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Still Magic: Banjo Kazooie’s Click Clock Wood Twenty Years On



I’m astonished that Banjo Kazooie (BK) marked its twentieth anniversary this year. I clearly remember being four-years-old, passively watching my mother, young still at twenty-three, ambling her way through its first few levels. It wouldn’t be until a few years later, with my two brothers and I sitting cross-legged in a row, basking in the cool light of our family’s TV, that we would collect enough jiggies to make it to the later levels. I fondly remember scouring and scavenging for mumbo tokens along the ivy-covered walls of the ghoulish Mad Monster Mansion. I also recall feeling my little eight-year-old heart race as I counted eighty-nine notes but had yet to collect those in the Rusty Bucket Bay’s infamous engine room. Yet, no level is as arguably as memorable as its penultimate challenge, the ethereal forest that cements the game’s fairy-tale quality, Click Clock Wood (CCW). While good game design can be observed, it must be also felt and experienced. CCW was my first true introduction to excellent game design. Even as an eager youngster, traversing the level with an underdeveloped understanding of game design, I understood that CCW was a step-up from its predecessors. It was, as they say, in a league of its own – so let’s explore what makes it so memorable.

It would be wrong to dig into the meat of CCW’s legacy without first describing the level. Aesthetically, CCW is reflective of its title – it is constituted by four areas that centre a giant tree-shrouded within a dense forest. As the player, you can experience this area in four different seasons by unlocking each season within the level’s hub area – the only level in the game to have such a space. Entering the hub world for the first time is magical – it’s characterized by a certain stillness, and an overwhelming feeling of isolation and singleness as one is confronted by four closed doors. Yet, there is also a certain coziness and intimacy that is generated by the grey forlorn sky and the colourful, overarching trees that are both luminous guardians and area boundaries.

Click Clock Woods

Click Clock Wood’s hub world differentiates it from the game’s other worlds.

Awe at the rich, colourful environment aside, it’s almost immediately understood what it is expected of the player – figure out some way to open the doors and momentarily leave this strange, still area. Exploring each of the doors, Bear & Bird are drizzled with light rain, snowflakes, and withered leaves instantaneously on their arrival to the hub’s seasonal areas. The switch that opens Spring is waiting patiently on the circular, crackled path that joins each of the doors, deceptively mimicking the shrouded wood surrounding it. Without hesitation, the switch is ‘beak bashed’ (a charming manoeuvre), and the door to Spring opens enticingly.


Spring is the player’s first destination in the level, and thematically embodies what ‘Spring’ is popularly perceived as.

Entering Spring for the first time, the sheer size of the level’s main attraction – the gigantic tree, quickly becomes confronting. In contrast to previous levels, CCW feels spectacularly large. Coupled with a forest floor, lush in its viridescent green and lethargically patrolled by an enemy and one lone, bee protected honeycomb tower, the atmosphere of ‘Spring’ is established. The cherry on top however, is the immediate presence of a melodious Grant Kirkhope track. Heavy on the woodwind (but with just enough xylophone), Spring’s theme is a delightfully light ear-worm that spurs thoughts of the syrupy scents of blooming flowers, or the trickling of sunlight from winter’s leftover clouds. There’s Vivaldi’s ‘four seasons’ and this is Kirkhope’s – this track is re-arranged again and again throughout each of the seasons, all of them reflecting the popular perceptions of what they represent. As you enter each for the first time, the seasonal embodiment changes but Gruntilda’s challenge remains the same – Bear and Bird must ascend what looms before them.

The giant tree is the perfect playground for the player to express their platforming prowess.

Banjo and Kazooie need to travel upwards to complete jiggy-orientated objectives, and the only path available to them demands mastery in BK’s platforming mechanics. Jumping, gliding, back-flipping, talon trot-ing. All are required in ascending the tree and collecting the miscellanies that BK idiosyncratically boasts. One misstep can see the furry duo fall steep and splatter on the forest floor below, costing precious honeycombs or worse, meeting a grisly fate. This is particularly ominous in the original Nintendo 64 version as collection of musical notes (100 total in each world) are counted on a ‘most collected’ basis, resetting when the world is left (purposely or otherwise). Love it or leave it, collecting musical notes and other major collectables in CCW stirs feelings of intense pressure, even by today’s Dark Souls inspired difficulty trends. The slippery, sky suspended boardwalk particularly remains a memorable area for pulsing heart rates and breath-stealing concentration. There’s also nothing quite like sliding down the icy, snow-covered tree in Winter, courtesy of a snowball hit from everybody’s favourite enemy, Sir Slush the Snowman.

