to me as proof of this is the mini-map displaying where missions are, and huge holograms of essential characters. This removes a sense of "what am I going to find in this section of the world" as well as making the game more about meeting silly time limits (a mistake in a game that's at its best when players are meandering about in a relaxed state) than needing to explore the level on your own terms.

When I first teleported into Banjoland I didn't know what to do, even after five minutes of messing around; and that's never a good position for the player to be in. Because the levels are designed around these big race and collecting missions the player isn't funneled as well between each new objective, and it's really a shame. I don't think the new direction particularly works well, especially considering that Rare isn't stepping up to the plate with the best vehicle mechanics by any means. Creating vehicles and taking them out into the world is interesting, but if what I'm doing with them isn't enjoyable than it isn't really worthwhile.

I don't think the game is bad, but it isn't particularly fun, and it's unfortunate that Rare's ideas don't seem to work as well as the design document.

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