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Banjo-Kazooie: Grunty's Revenge review
by Uneducated_Reviews

Banjo-Kazooie was a game my friends of middle school liked a lot, me too, however, as every time I had the opportunity to play it, it was a sour experience since it was always borrowed or rented. When Banjo-Tooie came out I was super on board and bought it day one, played it a ton of hours straight for that weekend, and was excited to discuss it with my friends, none of them bought it, neither were interested in doing so, let alone hear me talk about it. Still, I played the hell out of it, and given its multiplayer modes, for a long time, it was the Smash Bros. and Mario Kart of our household. Some years passed and Grunty's Revenge came out, by this time I didn't have a GBA nor the inclination to play a cartoony game for kids, or that was my angsty-edgy teenage self thought at the time. Some more years have passed since then and now I have the cartridge, a GBA, less time, but the itch to play some good ol’ Banjo and revive the memories of yore and to see once and for all what I was missing.

For starters, Grunty’s Revenge is the third installment of the Banjo-Kazooie games from the Nintendo era, however, chronologically speaking it serves as some sort of bridge between the two Nintendo 64 games. The story takes place right after the events of Banjo-Kazooie, Gruntilda (the main antagonist) takes Kazooie and then goes to the past to prevent the events that transpire in the first game, Banjo on the other hand goes to her rescue and that’s the basic premise. In theory, the story sounds great, with the potential of having some sort of Back To The Future moments, though, that was ultimately far from the truth. Aside from some cameos from the other two games, the story unfolds mostly in an uninteresting way, rendering the time travel mostly inexistent, I didn't remember that I was in the past till the end and given that the duration of the game was around 4 hours, that says a lot. In the past games (if I remember correctly) the characters and especially the interactions between Banjo and mostly Kazooie were so fun to read, but here they're pretty dry, Kazzoie sometimes does her thing and throw some sassy comments here and there, one of them even got me to chuckle, but they're not nearly enough to give the story some meat.

That aside, one doesn’t exactly play a Banjo game for its storytelling, so how its game-play fares? For the most part, it’s decent. Banjo moves in 6 directions which feel good mostly, and it kind of replicate a similar feeling while moving on the 3D games, that I think it's pretty commendable, however moving diagonally doesn’t feel as comfortable, given that you’re using a D-Pad to move around, this is more pronounced on the platforming segments, which aren’t that many but if you want to go the 100% route you will have trouble with a few gaps that require precise movement and exact jumps that are more troublesome than challenging as they kind of have severe punishments as falling from a cliff just to climb it over and over. This is hardly new to the series because platforming and climbing vertical levels are one of the strong points of the franchise, yet navigating on Grunty’s Revenge can be an annoyance.

This navigation leads us to one of the level's main problems: its overhead view. Grunty's Revenge is a 2D game with 3D pre-rendered graphics that simulate a 3D environment, the problem with this is that some stylistic choices of the level design don't work that well. Some gaps would appear nearer or farther than they are, this translates to invisible walls that often lead you to fall from places and poor exploration, it is not the greatest problem but it will persist till the very end of the game. The level design starts good, but by each level is unlocked it feels more similar to the last one, I can't pinpoint exactly what it is but they felt repetitive and uninspired, the pre-rendered look doesn't help at all as its looks didn't age that well, the two Nintendo 64 games stand out of how creative and colorful their worlds were, and I get that they were designed on a superior hardware but it is more a problem of art direction rather than power.

Grunty's Revenge has a similar structure to the past two games, you need to collect different items such as musical notes to unlock movements, skulls to get transformed into a new form, puzzle pieces called Jiggies to advance to newer worlds, and Jinjos to collect more Jiggies. The first two worlds were somewhat fun, they represent also the easiest challenges and puzzles of the game but you'll be entertained nonetheless, however, as you advance to the next levels the difficulty starts to increase, not with fun challenges but with annoying inflated mechanics as hazardous environments, invincible enemies and repetitive minigames. Most of the Jiggies you'll unlock fall in a similar pattern, so you'll have a sensation of Deja Vu for most of the time, in one level you'll be doing a fishing minigame while in the next you'll be doing the same but with different background and tweaked speed, that kind of repetition.

A great thing about Rare games was their backtracking, they often put things at the beginning of each level to tease you with an unreachable area or item just to get back after some time when you have more power-ups. This doesn't happen that much here, as you'll get most of the collectibles the first time you enter a new level, just to get back an hour later for the 1 Jiggie that you couldn't reach and that's it. This is more pronounced when transforming into other animals, aside from the rat form, you won't be doing that much with the other 3 forms. This kind of repetition is also visible in boss fights since they're mostly the same, although the final fight can be more than a challenge.

The music is great tho', I'm not entirely sure if they're arrangements from other Banjo songs as they sound quite familiar, but anyhow the soundtrack is pretty enjoyable, a lot of the sounds like voices and grunts are recycled from the main games but that is not a bad thing, I particularly love the grunt enemies do when they're beaten, it simply sounds so fun.

There are only 60 Jiggies in total and only 50 are required to enter the final boss fight, so it's easy to get a 100% completion if you're into that sort of thing. It seems that it has several endings depending on your completion time, deaths, and the number of collected items, given that is a short game I imagine that someone could play it a lot of times to watch those endings, it isn't that fun to play but it isn't also that terrible so I think that some people may do that just fine. Banjo-Kazooie: Grunty's Revenge didn't fill my itch for remembering the old Banjo games, as it has a lot of flaws and it wasn't that fun. However it does have some kind of historic value and in one way or another, it is commendable for a few choices, even when they needed to be more polished. In the end, it is what they're trying to sell: a portable version of a Collect-a-thon game, there are not a ton of things to collect but it sure is portable. Grunty's Revenge is not nearly as fun as its big brothers so it is hard to recommend, as it is mostly mediocre in every aspect, but for casual thoughtless playing, I think it works just fine.
«Game over at last!»