Fun Fridayz #5 – Functioning Freedom
Banjo Kazooie: Mad Monster Mansion’s Mad Fun
The short of it: Yeah, the entire game is great. But this level specifically is pure concentrated Banjo. Everything that works in the main game works perfectly here. Spooktacularly.
Banjo Kazooie’s almost a genre in itself– it’s the height of 3D platforming and collectathons, backed by goofy humor, brilliant map design, near perfect music, and just the right edge of dark.
Although its placement is hard to nail down thanks to the game’s fairly open structure, Mad Monster Mansion might be the peak of the game’s design. And one of its key features is its soundtrack.
The level is found upon a haunted hill with tombstones lining the path. Upon entering the level, the player’s greeted by the smallest map in the game. In its six areas, it holds an absurd amount of atmosphere. Each level in Banjo Kazooie has its own atmosphere, of course. The ice level has penguins and polar bears, the water level has sharks and fish, and so on. These NPCs fit their scenery and so do their puzzles. But there’s something special in MMM.
The aforementioned edge of dark is partially to blame– the player expects to see goofy monkeys or honeybees in any of the other worlds. But the Mansion’s first Jiggy is inside a gooey ghost that must be stealthily entered. Like, that’s weirdly creative, even for this game. One of the next Jiggys requires Banjo to move an anthropomorphic glass to spell out a word, much like an Ouija board. Another forces Banjo to beat a disembodied hand in a piano playing contest in a massive haunted church. The transformation is the only in the game that turns B&K into an inanimate object– the most adorably tiny pumpkin.
It’s the step the game didn’t need to take. Clanker is creepy, but he’s not supernatural. All of his pieces are attached (mostly). The other levels don’t quite breech past hinting at something beyond nefarious.
Sure, mechanically, they’re all par for the course. But MMM perfectly funnels that player around the level without any hitches. It’s polish on polish, piled with the right amount of cheesy and creepy.
Mad Monster Mansion is up there with Halo: Combat Evolved‘s The Library as the best spooky levels.