Beetle Adventure Racing is an arcade-style racer released on the Nintendo 64 in mid-late 1999. It was developed by Paradigm Entertainment and published by Electronic Arts. At its release, Beetle Adventure Racing immediately stood out from other arcade style racers that were ported onto the N64 at this time with its detailed course design, easy to learn controls and a vibrant soundtrack. Although this game may look a little dated by modern standards, it is still a fantastic experience to race through the unique tracks in this game.
Beetle Adventure Racing is one of many N64 games that need a controller pak, often sold separately, to be able to save progress which may be a hindrance to some who don’t already own one but in my opinion it is worth it as there are so many other N64 games such as Snowboard Kids that are well worth getting the controller pak for.
At the core of Beetle Adventure Racing is its single player championship mode where you race against seven computer controlled racers across the game’s diversely themed tracks. There are four modes; Novice, Advanced, Professional and Bonus, with each of these championships getting progressively harder with more courses added in each cup to battle for the lucrative trophy at the end. To progress through the races you have to gain enough points to be in the top three on the scoreboard otherwise you will be disqualified which keeps you on your toes and encourages you to learn the layout of each of the courses which in the harder championships you will need to have this knowledge because if you make too many mistakes and fall behind you might find it difficult to catch up to the other racers. As you complete each championship, you will unlock access to more vehicles and tracks in the game. While you play through this game you will be taken through serene grassy farm areas, tropical islands and an expansive metropolis. Even though there are only six tracks to explore, you can really see that the developers used all the tools at their disposal to breathe life into these landscapes.
What sets this arcade racer apart from other games is that it encourages exploration of the six vibrant courses. In each course, there are three different types of cardboard boxes scattered across the course with various effects and purposes for the player to collect. Firstly there are blue boxes with the letter “N” which give your vehicle a temporary boost in speed to give you a chance to get ahead of the AI-controlled players. Secondly, there are a variety of point boxes (2, 5 and 10) which have two purposes. If you collect a certain amount of points you are awarded ‘a continue’ which allows you to try a track again if you have a bad run. The amount of points you have to collect to obtain ‘a continue’ slowly increases as you progress through the championships. If you take the time to collect all the boxes and get 100 points in each track, you will unlock more multiplayer arenas to battle on. Getting 100 points on each course, especially in the later ones can be quite a difficult task as you still need to qualify in order for those points to count so I would recommend waiting until you have a certain car that allows you to stop the AI dead in their tracks to do this. These point boxes are usually located in each track’s many shortcuts. The final type of box found in this game are the “Daisy Boxes” which when found grant a variety of fun cheats that you can use in single player and multiplayer mode. There’s about two to three of these daisy boxes in each course and they are notoriously difficult to find as they are often hidden in areas that are hard to reach and often require you to go off-road to find. However they provide a great challenge for those who like to complete a game to 100% and provide a great sense of satisfaction when you come across them. The addition of these different boxes in the game allow for increased replayability which is well-needed considering that there are only six courses and you can easily play through the championships in 3-5 hours.
The other single player modes are time attack and a single race mode which allows you to take on the unlocked tracks one at a time which can be helpful in figuring out where all the good shortcuts are and to improve knowledge of the courses. Additionally, Beetle Adventure Racing has a multiplayer mode where you can race one on one with a friend or play Beetle Battle where the aim of the game is to collect six multi-coloured ladybugs from the different arenas and use various weapons to hinder the other players from collecting all of the ladybugs. While these two modes are fun, there are a few aspects of the multiplayer experience that could’ve been improved upon. Firstly, the lack of an official grand prix mode makes for a limited racing experience. Secondly, the fact that you can only pit yourself against one other player when racing on the courses rather than utilising the full four player capacity of the N64 is a rather disappointing omission. Perhaps the developers had trouble implementing this or simply ran out of time. These improvements, especially the addition of the grand prix mode would’ve made the multiplayer experience more memorable.
Graphics and Sound:
Beetle Adventure Racing has some of the most stunning visual landscapes, sound effects and soundtracks of many arcade racers of its time. In Coventry Cove, there are vibrant shades of green, clear blue skies and detailed farmlands reminiscent of a day drive through the countryside. In contrast, there’s Wicked Woods where there are spooky-looking trees, lit torches against a dark night sky and sinister buildings which bring out the ominous feeling of driving in a quiet area at night. It is details like these that allow the courses to stand out from each other and have their own personality. On top of the visual details, the sound effects are quite realistic for their time. When you drive into a body of water, you hear a satisfying splash sound and when you drive into a body of lava you are greeted with an appropriate tear sound as your car disintegrates under the high temperature of the lava. Finally there is the soundtrack with a strong bass beat that is pleasant to hear as you drive through each of the tracks. There are instruments and sounds that are cleverly employed to make the courses more immersive. For example, in Coventry Cove there is an organ playing casually every few seconds in the background which gives off the feeling of having a pleasant day drive. Overall, these things combined make for a great experience.
The controls in this game are fairly easy to pick up with the “A” button to accelerate and drive and the “B” button to brake. The “Z” button is fairly useful to utilise when you have to pull off sharp turns without losing too much speed. The “L” button allows you to respawn if you get stuck and the yellow “C” buttons allow you to change your point of view and beep your horn. Learning how to time your turns whilst not losing too much speed is the key to winning especially in the harder championship modes.
Overall Beetle Adventure Racing is a fun, vibrant arcade racing game that is sure to provide hours of fun for solo players and playing with friends. The combination of the soundtrack, level design and unlockables make this simple racing game memorable and worth playing. While there are a few multiplayer features that are missing and while it looks dated by modern day standards, it doesn’t detract from the positive experience of playing this game.
FINAL SCORE: 8/10.
Interesting Fact: In Australia, there was a HSV Adventure Racing game that was released alongside Beetle Adventure Racing which featured Holden V8 cars instead of the beetles due to the fact that back at the game’s original release Beetles weren’t that popular in Australia and Electronic Arts wanted to appeal to the Australian demographic.