Riding the Backlog - Banjo-Kazooie (Part 9)

By Chris Pranger




Session 9: Click Clock Wood

Here we are, the penultimate session of Banjo-Kazooie, and boy is it going to be a long one, or at least longer than the others. That’s the theory anyway, if nostalgia is correct. Either way, Click Clock Wood presents a ton of original ideas and may just be Banjo-Kazooie’s most ambitious stage, which makes sense for it to be placed last.

But if I’ve already opened the final world, what’s the point of actually playing the final world? I actually checked and sure enough, I can move right along and get to the next part of the game with just 740 music notes, of which I currently have 800, so why bother? Curiosity is one reason, and also you have to assume that not all players, especially kids, have challenged themselves to find all 100 music notes in each world up to this point. I am not like those kids and have indeed ploughed ahead toward 100% completion, and darn it, we’re going to Click Clock Wood.

The main gimmick of this world is that it’s actually four worlds with the same layout, each experiencing a different season. Only one season is accessible at first, but as you open the others, you see just how dynamic the world can be when things begin to change.

Perhaps the coolest change that you’ll notice, though not right away, is that the music for Click Clock Wood remains the same for each season but is modified to fit the new season’s motif. As a basic theme, Click Clock Wood is also my favorite track of the game, feeling bouncy and overall happy. This world gives me life and really sells this game, especially as a near-finale.

Central to Click Clock Wood is the tree in the center of the world, reaching higher than any other structure in Banjo-Kazooie. It is the single largest setpiece of the game and dictates the basic flow for playing each season since the tree makes a large circle to explore, typically with one side of it blocked off as you enter the season, pushing you to explore counter-clockwise.

It also features a lot of vertical exploration, a feature you’d expect in a world set around a giant tree. That vertical aspect is where much of the length of Click Clock Wood comes from, as well as the greatest risk. One misstep and you’re plummeting to almost certain doom from the distance of the fall alone, though if you manage to survive, you’ve just lost a lot of ground and have to start over again.

Everything starts in spring with happy music, green growth, and gentle rain showers. Spring, being the first season, is the baseline for the world, lacking much of the stark personality that the other three seasons enjoy. It does have one unique characteristic, which we’ll get to, but for the most part it just lays down what the world will build upon.

There are a handful of new and returning enemies in Click Clock Wood, the first that pops up are some sort of Robin Hood-like goblins, perhaps named Goblin Hoods, though that may be an enemy from Secret of Mana so who knows. Second are a variation of a venus fly trap that constantly claps its jaws when Banjo gets close, making it nearly impossible to grab the treasures they’re holding.

We also have another variation of the enemies that pop out of holes, thankfully with a significant variation in that they’re large-beaked birds that pop out with a beak clap, then pop out again with a clap-clap-clap in all directions, giving them some distinction among the jack-in-the-wall enemies.

As we move along the base of the tree, a pool of water presents itself, along with the first creature in need. This is Gnawty, a beaver, and possibly of the same species as the Donkey Kong Country enemy named similarly. Poor Mr. Gnawty can’t get into his dam in the tree because a boulder’s fallen in front of it, something we can’t do anything about while there’s water to contend with.

Moving up the tree gives us the game’s most platforming-heavy section, extremely long, extremely varied, and extremely fair, all in stark contrast to the frustration platforming section in the engine room of Rusty Bucket Bay. Climbing the giant tree recalls a ton of previous platforming challenges, asking you to hop in and out of nooks, carefully jump across and flip onto logs, navigate twisting walkways, and generally not fall. Even falling from near the top won’t automatically result in a death, presenting numerous options for players to mitigate damage, such as aiming toward the water or trying to land on a ledge only one level down.

Around halfway up the tree is a treehouse in the process of being built. Right now it has one outer wall and a few planks here and there, letting you know it’s definitely a house, but it’s nowhere near complete. It’s good to see it to get a reference for what’s to come, allowing you to feel pretty satisfied when you see how it evolves with the seasons later on.