Sir Slush the Snowman strikes again and is a prime example of how the level uses strategic planting of enemies to increase its difficulty.

Moving on to story, narrative isn’t BK’s strong suit, with its primary narrative being more or less a generic hero’s journey. For those who haven’t played BK, the plot sees Banjo (a young male bear) and Kazooie (his female bird sidekick) try to rescue Tooty (Banjo’s sister, the fairest bear in the realm) from Gruntilda (an evil witch) who wishes to covet Tooty’s beauty for herself. It’s not the most sophisticated plot line but it lends itself to the comical nature of the game. There is a red-line of minor narrative woven within CCW that is absent from earlier levels, however. Now, it’s undeniable that other levels do incorporate some major events. Events such as Boggy’s resuscitation in winter wonderland Freezeezy Peak, freeing Clanker in the dank and dirty Clanker’s Cavern, and scouring for Captain Blubber’s lost gold in the glittering waters of Treasure Trove Cove are all memorable highlights that contribute to BK’s light-heartedness overall. However, all these events feel loose and unconnected when related to other tasks within their respective levels.

Banjo Kazooie

Caption: Jiggy tasks in Click Clock Wood are structured in a linear fashion and are informed by the logical succession of the seasons.

CCW fundamentally challenges this established formula, integrating a narrative structure that is intended to connect events in linearity. Successful completion of tasks in each of the world’s seasons concur with this structure. Watering a seed in Spring will eventually see it flower in Autumn, rewarding the player with a well-earned jiggy. Feeding the baby eyrie worms collected throughout Summer and Autumn will see them gift you another jiggy and fly away into the cool Winter night. Even with their jiggy purposes complete, the flower plant will have withered, the Zubba’s nest abandoned, and Mumbo having left to seek out warmer lands in Winter, exist as merely three of many neat details in this meticulously designed world. It’s also worth noting that CCW feels like a bridge between BK and Banjo Tooie, with the sequel taking CCW’s penchant for intertwined tasks and extending them further with jiggies being achieved through tasks completed across numerous worlds. In retrospect, CCW indicated how Rare intended to expand upon and improve BK’s established design formulas, cementing its place as an abnormality among worlds.

Even Mumbo is shown to be participating in the level’s effervescent seasonal themes.

On a final note on jiggies, CCW does largely follow the standard formula established throughout the game. Some jiggies require tasks to be completed, while others simply lie about, waiting to be discovered. I found myself thoroughly searching throughout the level for jiggies: climbing the tree in all seasons, diving beneath the lake, checking in with Nabnut and the other idiosyncratic characters to ensure I hadn’t missed any hints. Although I mentioned that CCW incorporates a linear structure, it’s up to the player to uphold it – once all the door switches have been beak-bashed, the player is afforded complete freedom in which season they wish to explore.

Searching the level high and low for jiggies can be frustrating due to its size.

As a result, unlike levels as compact as Mumbo’s Mountain, or with highly intuitive pathways (such as Bubble Gloop Swamp), searching for major collectables in CCW can become frustrating. While it is an outstanding level, it isn’t without its flaws – the repetition of the tree climb becomes tedious, some level spaces are abnormally sparse and lack purpose, and some design elements (Spring’s leaf bud platforms, for example) are a bit cheeky – they’re unnecessary in elevating the difficulty of the level. Shout-out to the Zubba hornet fight also, as I’m sure that’s caused even the most confident player a sudden pang of terror. Regardless, I maintain that the positive elements outshine the bad, and I feel I can’t reassert enough the impression of mastery that Rare conveys in level design in the flow of the level.  

In entering the hub world for the final time, with each door opened, and every jiggy collected, I feel both sombre and powerful. There’s this sense of utter suspension – in a rare twist, it is Banjo that is finally delegated a power; the ability to manipulate when he and Kazooie experience the seasons.

Banjo Kazooie Review

Visiting the hub area after the level is completed is bittersweet, signaling the beginning of the end of a classic platforming adventure.

