Remembering classic games: Beetle Adventure Racing (1999)
This N64 classic was a surprisingly good game featuring a surprising hero car...
One of the great joys of racing video games is the opportunity to drive cars you wouldn’t ordinarily be able to get your hands on without being immediately frogmarched out of the dealership. It’s safe to say that, even back in 1999 when the ‘New’ Beetle was still actually new, it didn’t exactly feature in our automotive fantasies, which is why the arrival of Beetle Adventure Racing on N64 was such a surprise. Not as much of a surprise as how good it was, though.
This underrated gem apparently began life as Need for Speed 64, before some higher-up at publisher Electronic Arts inked a licensing deal with Volkswagen, presumably over an eye wateringly expensive lunch. One hard left turn in the development studio later and the game became a knockabout racer starring retro-styled compact cars.
A surprisingly competent handling model that took advantage of the N64’s analogue controller survived the transition, which is the core of why it plays so well, but the addition of power ups and more over the top circuit design gave it a character all of its own. Beetle Adventure Racing took you to volcanic islands, haunted forests and a circuit called Coventry Cove. Given that it’s a joyous blast through idyllic English countryside, and not a traffic jam in a post-war, poured concrete Brutalist nightmare, we suspect US-based game studio Paradigm Enterainment never visited Coventry in the Nineties.
In a strange, final twist to the story, this cult classic game was released in Australia as HSV Adventure Racing. Instead of the Beetle, it featured a 5.0-litre V8 powered Holden Commodore muscle car, which probably made it a lot less embarrassing for Australian teenage boys on the long walk to to the till at the video game store. Not that we’re emotionally scarred or anything...
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