“Slug bug, no hit backs.”
One of the games that always comes up as a “hidden gem” for the Nintendo 64 library is “Beetle Adventure Racing”. Developed by Paradigm Entertainment and published by Electronic Arts, Beetle Adventure Racing was released in 1999. Would the arcade racing game suck me in or was it a mirage for racing games?
For adventure being in the title of the game, there’s not much adventure to be had. This is a racing game so there’s no plot, just come in first place and win the racing championship over three courses.
Beetle Adventure Racing offers three different beetles to race in coming in different colors and stats. The red beetle was the most balanced so that’s what I chose to race in. You can play single player racing a single race or trying to go for the championship based on points. I did the championship but you can also race against friends and play in a “Beetle Battle” which has combat in gameplay as you try and destroy the other players.
The racing championship was disappointing but I think I was too hyped about this game because of all the great things I heard from critics. When racing you’ll go against seven other Beetles. For most of the race, I didn’t see the other racers besides the guy in second place. Occasionally he’d pass me but only on straightaways as his Beetle had more top speed. 90 percent of the race I held a comfortable lead so I was never in any danger of truly losing.
Littered throughout the courses are breakable boxes with points, I don’t really know what these points do but the other boxes were nitro filled and if you ran over them your Beetle would shoot fire out the end for a short burst of turbo. There were boxes to break but also lots of secret passages to find. I spent most of my time on the main road but it’s easy to find the “secret” paths that are just off the beaten path. I took them a few times but didn’t notice too much of an advantage. My favorite thing to do during the race was to find the ramps and launch my Beetle off them. There was a small ramp on the first course and a huge ice ramp in the second race that launched my Beetle like 500 feet in the air. If you launch your Beetle off the track which will happen or fly off a cliff you can press a button to restart your Beetle on the track so this actually encourages risk-taking in the game as you don’t have too much to lose.
The length of the races was longer than expected. The first course takes about six and a half minutes, the second about seven, and the last about ten minutes. There’s a fourth course but you have to race on all three difficulties and win the championship before unlocking it. I was shocked that the racing championship only consisted of three courses making this a very short game. This is a game that I’d grow bored of within a day due to the lack of length. I’m sure it’s super fun with friends or battling others in the arenas but I didn’t have that option during my playthrough so unfortunately, I can’t comment on it.
Tracks are detailed with lots of decors. I think my favorite course was the second one as it has snow and at some points, it actually snows. The effect was impressive on the N64 and it was fun to race through it and head into crystal caves filled with ice. Overall, the graphics and details in the game are great. It was smooth without chunky polygons or awkward textures. One thing that did grow old was the sound of the car at top-end speed. Get used to it because you’ll hear it during the entire race. Below you’ll find descriptions of the courses from the manual.
Coventry Cove – Stately castles and charming countryside are great if you’re about 1,000 years old. Break-neck speeds and some serious air should stir things up a bit!
Mount Mayhem – Yodel-a-he-who can manage to stay on the mountain will probably win this one. These icy mountain passes and hairpin turns would panic a mountain goat.
Inferno Isle – The lush jungles and long stretches of beautiful beaches on Inferno Isle would be the perfect spot for a relaxing vacation. That is if there wasn’t a volcano spewing lava all over the place and a pack of crazed racers thrashing around the island.
All I’ve heard is that Beetle Adventure Racing is a superb racing game for the N64 and that it’s a hidden treasure. I was disappointed in my experience with the game after reading too much into the hype. I was very surprised at just three tracks to race on with a fourth to be unlocked. If they had six or seven courses, I think this game would be a lot more enjoyable.
Beetle Adventure Racing is a decent arcade racer with three fun courses but unfortunately, it doesn’t offer much fun over long periods of time once you complete a championship that takes less than a half-hour. Graphics are great for the N64 and there’s lots of fun to be had in multiplayer for racing or for the battle arenas but I wish the game offered more courses to race on, at least the ones that they do are fun. Beetle Adventure Racing feels more fit for an arcade rather than an actual home console.
Beetle Adventure Racing scores a 6.9 out of 10.
Do you remember when Beetle Adventure Racing first came out? What was your favorite course to race on? Did you play the Beetle Battle in the arena? Is this one of the hidden gems on the N64 and if so, what makes you like this game? Let me know your memories and thoughts, I’d love to read the comments.
If you’d like to own a copy of Beetle Adventure Racing, you can purchase a used copy of it for the N64 from eBay for $17.