In a way, CCW is a conflicting metaphor for time. In forcing the player to traverse four seasons, not necessarily in the same order, it conveys the relative instability and flexibility of our temporal narratives. Alternatively, the player must unlock Autumn before Winter, Summer before Autumn, Spring before Summer. There is genuine comfort derived from the ensured succession of the seasons, a routine forced upon even the most liberal schedule. Yet, while it feels natural to attach numerous meanings to games as we age, it’s difficult for me to perceive CCW as anything other than a last collective ‘hurrah’, a celebration of the gameplay BK offered, and the jewel that sits squarely in its crown. Whether you’re curious, nostalgic, or have never heard of the title, Click Clock Wood is one of many reasons that Banjo Kazooie remains a classic platformer, no matter the ever-turning trends of development, creativity, and platforming – much like the four seasons themselves.

— J. L. Elliott

J. Elliott is a PhD student in Media and Communication. When she’s not fueling her caffeine addiction, you’ll usually find her reading, writing, or resisting (but ultimately succumbing to) the urge to re-play Bloodborne, Dead by Daylight, The Witcher 3, or Nier: Automata again.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Jacob

    January 14, 2019 at 4:58 pm

    Nice analysis. I came by accident, trying to figure out why I thought it was “Tick Tock Woods”. Making the analogy to Dark Souls is interesting, Click Clock Wood is one of the worst to get all the notes because it’s a marathon of “a” level. They even nerfed the XBox version (notes are collected across deaths) because people aren’t good enough anymore! For shame.

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Beanie Babies: The Collectables with Heart



For our Toys We Love Spotlight, I’m looking at one of my personal favourites: Beanie Babies. I had collected so many of these growing up, and households worldwide in the 90s and early 2000s were sure to have at least one Beanie Baby in their possession (was it even the 90s if they didn’t?). These plushie companions were cute, cuddly, and collectable, so it’s not a surprise that the Beanie Babies craze swept the globe, forcing parents and toy collectors everywhere to dig into their wallets.

Beanie Babies had a few aspects to them that made them stand out from your average plushie. Firstly, they did not have as much stuffing as most soft toys. Whilst some thought that this made them look cheap, it also made them light, posable, and gave them a realistic feel and look. The bear Beanie Babies were particularly good to pose, and this set them apart from run-of-the-mill teddy bears. Another element that made Beanie Babies more unique was their special tag. Each toy had a tag attached which had the toy’s name, date of birth, and a quotation etched inside. The former was something that could have been a risky choice, as although it wasn’t completely taking away the child’s choice of name — there was nothing stopping them from just calling their Beanie whatever they wanted — a pre-selected name can be difficult to sell, as kids can often take great pride and pleasure in naming their toys.

It was a great success, however, and worked as a nice finishing touch for the Beanie Babies, adding a dash of personality and flair (something much needed in the often critically over-saturated soft toy market), as well as making each Beanie Baby feel like their own creature with their own little stories. Adding to that was the wide variety of animals that were available, such as Tiny the Chihuahua, Pegasus the Unicorn or Swampy the Alligator. This means that the desires of each individual child or enthusiastic collector could be catered to (I myself favoured the dogs and bears).

The puppies were my Beanie Baby of choice. They were all such good boys and girls.

The Beanie Babies also had their own way of tackling difficult issues in society, showing them to kids through the guise of a soft toy. I’ll give you an example through my own experience: I had a Beanie Baby that (as odd as it may sound) gave me more of an understanding of the horrors of September 11th. Weird, right? Allow me to explain. I was only just nine years old on that now-historical day when the twin towers in New York were attacked and so many innocent people lost their lives. I had come home from school (it was afternoon time here in the UK when it happened), and I remember my mum watching it on television in complete shock. She had watched the whole thing whilst I’d been at school.

I didn’t really understand what was happening to be honest. Even when I was watching the repeats of the plane crashing into the side of the tower, I was somewhat oblivious the gravity of the situation (though as a nine year old child, I suppose I could be forgiven for that). The news continued to report the tragedy for a long time, and my school held assemblies to discuss the matter. I knew people had died, and that made me very sad, but I remember thinking that people died all the time, so why was this one incident reported on so much? About a month or so after, TY released three Beanie Babies as a tribute to those lost during 9/11. One of these was a Dalmatian Beanie Baby called Rescue, and I wanted him the moment I saw him, not really knowing the true nature of his purpose. My mum obliged happily, knowing what he represented. I remember taking my little Dalmatian with the red collar and American flag on his leg home and reading his tag. It read:

To honor our heroes
who lost their lives in the
national catastrophe that
took place on September 11, 2001.
We mourn for them and express our
deepest sympathy to their families.
God Bless America

Rescue the Dalmatian was joined by America the Bear and Courage the German Shepherd. The Beanies were a set of three released to honor those who perished in the tragedy of 9/11.

