Developer: Rare Ltd.
Release Date: September 10, 2003
Buy 'BANJO-KAZOOIE: Grunty's Revenge': Game Boy Advance
In another case of who-cares-irony, the first title released by the newly purchased development team known as Rare Ltd. is not a game for its parent company but rather a GBA game based on an existing Nintendo-licensed property. Microsoft may have anted up hundreds of millions of dollars to purchase the majority of Rare’s stocks, but even the top brass of the multi-billion dollar Microsoft corporation know that games released on a competing system can still result in a pretty penny. And so goes Banjo-Kazooie: Grunty’s Revenge, with its familiar formula of pretty visuals and an unhealthy fascination with item collecting, Banjo and company are back in a very small way.
Taking place directly after the events of the first Banjo-Kazooie title for the N64, Grunty’s Revenge begins after the clever duo leaves the evil Gruntilda for dead under an impossibly huge boulder. Little did they know that an inventor named Klungo transferred Gruntilda’s spirit into one of his devious robot inventions. So now that we’ve established that the global threat known as Gruntilda is still alive and kicking, it should also be noted that she has devised a new plan to, yep, you guessed it, take over the world. Surprise, surprise. Her secret weapon: time travel. Grunty plans to go back in time before Banjo and Kazooie ever met and put an end to the crime-fighting couple once and for all. Luckily, the helpful witch doctor, Mumbo Jumbo, will be on hand to help the pair thwart Grunty’s plan. Since the action takes place in the past you’ll meet up with a slew of characters from the N64 games in their younger form, most of which will be just as useful as they were in the future.
For those too old or young to be familiar with Rare’s original Banjo-Kazooie adventures on the Nintendo 64, let me break it down for you, dig: Banjo is the bear and Kazooie is the bird that rides on his back, together they form an unstoppable team, far more powerful than the sum of their respective parts. When combined, this pair is capable of stunning feats and a large assortment of moves. But as it turns out you’ll start the game playing only as Banjo, pre-Kazooie. Meaning you’ll initially only be able to perform rudimentary maneuvers such as walking, jumping, crouching, and a backpack attack. As Banjo collects musical notes, new moves can be acquired by visiting Bozzeye the mole. But even then his repertoire is rather lacking with only three special abilities: a tackle attack, the ability to climb ladders, and the ability to swim. Once Kazooie is back in the picture, however, seven additional moves will be added to his roster of abilities. Including short distance flying, high jumps, a beak attack, short bursts of invincibility, egg shooting, and a devastating pile-driver move that can open up new areas. Once Kazooie is on hand you can also switch between characters, playing off each others strengths, such as the ability to climb slippery inclines with Kazooie toting Banjo along.
Like the previous N64 games, Banjo can be transformed into a variety of forms in order to overcome obstacles. Mumbo Jumbo can turn Banjo into a squid, candle, mouse, or tank. While in tank form Banjo is nearly invincible against foes and forbidding steel doors, but should he fall into water, frustration will surely ensue. The mouse form is perfect for entering small passageways that Banjo could otherwise not penetrate, etc. While these different forms do add considerably to the variety and diversity of the proceedings, it’s also hard to overlook the fact that they are only applicable in very specific areas.
Banjo-Kazooie: Grunty’s Revenge is essentially just an easy-going, simplistically linear adventure full of humorous anecdotes and likeable characters. Not much to really harp on. Though there are a few things that definitely could have been better, such as the game’s over-emphasis on item-collecting. There are over 750 different items to get your mitts on in Grunty’s Revenge, and while it isn’t required that you catch’em all it still goes without saying that fetch quests of these proportions get repetitive very quickly. The overall length of the game is also questionable. Clocking in at right around three hours, most players will find that they hit the end credits a few hours too soon. The additional mini-games that are interspersed throughout the adventure are pretty entertaining, though short-lived and offering no multiplayer functionality. But overall it’s hard to make too many complaints about a game that is as fun as this.
From a visual standpoint, Grunty’s Revenge recreates the classic Banjo-Kazooie graphical style admirably, albeit from a decidedly distinct 2D perspective. While the action doesn’t take place from a traditional platforming isometric vantage point, the environments are nonetheless flat and lack a real sense of depth that was found in the true 3D titles. The environments are suitably detailed, featuring plenty of random eye-candy and distinguishing marks that make backtracking mercifully simple. For a GBA game, Grunty’s Revenge sports tons of smooth animation, emulating the 64-bit games nicely. Considering that every move in the game had to be rendered from at least four different directions, it’s really quite impressive how much information Rare was able to squeeze into the diminutive cartridge.
The sound in Grunty’s Revenge ekes even closer to realizing the same quality that was found in the N64 games. The soundtrack is constantly catchy and full of likeable ditties and the garbled voices of each character whenever dialogue ensues is embarrassingly cute. Whether you’ll enjoy Banjo’s eclectic style of music and cutesy character voices, though, is another bucket of chicken altogether, it is certainly an acquired taste that not everybody will appreciate from the onset.
If you enjoyed the Banjo-Kazooie games on the N64 and would love to relive much of the same joys found in those games but on the go, then by all means pick up Banjo-Kazooie: Grunty’s Revenge. If, however, you’ve collected one too many items in your illustrious gaming career and don’t feel comfortable forking over your hard earned dollars for a game that is over in three hours and features no multiplayer connectivity, then you may want to look elsewhere. Regardless, for the short time that it lasts, Grunty’s Revenge is an enjoyable experience.