Past this treehouse is Nabnut the squirrel, a classic bumbling doof who loves him some acorns. In fact, he loves them so much he’s just munching away at a big pile of them, pleased as punch to keep gorging himself without a care in the world. It’s another nice bit of foreshadowing to the next couple of seasons.

Right in front of Nabnut’s house is the switch to open summer, a method we were introduced to in the beginning of the world where we had to stomp a switch to open spring. Very simple, but very clever design as it keeps us looking for the next season’s switch as we move through the world.

Near the top of the tree climb is a large nest with an egg in it. Hopping on top reveals another large X that you’re meant to stomp, initially something the player might be disappointed in since it feels like it could just be recycled content from Bubblegloop Swamp. Pleasantly though it’s not, instead cracking open and revealing a baby bird named Eyrie the eagle. He’s thankful you’ve helped him hatch, but nothing more can be done yet. Eyrie will be Click Clock Wood’s main quest, so you’ll be seeing Eyrie in the seasons to come.

Just past Eyrie’s nest is the top of the tree, accessed through a small breakable door. Inside is a room or chamber filled with those flailing tendrils. It also has a couple of extra lives besides the world’s first Jiggy. Click Clock Wood is loaded with extra lives, which I’ll actually end up using before the level is complete.

Back at the base of the tree is a small fenced-off plot of land with a hole dug into it. Pooping some eggs into this hole makes a large plant begin to grow, further questioning the nature of the eggs Kazooie uses. Again, they’re not hers since they’re just found lying around the worlds, but they’re definitely more than just eggs. My guess is they’re similar to Exeggcute from Pok√©mon as Exeggcute look like a bunch of eggs but are actually Grass-type seeds of some sort. The plant isn’t ready for harvest yet, so we’ll put that quest on the backburner as well.

Mumbo’s Skull can be found around the base of the tree just past a patch of brambles, not technically water but yet another “can’t step here” hazard that requires the wading boots to traverse. Or just tanking the damage, whichever best suits you.

For Mumbo’s final transformation, we are turned into a big fat bee. Sadly we do not have the ability to sting or otherwise attack anything, but we do possess the ability to fly, plus we’re small enough to get into tight spots. As an added bonus, the venus fly trap enemies don’t chomp bees, so we can collect a handful of items that way, extra lives included.

Another thing we can do as the bee is enter a large beehive partway up the tree. Inside are the Zubbas, bees or wasps or something that are guarding a Jiggy for Gruntilda. I’m able to collect a Jinjo here, but not the Jiggy. That will be later. Most everything in Click Clock Wood is classified under “later,” now that I think about it. That may be why I like it so much since there is a ton of payoff as the seasons change.

Speaking of change, it’s time to move into summer. The transition from one season to the next breaks the bee transformation, meaning I’ll have to find Mumbo again in the next season. Or so you’d assume.

Summer is hot. The landscape is quite a bit different, with swarms of little bees buzzing around tall grass, huge leaves having bloomed on the tree, and the main pool being nearly drained, which makes it possible to smash the boulder in front of Gnawty’s dam, letting him rush inside. He tells you to follow him so that he can give you a reward, but you soon find that the entrance is too steep for you to get into either as Banjo or even using the Talon Trot. The switch to open fall is found at the end of the drained pool, giving me access to the next season whenever I’m ready.

Once you start summer you also see Eyrie up in his nest, proclaiming that he’s hungry and needs five caterpillars to be satisfied, giving you a collectable to watch for as you traverse the newly changed summer tree.

Our egg-based plant is growing nicely, though it needs water, and wouldn’t you know it, our friend Gobi the camel is hanging out right in front of it. He knows what’s coming as soon as he sees us, getting a stomping to squirt his stored water onto the plant to help it grow. It’s odd to me that he mentions it took him forever to gather that water since he’s so close to the pool. Drained or not, there’s still a little water near the bottom. Oh well, weird game be weird.