I found Rescue in my room recently, and the memories flooded back to me upon reading it again. I remember looking into all the acts of heroism and bravery after reading Rescue’s tag, and that’s when the situation really hit home to me. I looked into the stories of firefighters and first responders and those who had died, as well as all the search-and-rescue dogs attempting to save people among the chaos. As a child, it can be hard to see past your immediate opinion and truly consider the sheer weight of a situation, but with Rescue’s help, I was able to see just how this event was indeed very different to anything I had ever seen before, and how serious it was. It was the first time I felt like I was thinking like a grown up. I looked at the world differently from then on — obviously as I got older, but also from my ability to think harder and search deeper. Honestly, I don’t know if I would have even bothered if it wasn’t for Rescue reminding me of exactly how much was lost on that day.

Rescue, perhaps the goodest and bravest boy of them all.

Beanie babies will forever be ingrained in culture. They are still bought, sold and collected even now and will remain a timeless staple of most of our childhoods. They certainly are for me. Especially you Rescue, the bravest firefighting Dalmatian the world has ever known.

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‘Shenmue III’ Gamescom Trailer Details a Day in the Life of Ryo



The original Shenmue games pioneered the open world genre, in part through their inclusion of many different minigames and side activities. The Kickstarter-funded Shenmue III looks to continue that legacy, as developer Ys Net and publisher Deep Silver have debuted a new trailer at Gamescom 2019 entitled “A Day in Shenmue.”

The developers provided the following description of the trailer via their latest Kickstarter update: “Exploring the town, playing minigames and battling! We hope it feels just how a Shenmue day should!” Sure enough, the footage showcases the series protagonist Ryo participating in a number of minigames, such as a boxing game and a pachinko machine. The end of the trailer also includes a good look at the series’ signature kung fu combat.

Beyond the new trailer, the Kickstarter update also noted that Yu Suzuki, the famed creator of Shenmue, will be present at Gamescom for autograph signings.

After numerous delays, Shenmue III will finally launch on November 19, 2019 for PS4 and PC via the Epic Games Store.

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‘Mortal Kombat 11’ Ramps Up Its Roster With The Kombat Pack



Our favourite brutal and bloody fighting game series Mortal Kombat is back with a new announcement surrounding brand new characters that will be joining the fight in the latest instalment of the franchise, Mortal Kombat 11.

During Gamescom 2019, Warner Brothers Interactive Entertainment and NetherRealm Studios introduced the Kombat Pack via an official reveal trailer. The Kombat Pack will feature six new fighters who will be introduced to the game over the next six months. Shang Tsung and Nightwolf are the latest additions who have already been released but the trailer also shows off four new and exciting additions to the world of Mortal Kombat.

The first up will be the Terminator T-800 who will be released on October 8th 2019 to coincide with the October release of the next Terminator film, Terminator: Dark Fate.  The trailer shows that the character model features the likeness of Arnold Schwarzenegger rather than just going for the Terminator style metallic endoskeleton. This is an interesting choice that leads to an incredibly impressive character model of Arnie. I’m really hoping that he will start to decay into his metal form as he is beaten down in the game but only time will tell.

The next release will be well known Mortal Kombat character Sindel, whose appearance fans have been waiting for after she was confirmed to be coming to the game in late May. Sindel will join the fight on November 26th, 2019.

The next character is another interesting one: DC comics top villain Joker. Joker is a pop culture icon who is no stranger to fighting games so his inclusion isn’t that much of a surprise. His physical appearance is somewhat unexpected however. He seems quite young and dashing, not what is typically expected when one thinks of the Joker. It is always fun to see unique interpretations of well known characters so hopefully the Joker will not disappoint when he becomes playable. This won’t be for a while though as he isn’t slated for release until January 28th, 2020.

The final character from the Kombat Pack will be Spawn from Todd McFarlane’s comic book of the same name. McFarlane already suggested that Spawn would be joining the game way back in December 2018 before Mortal Kombat 11 was even released, so this one isn’t much of surprise. The release date for Spawn is the furthest, coming to the game on March 17th,2020.

One fighter not mentioned is Ash from the Evil Dead, who has been being teased for sometime.His lack of inclusion here doesn’t rule him out of the game just yet. Here’s hoping that on top of the Kombat Pack, we will also get a few extra fighters here and there over the next few months.

