Justin Last’s favorite: Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts

September 2, 2012

When I was a kid, my little brother and I would spend hours building things out of Lego blocks, destroying those things, and then building other things. I built mostly space ships and he stuck to things like firetrucks and ambulances. It’s still an “I know this will never happen” dream of mine to be one of the guys at Lego who creates new sets. Loving Lego as I do, you’d think that my favorite game would be something like Minecraft. You’d be wrong though, my favorite is far less popular: Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts. I know it’s current (as is the rest of my list), but I can’t honestly think of a game that better encapsulates what I consider to be pure, unadulterated fun.

Honorable Mention: SpaceChem: I love puzzle games, and SpaceChem is the brainiest and most rewarding that I have ever played. You’ll feel smart until you feel stupid, and then later you’ll feel like a genius. After that you’ll look at the leaderboard, keep refining your latest solution and then realize you forgot to sleep and need to be at work in an hour.

Banjo-Kazooie and Banjo-Tooie are both great games, and I am fond of platformers, but for me nothing beats Nuts & Bolts. The game is comprised of different themed worlds (like the core games) full of a series of challenges (again, like the core games). Where Nuts & Bolts diverges from the first two titles is in execution. In the first two games all of the challenges were platforming-related. In Nuts & Bolts all of the challenges are centered around vehicles. You’ll race, you’ll protect, you’ll battle, and you’ll even herd sheep.

The first few challenges are simple and serve to introduce players to the new gameplay style. After that, though, Mumbo will expect you to create vehicles of your own instead of using the stock blueprints. And you will need to do just that. You won’t win any but the earliest events using the stock “Humba Racer.” Even if you modify the starting blueprints you’re going to need bigger engines, better tires, and eventually fold-out wings, floaties for water races, advanced weaponry, and a few one-off vehicles for things like sumo wrestling and herding sheep.

Honorable Mention: Mass Effect 2: I love sci-fi, I like shooting things and leveling up and I adore choices that matter. With a great character-driven story, a phenomenal DLC showing, and the single best finale I’ve ever played in a video game Mass Effect 2 is not only the best entry in the Mass Effect series, but if it weren’t for my love of building things it’d take my personal top spot.

I feel like the best way to explain why this game unleashes my inner child and puts a smile on my face is to talk you through my favorite solution to a challenge. The challenge in question was a simple one: design a car to complete a four-lap race around an obstacle-laden track against a few opponents. The vehicle that I designed didn’t have any wheels; it had pinball bumpers on the bottom for vertical takeoff. After it was airborne I deployed the fold-out wings, and hit the gas. At that point, Banjo was riding a rocket around the racetrack, avoiding all of the ground-based obstacles and leaving all of the other racers in the dust. See, Rare didn’t put any air obstacles on the track, and they only implied that the created vehicle had to be a traditional car. Also, I got to take a jet to a car race.

I can’t think of a single game Rare has created that I didn’t enjoy (yes, I am the one guy out there who bought, played, and enjoyed Starfox Adventures). I still regularly pop Grabbed by the Ghoulies into my 360 (it is backward-compatible, and you should all play it), I own Kameo: Elements of Power as a 360 download, and the Viva Piñata titles are both fantastic. It makes me sad that Rare has been relegated to things like creating and maintaining Xbox Live avatars when they could be working on a new Banjo-Kazooie title for me to play.