It's 2005, and by now, the number of available Mario Kart-like mascot racing games must number somewhere in the trillions. If you've ever played any of them, then congratulations, you've already played Banjo Pilot, too. Despite the fact that this game has been in and out of development limbo since before the GBA even launched (it was originally Diddy Kong Pilot, before Rare became a Microsoft studio), the four-plus years of production haven't resulted in a game that's anything more than a paint-by-numbers kart racer. Of course, the long development and copycat design doesn't automatically make Banjo Pilot a failure. In fact, despite the game's utter lack of originality, Banjo Pilot can often be good old-fashioned simplistic fun in the vein of some of the great kart racing classics like Super Mario Kart for the SNES.
Spinning your platformer mascot out into a kart racing game is, like, soooo 1995.
Following the kart racing Mad Libs tablet to the letter, Banjo Pilot features pretty much everything you would expect, including nine different racers from Rare's Banjo-Kazooie universe, a slew of wacky, pitfall-filled tracks, all the usual mode types--like a grand prix mode, a quick race, time trial, multiplayer for up to four racers--and even some unlockable goodies. However, there is one aspect of the game that sets itself apart from the norm--the karts themselves. These are not the little fun-sized Shriner karts of old that you're accustomed to racing with; in Banjo Pilot, you're racing with miniature airplanes.
As goofy as that might sound, the racing still feels a lot like a typical kart racer. You may be airborne, but you'll still have to powerslide around sharp corners, lose speed or crash when you fly over rough parts of the track or obstacles, and fire off weapons you collect after hitting specific weapon pickups scattered throughout each track. Ultimately, the whole plane thing really only varies from the kart-based blueprint when you have to scoot yourself higher or lower to pick up weapons or avoid obstacles. You also can use the L button to supposedly pull off a barrel-roll maneuver to avoid enemy weapons, though after hours upon hours of attempting to pull that off, we never managed to avoid anything. Apart from these slight alterations to the classic kart racing scheme, there's no difference to speak of.