(Nintendo 64)

Beetle Adventure Racing! (Nintendo 64)

Game Review

Beetle Adventure Racing! Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Dave Letcavage

Infested with Bugs

These days, considering most of us have become accustomed to the smooth frame rates and high definition resolutions provided by modern consoles, revisiting the Nintendo 64 can sometimes be a painful experience as you may find that some of your favourite games haven’t aged very well. Fuzzy textures, choppy frame rates and limited draw distances are commonplace, and you may wonder how some games didn’t induce motion sickness when you used to spend so much time playing them.

Well, that’s not the case with Beetle Adventure Racing, an arcade-style racer developed by Paradigm Entertainment and published by Electronic Arts in March of 1999. As the name suggests, this isn’t a game focused entirely on racing as it also incorporates a strong element of exploration similar to that of Midway’s Rush series from the same era. Though, instead of being restricted an urban cityscapes, you’ll venture through jungles, vast deserts, snowy mountain tops, haunted forests and more, each as full of life as a flagship ride at Disneyland.

Say what you will about the vehicle selection being limited to the Volkswagon Beetle, these distinct cartoon-esque vehicles give the game the fun and carefree vibe of a kart racer, and their vibrancy compliments the excitement of the tracks built around them. You may not believe a Beetle to be synonymous with speed but these Bugs fly around the track and handle like a dream thanks to a fairly realistic physics engine and gratifying power-slide mechanic.

The track selection is limited to six courses – which may seem a little light – but what Beetle Adventure Racing lacks in quantity, it makes up for in quality. These tracks are absolutely massive and bursting at the seams with a plethora of alternate routes, short-cuts and various secrets. Some of these routes are easily accessible while others are risky, thus providing a greater sense of reward. Each one of these sprawling tracks is expertly designed and radiating with enough personality and character to ensure you’ll want to revisit them time and time again.

Not only is there a great sense of diversity between each course, you’ll also visit many different environments and locales in a single race. For example, in Inferno Isle you’ll start off in a dense jungle, visit a seaside city, advance through a volcano, and exit to a village set ablaze by the molten rock that has rained upon it. At one point you’ll even come face-to-face with the famous reptilian antagonist that rampaged through one of Steven Spielberg’s greatest movies. While this is arguably the most memorable course in the game, it’s safe to say that the others are equally ambitious.

In championship mode – the main single-player offering – your goal is not only to finish in first place, but also to smash through as many numbered boxes scattered around the course as possible. Doing so will unlock much-needed continues throughout the various circuits, and if you collect all 100 points available per course, you’ll also unlock additional arenas for the multiplayer mode, Beetle Battle. This won’t be easy though as you’ll need to discover, memorize, and traverse most of the alternate routes in succession during a single race to get them all. Want a real challenge? You’ve got it right here.

As for multiplayer, the racing action is limited to 2-player head-to-head races - however for those with multiple friends, there’s the aforementioned Beetle Battle mode. Here, you’ll fight your opponents for supremacy of an arena while hunting down a colour-changing ladybug emblem that relocates around the map every time a player drives through it. You’ll need to obtain the six different coloured ladybugs indicated on the screen and the first to do so and reach the exit will be crowned victorious. While Beetle Battle can provide some excitement, the novelty seems to wear thin rather quickly. A few of the maps are restricted in size, and littered with obstacles, and some Beetles handle a little bit too stiffly to navigate them with ease.

Now you might think with courses this grand and the limitations of a cartridge-based system that Beetle Adventure Racing may have some noticeable performance issues. Thankfully, that’s not the case at all. Even considering the immense sense of speed on show here, the game still runs remarkably smoothly and maintains a solid frame rate throughout. The draw distance is even impressive compared to many other racing games on the N64 and you’ll find very little, if any, fog in the horizon.

Charismatic vehicles, exhilarating courses and a funky drum and bass soundtrack give Beetle Adventure Racing a personality all of its own. This is easily a game that could have been developed into a series had the proper attention gone into promoting it upon its release. There is a near Nintendo-like level of quality and warmth on display here that is missing from most third-party games and it’s one of the few N64 release that has aged extremely well. If you still have the means, you owe it to yourself to take Beetle Adventure Racing for a ride.

Conclusion

Beetle Adventure Racing is an anomaly. Due to the license you might expect it to be criminally underdeveloped and released solely to capitalize on the rising popularity of a current trend, but that's not the case. While this Adventure may be infested with Bugs, it’s actually an exceptionally well-made game that just may be one of the most charming racing options on the Nintendo 64. Yes, it’s really that good.

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User Comments (48)

defrb

#1

defrb said:

Cool review, i have played this game and was also suprised about the quality of racing, will definatly check this one again ;)

Chunky_Droid

#2

Chunky_Droid said:

Fun fact, while Australia did see a limited release of Beetle Adventure Racing, it didn't last very long on our shelves, then it was soon replaced by HSV Adventure Racing, with all the Volkswagens replaced with Holdens, and no other differences :)

Taceus

#3

Taceus said:

I was fortunate enough to play it with the Beetles. Not knocking Holdens, for me some of the games appeal was racing in a beetle. Seemed unconventional and different at the time. My mates and I had so much fun with this back in the day. I would do just about anything for a reboot or 'spiritual successor'.

