Beetle Adventure Racing!

Beetle Adventure Racing!
Beetle Adventure Racing! Cover
Platforms Nintendo 64
Genre Nitrous hatchback racing
MtAMinutes to Action 1
Keep Playing? Yep
Buy from Amazon

Talk about an adventure in licensing, Beetle Adventure Racing was released a few months after Volkswagen's New Beetle car was launched and featured a garage of cars filled with just variations on the Beetle. I'm not sure if there's ever been a racing game quite like this, sure Gran Turismo is overflowing with licensed vehicles and there are even games like Corvette Evolution GT or Ford Racing, but none of them take one single car and create an entire game out of it. But this isn't your typical licensed racing game, it's San Francisco Rush starring German family cars. The levels include Inferno Isle, Wicked Woods, and Coventry Cove; sounds more like Diddy Kong Racing now, and yes, there's a four player battle mode.

Beetle Adventure Racing was released in 1999 on the Nintendo 64. I really enjoyed the game the couple of times I played it, as a few years later I was vacationing at Mackinac Island and my friend and I stopped into a local video game rental shop. As I mentioned in my Mercenaries review, there is no better place to pick up great games for great prices than at obscure little stores out in the middle or nowhere. Beetle Adventure Racing and Blast Corps were sitting on the shelves going for a few dollars apiece, easy decision for me. My friend picked up NBA Hangtime if you're curious. While our hunt for cheap copies of Final Fantasy VI and Chrono Trigger never panned out, we still snagged some fun games.

So let's continue our month of licensed games with quite the odd one, here's the first hour of Beetle Adventure Racing.

Minute by Minute

(minutes are in bold)
00 - I select Single Player and the first hour of Beetle Adventure Racing begins! Single race or championship? Might as well start with the championship mode. Three difficulties options, but only Novice is selectable. I also have to enter my name... Okay, and pick a car! There's only three to choose from, different colors and slightly different stats, though all pretty low. I select the balanced Bug. And finally Manual transmission.

01 - Coventry Cove is about to begin! The record time is 6:28. Oh my, the race begins! Since I don't like to read the instruction manual before first hour gaming, I'm not quite sure how the controls work. Looks like the A button accelerates, and the B button brakes. This was pretty classic racing controls as opposed to the now popular right trigger accelerating. Turns out the R button gears up and the Z button gears down. I think that's enough for now!

02 - I find my first shortcut, cutting through an alley in the European city we're cruising through. Then I hop over a bridge that's drawing up for a boat, the Beetle got air! Still in 8th place though.

Beetle Adventure Racing Volkswagen Select

03 - Just wanted to report in that I'm in first place! Hopefully this game isn't too easy.

05 - Lap 2, and well in first place I believe. There's a helpful mini map in the corner that helps keep track of the upcoming turns. I'm also seeing a whole ton of shortcuts but usually their exits, I gotta find these and take advantage of them!

06 - There's some nitro boxes around that will increase my speed from about 100 MPH to 110!

09 - I've found a few shortcuts, one was a jump over a fence and obviously my Beetle isn't fast enough and just kind of stopped right at the fence instead of going over. Too bad. I finish the race in 1st place in 7:25. Not bad. It was pretty fun too.

Beetle Adventure Racing Town Shortcut

10 - I also collected 24 bonus points, whatever those are. Mount Mayhem is next.

14 - Wow, this is a long level but it's really fun. I found a ton of shortcuts and grabbed a ton of air. Watching those Beetles fly through the sky gives me the willies. I also busted into the white Bug so hard it exploded!

16 - Lap 2 is complete and I'm in first place. There is a Beetle right behind me though, so I have to stay vigilant.

17 - Oh no! There's a hole in a bridge and I fly down it. This is not good.

Beetle Adventure Racing Broken Bridge

19 - Nice, I make a final push at the end after doing a corkscrew up the mountain, 7:43 was my time. These are long races! Inferno Isle is the third race. Record time is nine minutes!

