Review: Beetle Adventure Racing (N64)

In this review, things get groovy as we play the N64 game Beetle Adventure Racing. We find out if this racing game is worth a play.

This game was released in 1999.

As you can plainly see, this game revolves heavily around the Volkswagon Beetle. Every car in the game is a Beetle with varying looks and features.

When you first play, the game offers you just three cars and two courses. The three cars are red, blue, and yellow. Each car has three stats: handling, steering, and top speed. With the initial set of cars, one cat emphasizes one of these features while sacrificing another feature or two. The two tracks offers are Coventry Cove and Mount Mayhem.

To unlock more tracks, cars, and features, players must tackling the single race championship mode – the main mode for this game. The player is only given the Novice circuit at first. This circuit features the easiest opponents and fewest tracks. Those tracks are Coventry Cove, Mount Mayhem, and Infernal Isle. If the player wins this circuit, the player not only unlocks the Advanced circuit, but also Infernal Isle and three new vehicles.

In advanced circuit, players will note that the opponents are generally faster. There is also one additional track tacked on: Sunset Sands. If you complete this circuit, you’ll unlock three additional cars, Sunset Sands, and the Professional Circuit.

Finally, in professional circuit, opponents are even harder still. There is also the addition of another track: Metro Madness. Beating this circuit will unlock the Alien car, the track Metro Madness, and a bonus track called Wicked Woods.

Some players might scoff at the idea of a racing game only containing 6 tracks even though other games have showed off far less like Multi-Racing Championship. That criticism tends to get held at bay when one considers just how large these tracks really are. One track will take about 5 minutes to complete (Wicked Woods). That is the shortest track. The other tracks are far longer and can take anywhere between 6-10 minutes. With the fastest vehicles in the game, it’s possible to beat the longest track in less than 10 minutes.

Not only are the tracks huge, but they also boast some incredible design. There are numerous alternate routs strewn about that makes discovery a constant thing. There is so much to be found, it even puts next generation console games like Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit II to shame.

In each race in championship mode, there are also collectibles found throughout each track. In fact, the collectibles actively encourages exploration of the track during each race. Three of these crates are point crates. There is the brown 2 point crates. Next up are the blue 5 point crates. Finally, there are the very rare yellow 10 point crates. In total, each track holds 100 points.

In-track points can earn you two things. The first thing you can earn are continues. If you fail at a race and need to restart, you’ll end up using a continue if you even have any. How many points you need depends on the difficulty, but you need anywhere between 50-70 points to earn a continue. The much more difficult requirement is earning new Beetle Battle arenas. This requires you collecting all 100 points in the track. Some tracks require faster vehicles to make certain jumps, so it isn’t possible to get these right away even if you have the track immediately.

A fourth kind of crate is the Nitro crate. These are the blue crates denoted by the “N”. If you blast through this crate, you’ll get a temporary speed boost. If you ram into an opponent with a nitro, you can even cause them to explode and fall behind.

The fifth and final crate is particularly difficult to find. This is the flower crate. Each track has at least one flower crate and it is often extremely well hidden. They also only appear during single player championship mode races. In other modes, they are removed from the track. If you blast through this crate, you’ll unlock either the cheat menu (first one you find) or a cheat in the cheat menu (after the first one you find).

At the end of each race in championship mode, you’ll get championship points depending on how well you did. First place earns you an impressive 10 points. Second place still nets you a sweet 8 points. Third place will grant you a nice 6 points. Fourth place earns you 4 points. Sixth place will give you a charitable 3 points. Seventh place will grant you only 2 point. Eighth place will give you a measly 1 point.

One thing I will say is that this game can be surprisingly addicting. You might decide you want to play a few minutes of this. The next thing you know, an entire evening has flown by. It’s very engrossing because there is so much to experience.

One criticism I’ve heard about this game is the fact that there is a lack of variety thanks to the fact that every car is a Beetle. That might have been true if there wasn’t so much variety offered in the tracks themselves. Yes, there are 11 vehicles to be had in this game, but you almost don’t even notice this because each Beetle is different in their own way.

One criticism I do have for this game is the physics is far from perfect. Sometimes, you do find yourself doing side wheelies every so often. It can take a few seconds longer than necessary before the car finally gets back down on all four wheels. Still, if you aren’t smashing your car against a wall high up, this becomes less noticeable. The other problem with the physics is what happens when you end up crashing into opponents. It’s like they are on a fixed track where they seem to get shoved to the side for a moment before recovering.

A point to make is that the intro suggests that it’s possible to do stunts. In fact, the demonstration shows a car doing a 360 spin. To my knowledge, there aren’t actually stunts in the game itself and I have never been able to replicate the spin in the game itself. This ends up being not a big deal in the end, though.

Generally speaking, this game is a very well made game. The tracks are incredible with all the alternate routs. The in-track points system offers a great side challenge that adds that much more gameplay. The difficulty curve is nicely thought out and the difficulty of this game depends on how complete you want to be in the game itself. For players that want to play just for the experience, the game is very playable. For those who challenge themselves to get everything, this game provides a nice optional challenge. It’s a little something for everyone that is very engrossing.

Graphically speaking, this game is very impressive. Each track offers something new. In fact, tracks like Metro Madness offer so much graphical detail, it’s easy to get distracted by it while racing. Every few seconds, there is something new to see. In fact, some of the most impressive visual displays are hidden away on side-routes. My favorite was the pumpkin patch area in Wicked Woods with the black light and glow in the dark features which offers a borderline psychedelic experience. the only real complaint is the fact that you can see the limit to the draw distance. It ends up being nothing huge because it’s pretty far back. Still, it’s there if you pay close enough attention. Graphical glitches are rather minimal.

A big part of the personality in this game comes from the audio. If the goal was to be fun and upbeat, this is really prevalent through the music choices. some racers like to focus on hard rock or acid electronic music to make the game exciting. This game takes a different tactic by relying heavily on progressive breakbeat music. This fun and less serious vibe gives this great such a unique personality. Each track fits so well with the course. The sound effects, meanwhile, are quite off the charts. They really drill into the adventure aspect of the race. Whether it is the screaming monkeys in Infernal Isle, the audience at the ski jump, or the phone box in Coventry Cove that calls the emergency services when you crash into it, this game is an incredible auditory journey. A real treat to hear.

Overall, this game is definitely one of those games you can’t judge based on the box art and basic concept. The 6 tracks this game features are long and stunning. They even give some high performing next console generation games a run for their money. The shortcuts and exploration will keep you coming back for more. The collectibles add an extra flare and challenge to this game. Because of all of this, you end up being so engrossed in the gameplay, you almost forget that every vehicle is a Beetle – and there are only 11 of them that can be played in game. The graphics are incredible eye candy that just keeps on giving to the point where you don’t even notice the limited draw distance. The music offers great personality and the sound effects are an incredible audio journey. An excellent game to say the least.

Furthest point in game: Beat the pro circuit.

General gameplay: 22/25
Replay value: 10/10
Graphics: 9/10
Audio: 5/5

Overall rating: 92%

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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