Banjo-Pilot Reviewed

Previously known as Diddy Kong Pilot, Banjo-Pilot stars the creatures of the Banjo Universe in a Diddy Kong Racing-esque racer for the Game Boy Advance.

Banjo-Pilot has 4 modes of single player gameplay, with the ability to race Grand Prix, a Quick Race, Jiggy Challenges, as well as Time Trials. All of the levels must be unlocked in Grand Prix to race on them in the other modes. Are keys indicating new options in the mode?

The Modes
Grand Prix consists of four levels in a row, with your final tally of points at the end of the four races giving you your trophy color (Gold, Silver, Bronze). All of our readers will recognize most of the levels in the game, with levels from both Banjo Kazooie and Tooie, as well as Banjo Kazooie: Grunty's Revenge on GBA. You race by piloting your racer from the Banjo universe for three laps around the course. Steer off the course and you'll slow down, eventually spun back to the right direction. There are nine characters to play as, though you only start with four, each with their own speed, acceleration, and turning ratings (like any racing game). The levels look quite similar to their platformer counterparts, and suit te game nicely. After the four levels are completed in any Grand Prix, the racer faces a boss in a fast-paced dogfight battle.

These dogfights, against everyone from Banjo to Grunty, are superb and fun. The racer first attacks the boss from behind as the boss lobs some kind of defense (Banjo fires parachuting washing machines!). After 30 seconds or so, the roles are reversed and the computer chases the racer with his attack as the racer spins and dodges the incoming fire. A great change from racing, dogfighting is extremely enjoyable, and you'll look forward to it at the end of every Grand Prix.

Other Modes:
As far as the other modes go, Jiggy Challenge is the mode you'll play second. All of the levels beaten in Grand Prix must now be beaten by collecting all six of the jiggies and placing first against your one opponent (either Bottles or Grunty). This mode adds a small twist to the levels, and is a good challenge. Time Trials initially are just racing against yourself for a time (don't try them really until you unlock the Glowbos at Cheato - more on this later), but if you beat far enough into the game you can compete against Rare's times. Lastly, you can simply replay any of the races in a quick race.

Beating any level in the game gets you Cheato notes. When you visit Cheato, you can purchase levels, multi stages, bonuses, and unlockable characters. Picking up notes during races multiplies the amount of notes you receive in the level. However, you cannot buy everything immediately. More of Cheato's goods can be purchased as you progress through the game (beat Grand Prix's, etc). Some of Cheato's goods are useful in the levels themselves, as the unlocked Glowbo's, when shot in-game can whisk Banjo forward in a level. Modes become unlocked when Banjo progresses through the game (such as Time Trial vs. Rare's times and Grand Prix courses). Lastly, there is a photo album at Cheatos, and a curiously titled bonus called Stop N Swap if you beat just about everything...

The weapons used in the game work well. The magnet knocks down all of the racers, the speed trainers give Banjo a turbo boost, the ice blocks are obstacles for racers to hit into, and lastly the fire eggs for offensive. These weapons are collected by running over the ? mark honeycombs scattered throughout the level.

The best part of the game is the control. The piloting just feels right, with the familiar turns, spins, and crashes. One great unique feature to Banjo-Pilot is the ability to dodge incoming fire by doing a forward flip (much like Star Fox 64), which avoids the incoming projectile and gives Banjo a turbo boost. It really adds to the game. Also, you can simply do a spin or go through a turbo boost to shoot Banjo ahead.

Connect two GBAs with link cables to play multiplayer. You can choose between Grand Prix, Head to Head, and a Quick race between the two of you initially. After unlocking the battle maps at Cheatos, you can play against each other (actually up to four players) on four levels. Unfortunately, as it turns out, the four levels, despite having different names, are actually identical to the Grand Prix levels (TTC = RBB, SM = MM, etc).

The best part of multiplayer is the ability to race grand prix with more than one user. Four player Grand Prix is incredible! Even games like Mario Kart Double Dash for GameCube don't support this. If you can find the friends and have the gear, go for it!

Stop N Swop?
We were hoping it would make a cameo...and it did. Click on the following images to see what it unlocks (huge spoiler). For some reason, it's titled Stop N Swap, unlike of course Banjo Kazooie for N64. We don't see Sharkfood Island in TTC, but it may be there. It also appears that they used ice keys to indicate new options in a menu, a nice touch to the mystery.

The Bottom Line
If you're a Banjo fan, and especially if you liked Diddy Kong Racing for N64, you want this game. This game feels like it could've been an console game, yet even as a GBA version it's quite stellar. It's a spectacular Diddy Kong Racing on GBA in the Banjo Universe.

SOUND: 9.0/10
Beanland and co give us a great mix of Banjo music. Hearing some of the old tunes brings us back. The sound effects are very good, from banging into an ice cube to smashing into another racer, and individual racers have their own sound effects.

LOOKS: 9.0/10
Great graphics for GBA, nice backgrounds of the levels, and overall nice job. The levels are easily recognize from their version in the platformers, and they're quite tolerable.

MASTERY: 9.0/10
Rare has mastered racing for GBA. The game feels like it has been properly done, and you'll keep coming back for more.

REPLAY: 8.0/10
Lots of replay, from beating your times in time trials, to beating all of the modes (the first two Grand Prix's will go down fast, but the entire game itself is extensive). There also is a multiplayer component that you will play if you have friends with GBAs and link cables. The one drawback is that once Bottles is unlocked, nothing at all is hard. We'd have hoped for more difficulty.

MULTI: 9.3/10
Expansive mode, giving the user just about the full range of solo mode. Four player Grand Prix is a brilliant addition. Battle mode could've been expanded a bit, more and new levels at least.

OVERALL: 9.0/10

Get this game if you're a racing or Banjo fan, it's well worth it and will keep you coming back for days. Buy this game.
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