Heading into Mumbo’s Skull during summer shows him exhausted from the heat, panting and fanning himself with a large leaf. He mentions that it’s too hot for magic, locking away the bee transformation for the summer season. The usually transformation pedestal is even gone, removing any hope you’d have for an easy season as a bee.

Climbing up the tree a second time we find change already occurring, most notably with the leaves I mentioned before. You could see little buds in spring, but now these leaves have fully opened, allowing for new platforming pathways and challenges. These are actually somewhat difficult due to the weird shape of the leaves and the floaty, impercise flip controls, but they still feel a heck of a lot more fair than the engine room section, so I can’t really complain.

The treehouse is coming together nicely, now having a full structure but lacking a floor almost entirely. There’s an entry plank, a little section with an extra life in one corner, and a Jiggy in the other. Making the two jumps necessary to collect both is pretty tricky, but feels good to do. I believe I remember reading that you can just wait until fall to collect these treasures, but I’m here now and I want them now.

Our friends the Zubbas are still in their hive, though in the summer season there’s a breakable hatch on the top that allows us entry as bear and bird, bringing about another bout of wave combat while the Zubbas pop up and dive at us. Getting the timing just right to knock them out of the air before they strike you is more difficult than I care to admit, so our ultimate weapon, the Wonderwing, makes short work of them, netting me their Jiggy.

Finding Nabnut again shows us what we expected. Namely, he’s out of acorns and has grown fat as a result of eating all of them in spring. He laments his poor planning, mentioning that he definitely won’t have enough for winter and hibernation, but hey, I’m sure it’ll all work out, right? We’ll check in on him in fall and see how things are turning out.

Taking out the clackbilled birds that pop out of the tree is a bit harder than I remember, mostly because it’s not hard to misjudge the timing and then get knocked off the tree into further damage. This gives me a chance to really take notice of the way the Banjo-Kazooie portrait in the top left corner of the screen’s UI changes with damage. As your health is depleted, you’ll see it with the number of honeycombs but also in the expressions on Banjo’s and Kazooie’s faces, getting progressively more miserable as damage stacks up. It’s a cute little touch that I really appreciate.

Arriving near the top of the tree gives us a chance to feed Eyrie his five caterpillars, which prompts him to grow and then immediately go to sleep. As a note, I was able to find eight caterpillars in summer, meaning Rare was kind enough to give the player some leeway in how they completed this challenge. The same is present for the Mumbo Tokens as there seems to be a finite number in the game but there are still more than enough to ignore the hardest ones and just focus on the ones that come across your path during normal gameplay.

With summer completed, we move into fall, and as expected there are piles of leaves everywhere. The large leaves on the tree have begun to wither, and the pool of water has been refilled, which means the first thing I can do is swim into the beaver dam and get my Jiggy from Gnawty. It’s worth a smile when he says he’s been waiting for me to come into the dam for months, implying that time does indeed move normally for everyone else but me.

I’m able to water my plant one more time with Gobi’s “help,” making it grow into a full bloom. I’m not, however, able to simply climb up and grab the Jiggy that bloomed with it, so I’ll have to jump down from one of the tree platforms during my tree exploration in a few moments. This last injustice is literally the straw that broke the camel’s back, sending Gobi galloping off in a huff, claiming he’s leaving and going to the lava world where we can never find him. And he’s right, there is no lava world in Banjo-Kazooie. But will we see him again? Perhaps…?

Yet again, Mumbo is not performing magic during the fall season, sighting the need to sweep all the leaves as his reason for not turning me into a bee this time. There are still venus flytrap enemies to contend with in fall, some of which have music notes in them, so I’m forced to use the Wonderwing technique to avoid damage while gathering the collectibles.

As we move up the tree, we find that the Zubbas have moved out of the hive save for one or two buzzing around in there to contradict them saying they’ve moved out. Nothing left in there save for a few more music notes. Collecting the music notes takes a heck of a lot longer in Click Clock Wood since they’re all dependant on the season, so you can’t get them all at one time. Collecting them all finally feels like a bit of a challenge.

