Banjo-Kazooie: Grunty's Revenge (Game Boy Advance) Review

By Adam Riley 09.11.2003

Other than GoldenEye, the Banjo series is probably one of Rare’s most recognisable franchises amongst today’s gaming circles. The first outing saw the Twycross-based company ape Super Mario 64 with such a degree of finesse that many believe the Nintendo 64 game to actually better the plumber’s first 3D adventure. This was eventually succeeded by Banjo-Tooie, a title that pushed the N64 to its limits, if being somewhat long-winded. Now, after over a year in limbo, the dynamic duo return in their début GBA game…

We pick up the storyline after the end of Banjo-Kazooie with the evil witch Grunty defeated, her right-hand crony Klungo wandering aimlessly around and the comic two-some simply having some well-deserved relaxation time. Unfortunately, however, Klungo has also been concocting a method of resurrecting his villainous mistress. He manages to siphon her constrained spirit into a large mechanical monstrosity that uncannily resembles the late Grunty herself. Once back in action, she evokes revenge on Banjo by kidnapping Kazooie and dragging the wise-cracking bird back through time to the 1970s. Banjo hastily jumps to the rescue and so the adventure begins...

Screenshot for Banjo-Kazooie: Grunty's Revenge on Game Boy Advance

When BK: GR was originally announced, many people wondered just how on Earth the extravagant and vast environments of the two N64 iterations would make the transition to Nintendo’s 32-bit handheld system. But ramblings from the Rare camp suggested that whilst Camelot’s Goden Sun looked visually impressive, it would be nothing compared to what its GBA team could produce on the hardware…and this was certainly no mere empty boastful comment. The camera angle might be fixed, giving a limited isometric viewpoint that causes minor problems when moving behind particular objects, but other than that you would assume that you are simply playing on the 64-bit powerhouse once more. The models are of a 3D nature and move around the interactive, colourful locales, all of which will be familiar to BK veterans. In terms of animation, all the necessary aspects are included, such as the range of moves carried out by both bear and bird, as well as the wide range of characters, friend and foe alike. Slowdown never proves to be a setback purely due to the lack of on-screen action at any one time – with the only frame-rate issues arising during some of the Grunty encounters that involve several projectiles flying about simultaneously. If this is what Rare can achieve at a first attempt, just imagine what Sabrewulf and other future projects will look like!

It all sounds quite familiar… and that is probably because you will have likely played one of the two previous BK games, both of which share similar styles of music, with some of the tunes basically being regurgitated for this new title. The original sound programmer was not actually involved in the composing of Grunty’s Revenge and this will mainly be noticeable in the absence of the series’ trademark theme tune. One the whole, though, despite the odd anomaly (such as Mumbo Jumbo’s appallingly ‘funky’ theme) the new bunch of musical whiz-kids have carried the upbeat feel of the past games right through to this latest version. Therefore, what we have in the tiny cartridge is a collection of catchy tunes that ease the sometime rudimentary gameplay along on several occasions. Also, the ‘voices’ that litter the game will stand out for newcomers, but will most likely be tiresome for old hands of the BK series. For those that do not already know, none of the characters talk in English, instead preferring to communicate via unusual mumbling utterances as translated text scrolls along the base of the screen. This, if previously encountered on the N64 in the past, will rapidly become irritating as the variety of grunting noises has, for some reason, been reduced and is now far more repetitive. It is a shame that these cannot be switched off as the quality of the in-game music is very high – chirpy, memorable and definitely worthy of hearing through stereo earphones. As mentioned earlier, however, there are a few annoying pieces, for example Mumbo’s extremely dodgy 70s-style background accompaniment. But, on the whole this is a pleasing effort from the folk at Rare.

Screenshot for Banjo-Kazooie: Grunty's Revenge on Game Boy Advance

Rare’s GBA team has literally taken the hearts of the two N64 titles and crammed them into a small GameBoy cartridge. Everything has been scaled down, but first-timers will clearly be unaware of this. You start off in control of Banjo the bear and only have a minor range of moves, jump and back-pack-whack (does what it says on the tin). As you progress through the game’s five levels, all accessed via the central hub of Spiral Mountain, you will collect musical notes that are dotted around. These can be exchanged for extra moves when you come across special mole hills that house the teacher of new abilities. Once your range of moves begins to increase, you can easily work your way through the game, first of all rescuing Kazooie, thus enabling other moves to be unlocked (such as using Kazooie’s legs to climb steep inclines or using her as a gun to fire different eggs as enemies and switches), and then continuing to beat down Gruntilda’s minions and collect those elusive jiggies. These, if you are wondering, are jigsaw pieces, ten of which can be found within each level and a further ten spread across Spiral Mountain, and grant access to later levels if sufficient have previously been obtained. They can be earned by means of a variety of methods – be it finding a parent’s lost child, completing one of the mini-games (slide races and fishing being a couple of examples), using one of the witch-doctor Mumbo’s special transformations (changing Banjo into a mouse, octopus or other creatures) to gain entrance to previously inaccessible areas, or simply gathering five similar coloured Jinjos, little pointy-nosed critters that whistle at you when you approach.

Every so often B&K will have to battle against Klungo in a rather simple fare, and then the Mecha-Grunty in marginally trickier, yet still not to taxing, encounters. These fights will be found by uncovering teleport pads in the variety of levels. Many of these levels will have been witnessed in the past – ice, fire, swamp, industrial settings – it is not exactly pushing the boat out. But that seems to be the main thing with BK: GR, it is almost a refinement of BK and BT, as opposed to an entirely new product itself, which is not necessarily ‘A Bad Thing’. The controls are pleasingly responsive and intuitive, removing the sometimes awkward manoeuvres that were necessary in BT in the ’64 days. The range of moves granted has really been drawn back, but for the purposes of such a condensed game anything else would have been surplus to requirements and, therefore, Grunty’s Revenge turns out to be the perfect stop-gap whilst fans await a fully-blown next generation version.

Screenshot for Banjo-Kazooie: Grunty's Revenge on Game Boy Advance

So, you have just parted with your £34.99 to obtain your brand new copy of Banjo’s début GBA adventure – you would expect to get your money’s worth in terms of lastability, right? Well, I hate to break it to you but unless you are a complete amateur in the world of platform adventuring then you will likely polish off the game with a full 100% during a two-, maybe three-hour period, depending on your skill level. Enemies are hardly taxing, as are the boss battles – with their easily avoidable attack patterns and general lack of intelligence. Also, the amount of items to collect is minimal, meaning that the need for extra levels was obviously decided to not be a necessity, resulting in little variety for the gamer. A total of only sixty jiggies is ridiculously low, and it can only be hoped that if another GBA version arises in the future, this figure will be at least rounded up to eighty or even one hundred. Perhaps with the inclusion of a worthwhile multi-player experience option all could be forgiven; after all, the wealth of mini-games in Banjo-Tooie kept many occupied and overjoyed during multi-player sessions. But no such luck – this is a solo-adventure only. Something else for to add to the list Rare, methinks…

Screenshot for Banjo-Kazooie: Grunty's Revenge on Game Boy Advance

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

Grunty's Revenge was always going to have an uphill struggle when it came to quietening the rising Rare critics (a.k.a. the majority of Nintendo fans that harp on about how they feel betrayed due to the acquisition by Microsoft), but it can be safely said that the tumultuous environment surrounding the game has barely affected the overall quality. Whilst nowhere near on the same scale as BK or BT, this handheld iteration can certainly hold its own in today's cluttered platform market.

Developer

Rare

Publisher

THQ

Genre

2D Platformer

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10 (5 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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