Riding the Backlog - Banjo-Kazooie (Part 4)

By Chris Pranger



Session 4: Bubblegloop Swamp

Hello again! It’s time for more Banjo-Kazooie while on an exercise bike! Thankfully being on Christmas vacation has allowed me to find more time during the day to ride and play, and the game itself has been the correct choice for my four-year-old Charlie to watch, which means I’m riding through the game at a pretty good clip.

Today, as promised, I’m heading into the game’s fourth world, Bubblegloop Swamp, a world with an aesthetic somewhere in between Mumbo’s Mountain and Clanker’s Cavern. There is dark green everywhere mixed with a rustic brown and yellow, equating a stinking, merky feel to everything.

On my way to Bubblegloop, I re-encounter a character in Gruntilda’s lair that I should mention. Brentilda is the good witch to Gruntilda’s bad witch motif, actually looking very much like a Glinda knock-off. She’s gone for a more fairy godmother appearance, floating around with a magic wand, giving out important little factoids when you find her. Each time you find her, you’ll learn three things about Gruntilda, such as her nickname in witch school or what she eats for breakfast. All of these random facts seem pointless but they’ll come into play at the end of the game, something I both enjoy and kind of dislike. I enjoy these bits of trivia since they can get a good little chuckle for how childish they are (“Grunty eats rat sandwiches for breakfast”), but the sheer amount that you’ll encounter will facilitate keeping notes to remember the exact phrase mentioned in highlighted wiggly text.

Bubblegloop Swamp though, that’s good stuff. I’ve always enjoyed this one, partly due to the new variety of things at play. The main element of the swamp is that while there’s shallow water all over, it’s infested with piranhas, meaning stepping paw into it bites one honeycomb of health away from Banjo. No-go water areas will become pretty common, so it makes sense to introduce the concept here, even if thinking too much will make you ask, “Wait, why are there piranhas in a swamp?”

The main work-around to the dangerous swamp water is the inclusion of a new move, or rather access to an in-world item you see all over the game starting now: the wading boots. Just a big squeaky pair of galoshes. Once Bottles says you can use them from his molehill just behind the entrance to Bubblegloop Swamp, you can slip ‘em on and run through the waters without taking damage for a short amount of time. Think of these like a more restrictive Super Star powerup as a jingle begins to play, letting you know that the effects are only temporary.

The layout of the swamp is new yet again, placing major landmarks branching out from a middle hub, though the middle hub this time is fairly small, only really containing one little challenge where you’ll need to keep your footing without falling off some twisty, narrowing logs that creep around in a large circle. Up in these swamp logs you’ll find some music notes, a quick-dash challenge to nab a Jiggy, a Jinjo, and a Croctus, which is a little golden crocodile with gems for eyes that opens and closes its mouth, requiring you to shoot an egg in to feed it. Feeding this first one makes a second one appear elsewhere, a process you’ll repeat throughout the world to feed five total Croctuses.

One of the areas you can head to shows off a few stumps as well as large climbable pussywillows, plus some leaves floating around that let you cross some of the treacherous water. Following the floating leaves reveals a big colorful egg with an X on the top. The task is fairly simple, requiring you to attack the X wherever it appears on the egg, first on top, then on the side, and back and forth until the final stomp reveals a Jiggy inside. I believe the sequel grants Kazooie the ability to sit on eggs to hatch them, or at least it should have, but we’ll have to see another time if my memory of that game has failed it.

Back toward the middle of the world, a group of frogs decide to fight me in pars, which turns out to be a bit harder than I expected due to the wonky camera perspective look down over the battle area rather than straight ahead. Since they can hop over me, rolling at them sometimes rolls under them and exits that animation right into damage from the second frog. Running around with the Wonderwing technique would have made it simple, but we’re going hard here!

From the frog battle to a giant turtle setpiece, Tanktup the turtle is a big brown turtle complaining that his feet are so cold that they’re numb. His problem is easily remedied my stomping on each foot to make him retract it into his shell, a silly solution to a silly problem, but one that I appreciate from this game. Again, the plot is about a bear and a bird stopping a witch by way of collecting golden puzzle pieces, so everything about this game is solidly a bag of cheesy popcorn.

Once all of Tanktup’s feet are retracted, Banjo can run into his mouth, which is weird because it implies that you’re in his shell now except that’s not how turtle anatomy works. Whatever the case, going into his mouth brings you to the Tiptup Choir, a group of singing turtles led by Tiptup himself. For those who played Diddy Kong Racing, this is an awesome little reference since Tiptup was one of the racers, known for his small size and quick acceleration. Here he’s larger than Banjo and doesn’t really look or act like his racing counterpart, but the reference is there and I was excited to see him back when playing as a kid.

