While it’d be overdrawn to prescribe the adjective “terrifying” to the wonderful and wondrous Rare game Banjo-Tooie, like its predecessor, the game contains a couple…let’s call them unsettling sections. The one that always sticks out to me the most is the Haunted Cavern of Witchyworld, which we’ll explore here thanks to The Duck’s Let’s Play of Banjo-Tooie (which is, of course, readily available on our YouTube channel .)
Witchyworld itself is a rather disturbing place to begin with, what with it being a condemned amusement park full of mallet-wielding enemies. And certainly, no amusement park worth its salt would be without some sort of spooky attraction. Enter the Haunted Cavern! Okay, so sure, the cavern is not the attraction itself – that would be the Cave of Horrors, which turns out to be only horrific as far as caging innocent creatures goes. But in order to get to the Cave of Horrors, one must wind their way through a darkened room lit only by a couple helpful(?) green ghosty guys and down a creepy and teeth-strewn path that looks like a never-ending dragon’s jaw. Oh, and the railing o’ teeth proves dangerous if you get too close to it, too. All in all, it’s not the most fun place to be.
When I first played Banjo-Tooie, what made me most nervous about the room was the darkness. You know the number one reason why I tend to stay away from horror games? Darkness. Real life darkness, real, or metaphorical, if you will, is something I can deal with. But navigating through dark and dimly lit rooms (that may or may not have enemies hiding in the further shadows) in games is just not something I find enjoyable. So when it I first hit the Haunted Cavern, it took it reeeeeealy slooooowly. When the ghost-light characters aren’t in Banjo’s immediate area, the screen goes nearly dark, and it’s weird and scary and unlike any other spots in the game. Of course, Banjo and Kazooie take it all in stride, but me, I feel like I’ve grown a year older by the time I reach the Cave of Horrors, a place, of all places, that I’m thankful to see.
I have to admit that even in the most lighthearted of games, my imagination can run away into some odd places. In the Haunted Cavern, I recall spooking myself every time Banjo was in the dark, thinking that surely some terrible thing would pop out from above or below just as the ghost lights came back around. Fear of the unknown is a powerful force, one that can dictate even the most benign of tasks. In Banjo-Tooie, the light at the end of the tunnel felt dead in the Haunted Cavern upon my first visit to it. Thankfully, subsequent visits have proved to be lesser ordeals.
Lede image © Rare, 4J Studios, Nintendo, Microsoft Studios (2000)