Though gaming is easily my favorite hobby, there are a few things about it that I really don’t enjoy. At the top of the list are any challenges that require me to press buttons quickly. As silly as it sounds, I absolutely hate having to do this, as my weak noodle arms do not possess the endurance necessary to tap a button at high speeds until the current task has been overcome. Among these tiresome challenges is what is surely the bane of every Banjo-Kazooie fan’s existence…the Canary Mary races.
This rather unnerving half-bird, half-woman is first discovered in a toxic cave in Banjo-Tooie’s Glitter Gulch Mine. After you release her, she shows her gratitude by…making you race her twice on a mine cart or some such device. Okay, that’s not really her thank-you; she thinks this is a good way to stretch her wings. But honestly, after saving her life, I think I deserve at least a Jiggy without having to expend any additional effort. These races are long and require copious button-tapping that never fails to leave my arms aching afterward.
As if that wasn’t unpleasant enough, once Canary Mary leaves the mine, she heads for Cloud Cuckooland, where she awaits your arrival to race you once again. Overlooking the fact that you’re racing her on a clockwork mouse this time (huh?), this race is a hundred times worse because ol’ Mary is…you know, super fast! No matter what speed I begin the race, this bizarre bird woman zips forward like a yellow, winged rocket. Within moments, I’m left in her proverbial dust, and the race is brought to a swift end when she realizes that I am unable to keep up.
Many years ago, I had the immense pleasure of actually beating Canary Mary in both of her sadistic Cuckooland races. And while I have no perfect method for outpacing her, I can tell you that you won’t stand much of a chance against her unless you can exploit her programming. You see, Mary uses “rubber band AI”, which means she moves faster or slower depending on your speed. (So does Boggy in Banjo-Kazooie.) If you pass her, she will speed up, and if you move slower, she should, in theory, proceed at a slower speed. This means that there is little benefit to moving along at your highest speed until the very end because you’re only going to tire yourself out and make her that much faster.
As an aside, in case you’re having any trouble defeating her in Glitter Gulch Mine, make sure you remain behind her throughout most of the race. Then, just before the very end, speed up and pass her right before the finish line.
This trick is, in general, the best way to beat Canary Mary, even though the Cloud Cuckooland races are much more difficult due to her increased speed. When I beat her many years ago, it was only after a long, long period of trial and error where I tried out different speeds (I think the rhythm at which you press the button matters, too) and various distances to lag behind her feathered behind. Once you figure out the perfect pace, you should be able to remain behind Mary the entire race. Then, towards the end, there is a long downward slope down the side of the mountain. I believe it was somewhere around the end of this slope that I sped up and passed her at just the right moment. Again, not without a huge number of attempts where I tried speeding up at various locations, as speeding up too late means you don’t pass her in time, and speeding up too early causes her to increase her speed tenfold.
Keep in mind that even with this method, beating Canary Mary on Cloud Cuckooland is extremely difficult, which is the very reason I don’t plan on seriously attempting these races ever again. If you want to try this yourself, be ready to spend a lot of time practicing until you get it just right. To improve your chances, you may want to consider a few other helpful hints that I found online. For one thing, pausing the game mid-race to give your arm a rest might prove beneficial. Also, some people find it easier to press the button quickly if you use the end of a spoon.
Of course, if you can get your hands on a turbo controller, I hear you should have no trouble beating her. Apparently, these kinds of controllers allow you to simply hold a button down and achieve the same effect as mashing it….
Rareware themselves admitted that they never totally got Canary Mary working properly. I also suspect that they might have just found it amusing to include a nearly unbeatable challenge in their game. Yeah, real funny, Rare. While I am typically the kind of person who likes completing my games 100%, it is times like these that I just pause the game, take a deep breath, and say to myself…you know what, it’s not worth it.
Okay, dear readers, who here has beaten Canary Mary? If you have, what method did you use to outrace her? If not…can you possibly think of a challenge more aggravating? Because I can’t!