Banjo-Kazooie: Grunty’s Revenge is an isometric platformer collect-a-thon for the Game Boy Advance. This game was released after Banjo-Kazooie and Banjo-Tooie on the Nintendo 64, so I’m going to assume you’re up to speed on the previous two games from personal experience or perhaps from checking out my other reviews. While it was released after these two games, it actually takes place between them a few months after the events of Banjo-Kazooie. Grunty is still stuck under the rock as Klungo tries to fruitlessly push it off of her. Banjo goes out while Kazooie is back at the house cleaning the place up for a party. Klungo gets the idea to put Grunty’s spirit into a robot, so he goes and gets a Grunty robot out of nowhere and she uses a spell to bind her spirit to the machine. She then hatches a plot to kidnap Kazooie and go back into the past to keep the two from ever meeting. Mumbo overhears this and tries to warn Banjo but he is a moment too late as they witness Grunty kidnap Kazooie and take off through time. Mumbo then sends Banjo back in time with his own magic to stop their plans, but the side-effects of the spell erase Banjo’s memory of most of his abilities, so he’ll have to use the help of a wise old mole, Bozzeye, to show him the ropes.
You can learn moves by collecting enough musical notes, which are scattered throughout the levels as usual. There are also jiggies that can be found or awarded for completing minigames and quests. You bring these jiggies to the mighty Jiggywiggy to open up more levels. There are multiple boss fights along the way with Klungo and Grunty. Beating these battles will usually net you a Mumbo totem, which can be given to this young, aspiring version of our favorite shaman to transform you into different things. You also have to locate and save Jinjos as well. You’ll eventually get Kazooie back and start learning all sorts of things to get you back in action. It’s all very familiar stuff at this point. However, there are some things that make this game notably different.
The biggest shift is the perspective. The Game Boy Advance can’t exactly render 3D games, but rather than making it a sidescroller they went with an isometric view to closer emulate the type of gameplay of the previous entries. The overworld is still Spiral Mountain, but you can collect notes and jiggies in it like a regular level this time. You learn a few moves here that are not present in either game, which is interesting. There are also a few new characters thrown in with the familiars. Also unlike the other games, you can use any of the unlocked Mumbo transformations in any of the levels once you’ve unlocked them. It may not seem hugely different on paper, but the experience of this shift in perspective, along with the other small differences, will definitely make an impression on you one way or another.
I’m a huge Banjo-Kazooie fan so I found plenty to like with this game. The main ideas of the gameplay are still there. I liked exploring levels, collecting notes and jiggies, beating minigames, completing little quests, and fighting bosses. It was cool how they actually just used Klungo and Grunty as bosses to keep you connected with them and it made things feel like they were truly behind this plot rather than all of their minions. The final battle has multiple phases, including a quiz! I do like that touch. They even put in the goofy sound sampling for the voices again, which is delightful. The spirit of the series is alive and well. I also think the general gameplay and control transferred to the isometric view pretty well, especially considering the limitations of the hardware. The game can be fun and pretty challenging in parts. There are new abilities to learn the whole way through, too. It’s about as good as I could’ve expected for what it is. The problem is that it isn’t what I had hoped it would be.
The game is rather short. Again, it’s probably due to technical limitations, but the game consists of only five levels. Six, if you count Spiral Mountain as a level and not just a hub world since it does have notes, jiggies, Jinjos, and moves in it. The control is pretty good, but the perspective can be tough to judge at times. Is the platform across from you? Is it high or low? This isn’t a huge issue, but sometimes it can be tough to tell. Also, some of the items are obscured by things in the foreground. This really sucks because, unlike a 3D game where you can move the camera, a 2D game with a fixed camera shouldn’t blatantly hide things without any contextual clues on their presence. Also, while I think the visuals look pretty well-animated and colorful, some things look a little small and squashed on the screen. The music is okay and you can tell it has the style in mind, but whether it’s the sound chip or the arrangement the music just sounds a bit lacking. That is, of course, compared to the wonderful soundtracks of the previous games, so that’s a tough act to follow. Sometimes the hit detection can be difficult to judge when fighting and platforming, which is due to the perspective. I also think they introduced too many moves for the short length of the game. It offers variety, but the moves aren’t really explored past their obvious use. I think there should’ve either been less moves used more interestingly or move levels to expand the usefulness of the moves, as well as extend the length of the game. Then again, maybe I’m expecting something too big from a handheld game like this. Plus the fact that they have to then explain away the events of the game and try to add context to the events of Banjo-Tooie in the process means that it ultimately feels like a pointless experience storywise. The game could use some work.
Banjo-Kazooie: Grunty’s Revenge isn’t bad. If you’re a fan of the series then it’s definitely worth checking out. It’s interesting and sort of fun. It definitely feels like a Banjo-Kazooie game, even if it IS a short, watered down version. I think for fifteen bucks or less, it’s worth trying out. I can’t really recommend it to everyone, though. If you’re not a fan, and if you don’t care for isometric platformers, then you probably won’t get much enjoyment out of it. It’s certainly not the follow-up we were hoping for, but at least it still FEELS like a Banjo-Kazooie game and does plenty of things surprisingly well considering the circumstances. I guess the name sounds better than Banjo-Twopointfivedeeie.