The other major setpiece for the swamp is a giant gator head, which isn’t actually a character but just a structure that you can enter in a little bit. Behind it is a maze-like area, really more a direct path through a twisting corridor that requires you to hurry along using the wading boots, ultimately leading you to Mumbo’s for a new transformation. I’d almost forgotten about Mumbo since he’d been absent for two worlds, but here he is, ready to turn me into a little gator.

As a gator, I can splash through the swamp water without any problem, plus I can bite enemies, making this the only transformation that has any sort of offensive capabilities. I’m also small enough to fit into smaller spaces, so I can finally fit under some platforms in an area that I explored previously, as well as squeeze into the large gator setpiece’s nose.

Inside we encounter Mr. Vile, a red gator that wants to challenge me to a rather unfair game. Unfair in that he’s a poor sport about things. Little red creatures pop out of holes and you have to gobble up more than he does in the time allowed, but once you best him he pushes you to round two where you have to do the same but while avoiding the yellow creatures that aren’t quite ripe yet, and finally a round three where you have to munch whichever of the two is shown at the top of the screen. After that he finally gives up his Jiggy, then challenges me to another three rounds for three extra lives, but if I fail he gets to take one of my lives. I say no thank you as lives sort of mean nothing.

Fun note here, there are some running shoes that I can equip for this challenge assuming I’ve unlocked their use in Gobi’s Valley, the next world, but I haven’t been there yet and so do not have access to said shoes. This is one somewhat frustrating annoyance of the game in that when you enter a world, you want to fully complete it before moving on to the next stage, but here you’re encouraged to come back later. I’m having a hard time remembering if the same thing will happen if I go to Gobi’s Valley before Freezeezy Peak, but I’ll risk it.

Since I’ve acquired all 100 music notes, nabbed the 10 Jiggies, and hit the Witch Switch, I’m ready to leave Bubblegloop Swamp, but I’ve somehow missed a single honeycomb chamber somewhere and can’t quite remember where it is, so off I go to hunt it down as a gator.

While wandering, my four-year-old asks if I can transform into anything else. I’m trying to be coy about this to keep it a surprise for later on in the game, so I just say “I don’t know, we’ll see!” He responds with, “You should be a horse. That’d be cool.” He’s not wrong, but he’ll be disappointed. He then follows this with, “You should transform into a big tooth. You’ll be big and have a sharp end what can slice guys and be really STRONG!” He is yet again not wrong, and now I’M disappointed, because I want to see that transformation where Mumbo turns me into a giant deadly tooth. Maybe in Banjo-Threeie.

Finally I locate the honeycomb chamber, but alas, it is inside Tanktup and to reach it I need to do a flip as bear and bird, not gator. So I exit the stage, remembering that there’s a little pathway nearby that I’ll need to access with either the wading boots or as a gator since it’s a path through swamp water. At the end of the path is snow, ice, and the Jiggy picture to open up Freezeezy Peak.

Right near here is also an ice boulder blocking another little pathway, but I can’t bite it to destroy it, so I make a mental note of returning here once I’ve undone the gator transformation, accomplished as simply as just walking past a certain threshold near the transformation’s world of origin. With the wading boots I squeak over to the ice boulder and smash it, only to discover that the pathway requires me to be small again to squeeze through it.

I’d be more annoyed, but I have to go back into Bubblegloop Swamp anyway to get that last honeycomb chamber. With that complete, I can tromp back to Mumbo’s for the transformation and then hussle out of the world and down toward the ice path again, which leads me to my first encounter with Cheato, the magic spellbook.

Cheato is your means of increasing the carrying ability for eggs and feathers, doubling one when you find him. Here, he gives me a spell for doubling my eggs to 200, which can only be done by going back to Treasure Trove Cove’s sandcastle and stomping the letters “BLUEEGGS” in the correct order.

While I’m back in Treasure Trove Cove, I wanted to check something to see if it worked. In between the last session and this one I fired up Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts just for the heck of it, creating some save data there. Reentering Banjo-Kazooie didn’t provide a new prompt, but it did unlock the Stop ‘n’ Swap items very quietly and sneakily. That meant that Sharkfood Island, usually just a little sign in the middle of the water by an extra life, had risen from the water and revealed an opening to the cave where a mysterious egg lay in wait at the end of a simple in-and-out jumping challenge. What use these eggs have in the game itself is still a mystery to me as I only encountered them through cheats in the original N64 version, and back then they were just a holdover from a dropped feature, so who can really say.

Checking my play history, Bubblegloop Swamp took me about 40 minutes to complete, longer perhaps due to having to search for the honeycomb chamber as well as having to return to get transformed again. From here I’m left with a choice of either Freezeezy Peak or Gobi’s Valley. Since I can’t remember, the order, I’m choosing to go to Gobi’s Valley next since its entrance is technically the next one I’ll see as I trot through Gruntilda’s lair. Come back next time to see how the sands treat me!

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