Shiryu

#4

Shiryu said:

Man, I love that game, still have the boxed cartridge but haven't plugged in my N64 in ages. I probably should.

Spoony_Tech

#6

Spoony_Tech said:

I loved this game back in the day! Best racer on the N64. Yep better then Mario Kart! Only one type of vehicle to choose was not even a bad thing! Good times with this game!!

Bass_X0

#7

Bass_X0 said:

It was only yesterday that I was thinking that we hadn't seen a new retro review on NintendoLife for ages and that I wanted one soon regardless of what game it was. Thank you for reading my mind, NintendoLife.

Shworange

#9

Shworange said:

Good review, but what made you think of picking up this game and actually review it?

Omega

#10

Omega said:

I read these reviews with a mixed feeling. When my favourite game gets less than a great score, it always makes me feel unsatisfied. Fortunately, I have never heard of this game (and it has a good score anyway). :-)

SonataAndante

#11

SonataAndante said:

I had this as a kid and played it a bit. I do agree that it seemed of high quality but I was terrible at it and never unlocked any tracks aside from the first 3. At least I got Inferno Isle, sweet track.

Baloo

#12

Baloo said:

will this ever be released into the european market for download? ive been wanting this for ages

retro_player_22

#13

retro_player_22 said:

Back when racing game were awesome, it's too bad EA sucks nowadays. If a new entry like this release today, we'll be force into day DRM.

Nintex

#14

Nintex said:

A great game indeed, perhaps I'll break out the ole N64 and relive the late 90's today.

WildMan

#21

WildMan said:

This was my favorite game growing up as a kid! I have so many good memories of playing beetle battle with my family!

RightHemisphereG

#23

RightHemisphereG said:

My Favourite racers in the 90' were VR racer, Sega Rally Yaa, The Midway Rush games were best played in the Arcades at least thats what I found with the ports I played on consoles. The PC is were I was playing Racers when this game was on shelfs.
~Excitebike 64!! :)

DRLAdmin

#25

DRL said:

@Shworange - BAR never received the attention it deserved so I figured it would be nice to bring a little attention to it. Hopefully anyone that was curious about it in the past will finally hunt it down and give it a shot.

@DarkCoolEdge - I plan to review more retro titles in the near future. Maybe I'll rummage through the stock at the local shops for a copy of Shadow Man...(maybe ;) )

SparkOfSpirit

#26

SparkOfSpirit said:

This game is great. I don't like standard racing games at all though, but this one is tons of fun and its different.

Jumpman

#28

Jumpman said:

I have been waiting years for this game to be reviewed and I couldn't be happier with the result. I absolutely loved this game as a kid and I really wish I still had it so that I could play it today as a teen aware of its greatness. Also, with the memory pack that I never had as a child.

Jukilum

#31

Jukilum said:

This was the first game my family got for our N64. It was also our only N64 game for a long time.

DarkEdi

#32

DarkEdi said:

I remember this game was in the list of "Soon Release" in the VC N64 section.

mikeyman64

#33

mikeyman64 said:

I rented this game way long ago and I remember it rivaling San Fransisco Rush. Haven't played it since then though. I need to hit up a PnT and see if they have a copy. :)

DRLAdmin

#36

DRL said:

@mikeyman64 - Definitely do so. BAR has aged much, much better than Rush. Don't get me wrong, I'm actually a big fan of the Rush series (especially the stunt mode in 2049) but BAR is superior in nearly every way.

jasr

#38

jasr said:

I REMEMBER!!!
This game was pretty good. I rented it a few times; never bought it, though. It did remind me of San Francisco Rush.

DarkCoolEdge

#39

DarkCoolEdge said:

@luminalace I've always thought that there were many good racers. Star Wars Racer, Ridge Racer, F-1 World Grand Prix 1&2, Roadsters, Diddy Kong Racing,Mario Kart, World Driver Championship, Beetle AR, Extreme G...and some rally games that I didn't like that much but people did apreciate. :/

Bass_X0

#40

Bass_X0 said:

It was rated though, back in the early days of the VC.

Probably back when they didn't realise licensed games would prove so troublesome.

sketchturner

#41

sketchturner said:

I played the heck out of this game. Mastering the tracks in order to get all 100 points was a fantastic challenge made better by brilliant level design.

Undead_terror

#43

Undead_terror said:

The tag line sounds misleading, at first I thought it was a bad game with many bugs and glitchs but I guess I was wrong.

cheetahman91

#44

cheetahman91 said:

Great game and I agree with the review and score. I think I'll have to pull this one out and play it tonight.

Poketendo

#46

Poketendo said:

This game looks awesome! The gameplay sounds fun and my family's totally into beetles. But is this available in the European Wii Shop Channel (on Wii, not WiiU)?

Captain_Gonru

#47

Captain_Gonru said:

Great game. I was surprised that the review didn't bring up the car varieties. Yes, they were all VW Beetles, but there were different paint jobs to unlock that offered different stats. I unlocked all but one, the police car or the alien, I can't remember which.

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