The Kombat Pack will be $39.99 (those who purchased the premium edition of the game for $99.99 will have access to this content once it becomes available) to get all six fighters, one-week early access and various skins and gear sets. The DLC fighters as well as the skins and gear will all be available for anyone to purchase following the one –week period of early access.

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Limited Edition ‘Twin Peaks’ Box Set Includes a Whopping 21-Discs




Next year marks 30 years since David Lynch and Mark Frost changed television forever with their groundbreaking series Twin Peaks and to celebrate they are releasing a new, exhaustive box set which collects all of the pieces of Lynch’s quintessential mystery thriller and packs it into a whopping 21 disks.

The set, available only on Blu-ray, includes all three television seasons and the prequel movie Fire Walk With Me, as well as the film’s deleted scenes (The Missing Pieces). It also includes new interviews, behind-the-scenes footage, unedited versions of several musical performances, and so much more!

If that’s not enough, there will also be a special 4K UHD disc included in the set, containing a new ultra-high def transfer overseen by David Lynch of both the American and international versions of the 1990 Twin Peaks pilot, as well as “Part 8” of A Limited Event Series, titled “Gotta Light?” The set will also include all existing special features from the previous releases of Twin Peaks: The Entire Mystery and Twin Peaks: A Limited Event Series.

If you’re not salivating yet, it should also be mentioned that Lynch has confirmed the addition of 20 hours of additional features for die-hard Lynch fans to delve into.

From Z to A Twin Peaks Box Set

Last but not least, the collection comes in a beautiful box which the official press release says, once opened, a depiction of the infamous Red Room is revealed with its brown and crème chevron floor and brilliant red curtains. Sitting in front of the red curtain will be an exclusive die-cut acrylic figure of Laura Palmer kissing Special Agent Dale Cooper.

Fans who can’t afford the set will be able to purchase a more standard collection on Blu-ray and DVD, titled Twin Peaks: The Television Collection which will be released on October 15.

The From Z to A set costs $139.99 and is available for pre-order here. The Blu-ray TV collection costs $91.01, and the DVD TV collection costs $50.99.

While your waiting for your set to arrive, be sure to check out our insanely popular Twin Peaks podcast, The Lodgers, hosted by Simon Howell and Kate Rennebohm.

From Z to A Twin Peaks Box Set
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‘Monster Hunter World: Iceborne’ Trailer Reveals New Monsters and More!




I’m guessing we are not alone in choosing Monster Hunter World as one of the best games of 2018. In our review, Matthew Ponthier wrote, “Monster Hunter World is a hallmark entry into the storied franchise and is a title that will light a fire in the belly of any triumphant Hunter”.

And so, it shouldn’t come as a surprise either that we are hotly anticipating Monster Hunter World: Iceborne, the massive expansion to Capcom’s best-selling game to date. The latest trailer revealed this week during Gamescom 2019 gives a glimpse of returning and new monsters, including a closer look at Velkhana, the mysterious Elder Dragon that’s new to the series. Additionally, new options will be available to help players progress through the main World game and further encourage existing players to aid other hunters in the community.

Monster Hunter World: Iceborne

Iceborne will include a multitude of new monsters and subspecies for hunters to challenge, and now, two more have been confirmed to join the upcoming massive expansion’s lineup. The brute wyvern Brachydios is a returning fan-favorite known for its explosive slime attacks, while Namielle, a mysterious all-new Elder Dragon, unleashes powerful water-based attacks. More details about the new flagship monster Velkhana have also emerged. This Elder Dragon’s icy breath can cause frozen pillars to form on the battlefield, which hunters can use to create exciting opportunities for new hunting strategies.

 A free Guardian Armor set will be provided to all hunters, both World and Iceborne, as part of an upcoming title update on September 4 in time for the launch of the expansion. This upgradable armor set offers increased defense and skills that help hunters survive in the New World. The buffed armor can be equipped from the beginning of the World game, and is especially geared towards newer hunters to help them progress through the main story.

Monster Hunter World: Iceborne

Last but not least, there will be another gameplay feature new to the series that focuses on Low Rank and High Rank player assistance by creating a further incentive for the community to help fellow hunters. Helpful players will get rewarded with exclusive in-game Pendants and Trophies for assisting other hunters in ranks below their own.

The upcoming Iceborne expansion will be coming to the PlayStation 4 computer entertainment system and the Xbox One family of devices, including Xbox One X, globally on September 6th, 2019, with a PC release to follow in January 2020.

Watch the trailer below.

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