The treehouse is also fully built, floor and all, and includes a health-giving beehive if I need it. Somehow I do not at this moment, so I can ignore it and move on to Nabnut, now slimmed up and worried that he’s going to die come winter since he needs more acorns. We’re tasked with gathering six of the googly eyed type, which isn’t too hard since they’re all located right around his house along some wooden pathways. Only one of the acorns involves a tricky jump, making you leap across a big circular pathway to grab the one suspended in the middle. Making the jump and holding your second jump allows you to safely flutter briefly and land on the pathway just below it, otherwise you’d plummet and either die or have to trudge all the way back up the tree.

Our ward Eyrie the eagle is awake and hungry again, now needing 10 caterpillars to be completely fed. Again, I end up having a surplus of caterpillars, which is nice I suppose. Better to have too many caterpillars than too few. Eyrie eats, grows, and goes back to sleep just like in summer, leaving us to reach the top of the tree and open the winter season.

Winter is all about snow and ice. You’re shocked, I’m sure. The pool has frozen over with only a single hole in the ice available to swim under, though you lose air at double speed as if it were oily water again. I’d forgotten the purpose of swimming under the ice other than to grab an extra life, and very stupidly allow myself to drown. Thankfully this is the Xbox version, so all those music notes and Jinjos I’d collected previously are still in my possession. Memories of dying this same way and losing all that progress as a kid come rushing back. I shiver not from the cold, but from the years.

A second attempt into the frozen pool yields a better outcome once I remembered the point was to swim into Gnawty’s dam and claim one of the two Click Clock Wood honeycomb chambers. I still manage to drown again after collecting it, but that’s the price we pay for not properly respecting the fearful power of water and ice.

Mumbo’s Skull is deserted save for a health-giving beehive that tells us Mumbo’s gone on vacation. This means no bee transformation for a third season in a row. Oh well, thus is life in the Click Clock Wood. At least all the venus flytrap plants are dead, so those are no longer a hazard I have to deal with, and the brambles into Mumbo’s cave are just as frozen, so those pose no threat either. The final Jinjo of the game stands on the top of Mumbo’s Skull, yelping and waving about for me to rescue it.

Returned in winter are the top-hat snowmen enemies that chuck snowballs and require a Beak Bomb for a proper dispatching. Flight pads are located all around, somewhat lessening the sting of not having access to the bee transformation again. It’s always nice to get a chance to Beak Bomb something again, and even nicer to be able to fly wherever I need to skip platforming sections of the tree that have been made more difficult with the slippery nature the winter season is known for.

The treehouse is now so complete that the door is sealed shut, almost looking like it’s been condemned. I like to imagine that’d be the sort of joke the game wanted to make, that you spend all this time expecting someone to finish building the house and move in and instead it just sits vacant and unused, utterly pointless in its creation. Beautiful.

A house I can enter is Nabnut’s, showing the squirrel happily asleep in bed for the winter, as well as some random pink squirrel whom I’m unfamiliar with. Nabnut’s got a fuller life than he let on between his stints of gluttony and sloth. We can assume this is Mrs. Nabnut, but who can be certain?

Up to Eyrie’s nest we discover the eagle fully grown at last and ready to fly to his destiny as a mighty eagle. He thanks us for our trouble and poops out the world’s last Jiggy, making this jiggy number 99 for me. Just a few platforms past Eyrie’s nest are the final four music notes, finishing the task of collecting every single one of the game’s 900 notes.

Before exiting Click Clock Wood, I make sure to Beak Bomb the upper window of Nabnut’s house to gain the game’s final honeycomb chamber, then return to Mumbo in spring to get changed into a bee to fly up to the game’s final Jiggy just outside the world’s entrance.

My total time in Click Clock Wood is roughly an hour and 13 minutes, the longest time spent in any world, just as I’d predicted. I’m now sitting with all 900 music notes and all 100 Jiggies of the game, leaving very little for cleanup as we head into the final stretch. Come back for the very last session where we get to enjoy Grunty’s Furnace Fun. With a name like that, should be a fun time!

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