21 - It's like a Jurassic Park ride! There's T-Rex's trying to eat my little Bug.

26 - Wow, over five minutes for the first lap, this is a doozie. But it spans from the dinosaur park to seaside town to a volcano. These tracks are impressive.

30 - Still trucking along in first place, there was a sweet dock shortcut that had my flying through the air in three consecutive jumps.

Beetle Adventure Racing T Rex Jurassic Park

32 - Hah, the race ends in a burning village, that was insane. What's cool about the races is that the finish line is always in a totally different location than the start. So you take a different route near the end and wind up in a totally new spot.

33 - Oh, I won! I guess there were only three races in the championship. Time to up the difficulty. The cars have some better engines in them now, looking forward to this. I still select the most balanced one.

34 - Oh man, Coventry Cove again?

37 - Already on lap two, the car definitely feels faster, and is maxing out at about 115 MPH without nitro. Quite impressive and there's a real sense of speed.

41 - This is one of those racers that doesn't really punish ou much for driving on the grass, I like it for that. And a first place finish, I like that too. Got my time down to 6:41.

Beetle Adventure Racing Burning Village

43 - And yes, Mount Mayhem, again.

49 - Minutes later, and it's the final lap. I like this game and all, but how about a new level?

51 - 7:18 this time, bring on Jurassic Park...

53 - I will admit, this is an atmospheric level, great track design.

60 - And long track design. Took first place in 9:55. Hey, a new level! Sunset Sands is up next! Too bad the first hour of Beetle Adventure Racing is complete!

Beetle Adventure Racing Crystal Cave

First Hour Summary

Minutes to Action: 1

What was awesome: While the Volkswagen Beetle may be a lovable car, it's the stages that really shine in Beetle Adventure Racing. They're lengthy, chock full of character, and offer up plenty of variety and shortcuts. Take a ride through the three levels I played and it's amazing how you can go from locale to locale just within one race! While the Nintendo 64 had a wide variety of racers, there was really nothing like this one. Mario Kart 64 had some great tracks, but they were all single themed and relatively short. Color me mightily impressed, it's just too bad I only got to play three.

The Bugs handled very well, I never had a big issue tackling the tight turns or navigating the narrow shortcuts. It just felt right, even if I was driving a manual transmission Beetle at 115 MPH.

What I liked: The game looks pretty great, I can't complain. The Nintendo 64 had some serious problems with textures, but Beetle Adventure Racing delivers the goods better than a lot of games from the same era. The real joy comes from seeing all the little bits of fun the developers had while designing the stages, like the T-Rex trying to eat your car, the helicopters zooming around, or the lava flows destroying a village.

What I didn't like: Would have been nice to play more than the three tracks in an hour, though the fourth track was just a moment away. Pretty weird to think that I spent 60 minutes racing on just three different stages, that's 20 minutes a level! They're definitely long races, which can be fun if the A.I. was good...

And the A.I. was not that good, or maybe I should say it just wasn't challenging. They didn't go for the nitro boxes, and they never really pushed me when I was in first place. They were basically always right behind me according to the radar, but never tried to pass. I would essentially have to fall off the track to let them get by me.

Gameplay: Pretty tight for driving a family hatchback. There's no advanced drifting techniques that I could see or your typical Kart power-up, so I'm glad I chose a manual transmission to keep myself somewhat interested in the controls during the long races.

Fun Factor: Playing each race once was a great time, having to play them each again right away was not so fun. Just let me select the difficulty I think I can handle and let me race on all the stages!

Graphics and Sound: Great graphics, really bad music. I listened to it intently at one point and I believe it was a two second sound clip replayed over and over again. The sound effects are also mediocre, and there's this weird announcer that says things at the most random of times.

Would I keep playing? Yeah, especially since I just unlocked the fourth race, plus there's still some multiplayer modes left to explore. This was a surprisingly fun game.

Beetle Adventure Racing Volkswagen License
Can't forget the Volkswagen license screen