I’ve been on a real Platformer kick lately. Life can get hard sometimes and there isn’t much in this world that’s more relaxing than a jolly romp through some colourful worlds of wonders and wee little monsters who walk side to side. It’s been nice to take a break from the bigger world titles with deep stories and complex characters, now and then I just want to be a super-fast blue hedgehog or a high jumping Italian stereotype. Sure, sometimes I want a more serious adventure but when I’ve had a hard day? Give me a cute soundtrack and a point meter.
The Crash Bandicoot N’sane Trilogy has been the real crux of this return to the platforms, I redownloaded the game after not having played it in 3 years, last time I touched this title was immediately after some heartbreak and it helped me get by. After I recovered I deleted the title off my hard drive and went along my merry way but the recent announcement of Crash 4: It’s About Time, and after encountering someone playing as the orange marsupial on a Switch has made me reawaken the twee beast in my soul and got me back in to collecting Wumpa fruits in a big way. This lead me in the direction of another big name in the genre of bad guy stomping as I picked up where I left off in Sonic Mania too. I seemed to be in the zone here too as I was hooning about each stage collecting rings and Chaos Emeralds left and right!
Really, it’s been a blast but it had me thinking. There have been a slew of remakes and remasters of the classics lately, and each on does well, so clearly there is a market for these games and I can think of one character long overdue for a triumphant return. Well when I say one, I mean one pair…
Banjo & Kazooie!
The fabulous Bird and Bear were a staple of many homes with an N64 in the 90’s. A collect-o-thon of epic proportions, Banjo Kazooie takes all the work done by Mario 64 and improves upon it in several ways. Mario might be the most popular and way more famous, but there is no arguing that Banjo didn’t ramp up the fun factor. Developed by Rare, Banjo Kazooie spawned two direct sequels, Banjo-Tooie which was a welcome and excellent follow up, and then in 2008, after their acquisition by Microsoft, Rare dropped Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts. When I say dropped, I mean dropped the balls. Nuts & Bolts might have been a grand idea as its own brand-new IP, but shoe horning in the Banjo cast and trying to update them all for next gen just led to a subpar sequel and a horrifying new look, especially for Banjo…
Since this festering pile of gameplay mechanics was issued to us, Banjo has been oddly absent from the gaming landscape, as though afraid to come out of hiding. The Rare developed pirate title Sea of Thieves includes a Banjo-Kazooie inspired ship decoration kit, and obviously more recently the pair made a gorgeous return in the form of a guest appearance in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. In fact, after the reveal of their place in the Smash roster, creative lead on the original title Gregg Mayles was quoted saying that the reaction to the pairs inclusion and helping to develop the stage based on Mumbo’s Mountain had made him think about a remaster. I mean come on man, it worked for Crash and Spyro! I suppose though the biggest hurdle will always be that Microsoft buy out, limiting the future for Banjo and crew, though if things can be worked out enough for Smash, surely there is still hope?
If reading this has given you a hankering for the polygonal platformers of yore, then checkout the classic Banjo games now on the Xbox Gamepass. Though if you fancy something a little more polished and modern but with the same heart then I can whole heartedly recommend Yooka-Laylee, a spiritual successor developed by a few members of the original Rare team behind Banjo-Kazooie!