At a glance...

Reviewer Platform Publisher Developer Players Screenshots
Dave Wickham Gameboy Advance THQ Rare 1-4 Here
Requirements Buy from Amazon.co.uk
One Game Pak per player, plus link cables for multiplayer. Click here to buy Banjo Pilot.

Banjo Pilot review

You'll be forgiven if your first thoughts on hearing the name "Banjo Pilot" were of a game where you have to fly musical instruments around a virtual world ("Watch out! The clarinet is following us!"), but no - Banjo Pilot is a Banjo-Kazooie-themed Mario Kart-style racing game.

"Wait, Mario Kart? I thought this was supposed to be a flying game!" I hear you ask. Well, superficially, yes it is. You control a character from Banjo-Kazooie flying some form of aircraft. You can move up and down, rather than just left and right. However for some unexplained reason, if you stray from the shown path your aircraft will start to slow down and eventually fall out of the sky (though they have no problems flying over it in the intros to the different levels). Admittedly a course is needed, otherwise it wouldn't be fun, but surely there's a way to tie it in with the game.

Enough of the criticism; Banjo Pilot is a fun game to play. There are four different game types in Banjo Pilot, excluding multiplayer - Grand Prix, Time Trial, Jiggy Challenge and Quickrace. Grand Prix, Time Trial and Quickrace are basically the same as in every racing game - Grand Prix mode allowing you to choose between different collections of different races, Time Trial making you race against the clock, and Quickrace being a single race. As with Mario Kart and similar games, you have a selection of weapons to pick up and boosters lying around to aid you. There is a twist in the Grand Prix mode - simply winning all the races isn't enough to complete the grand prix. Once you've completed all the races you have to battle the previous champion (which, strangely enough, can sometimes be yourself.) This takes the form of a long straight section in the sky, with one person in front, and the other behind. The person in front has to defend, whilst the person behind attacks. After a while the roles are then reversed. All this ends when one person runs out of health.

The Jiggy Challenge is basically a Quickrace, but with just one opponent and there are jiggies involved; as you fly around the circuit there are six jiggies lying around. Your mission is to collect as many as you can, and come first. You only have to collect one jiggy (and come first) to win, but it's preferable to collect all six.

The way that unlocking is handled in Banjo Pilot is via good old Cheato. For each race you win, you earn a number of Cheato pages. The exact number is determined by the position you finish in, and how many musical notes you collect from around the track. Once you've collected enough pages, you can go to Cheato and he'll (apparently the big floating book is actually male) give you a list of bonuses you can buy, such as new contestants, new multiplayer tracks, etc. This does make a refreshing change to the more traditional "do X to unlock Y" used in most racing games.

As mentioned earlier, there is a multiplayer function in Banjo Pilot, but as it requires multiple copies of the game I was unable to test it. From what other people seem to be saying, multiplayer is the strongest part of Banjo Pilot, so it's a shame I wasn't able to play it and comment on it with experience.

Banjo Pilot's controls are fairly easy to use, although I often find myself hitting the shoulder buttons by mistake. The only complaint I have with them is that it's difficult to time boosts; the manual says as you cross the line... but you get control before you reach the line. Very confusing.

Audio-wise, Banjo Pilot is very good. When you first start the game, the familiar Banjo-Kazooie music begins to play, faithfully reproduced on the GBA hardware. As you play, familiar "voices" are also played, both when the characters are giving you information (in "cutscenes", for want of a better word) and when they overtake you. To be honest, I can't really think of anything to criticise about the audio, considering the limitations of the GBA. With regards to video, as with audio, Banjo Pilot is excellent; the only problem I found was that due to the low resolution and screen size, it is sometimes extremely difficult to see where the track is actually going, so you end up heading right into an invisible wall, which isn't particularly fun when it means you go from first to last.

OK, so back to criticism. Firstly, Banjo Pilot just feels like a Mario Kart clone. Not to say this is a bad thing - Mario Kart is, after all, a fun game, and the additional modes such as the Jiggy Challenge are fun, but if you already have a similar game you might as well give Banjo Pilot a miss. Also, unlike Mario Kart, which has distinctive levels, there only seem to be a few different settings for levels, and it's often hard to tell them apart. Often it felt like I was replaying a level, despite never having seen it before, just due to the similarities.

All in all, Banjo Pilot is a fun game, but at the end of the day it feels like a Mario Kart clone (albeit a good clone). The gameplay is similar, the weapons are extremely similar (something to make everyone else stop? Yup, we've got that. Homing missile? Sure.), so if you already have a game like this, there's not really much point to picking this up. If you don't have one, and fancy trying something different, then I advise you to give it a go - you may be pleasantly surprised.

Ratings

Graphics The graphics are decent considering the limitations of the GBA hardware, and trying to do 3D with it. 8/10
Gameplay If you've ever played Mario Kart, you'll know what the gameplay's like. Good fun racing. 8/10
Value Although it's listed as £24.99, many places (including Amazon, via the link above - you know you want to ;) are selling it for less, so if you don't already have a similar game it's a good game for a good price. However the rating is based on the RRP, so it's not quite as good value for money. 7/10
Lifespan Single player lasts a long time if you're one of those people like me who likes to collect absolutely everything/get full points in a game. If you aren't, though, you may find it a bit lacking in this department. Multiplayer would presumably add a lot of lifespan, though. 7/10
Audio As with graphics, don't expect full soundtracks with high quality sampling, but what's there is impressive - samples of all of the characters' "voices", the familiar Banjo -Kazooie, and so on are all included. 9/10
Overall If you like Mario Kart and don't have a similar game already (or are bored of it by now), Banjo Pilot would be a worthwile choice to pick up, especially if you can get friends to buy it. 7/10

Click here to buy Banjo Pilot from Amazon.co.uk.

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