Beetle Adventure Racing (N64)
This is the kind of game that I hate to love. Beetle Adventure Racing is such a superb game with such minor and tiny faults that I just can't help but write a glowing review. Beetle Adventure Racing is quite possible the most unique and innovative racer on the Nintendo 64. It offers a mix of fast-pace racing, insane shortcuts, beautiful graphics, and huge areas for you to explore. In fact, each of the tracks takes more than 10 minutes. They're that big. Each one has six + shortcuts, and the shortcuts are so different from other games that I can't call them shortcuts. I call them detours.
The menus in this game are set up in an interesting way. The options are all placed in the normal, usual way, but the backgrounds have still pictures of the Beetles in action, yet the camera is circling it. This is an action that the game uses constantly, including when you pause, and it looks very good. I was disappointed in the fact that you can't save the game to a different controller pak than the one that you made the note on originally. I had to use a Game Shark to get my friend's save to my controller pak. Speaking of the pak, this game implements it very well, saving everything you need it to, and loading the game when you first turn it on.
The control is one of the aspects of the game that annoys me. The setup is great, and there are three different controller setups to choose from, plus a custom option. The part of the control that gets to me is the way your beetle turns. It simply is too slow, even with the more advanced Beetles. And even worse, there isn't a power slide button. The game expects you to use the brake in conjunction with your accelerator as a power slide. It's not easy at all.
I do, however, love the environments. From the English countryside to the deserts of Egypt, from a raging city with casinos and hotels to an icy peak with a UFO, the graphics are unbelievable. The Beetles look great, and the backgrounds and polygons have nearly no glitches. One of the things that separates this game from other racers is the pop-up: There's nearly none of it. And when there is some, it doesn't interfere with the game at all. Whenever you see pop-up in a racer, you know it's a racer. In this game, you just look at it, and you think, "Is that a racer?" Plus, with the enormity of the environments, and the crispness of the graphics, the frame-rate stays super smooth, which is incredible. I just stop and gawk in awe when I'm racing along at 120 MPH with seven other Beetles on screen and the frame-rate is staying at a smooth 30 or 40 frames per second.
The levels themselves offer plenty of variety, too. Sure most of them are cliches that we've seen in Diddy Kong Racing and all the millions of platforms, but they all have something to them that separates them from those cliches. You'll see things in some levels that you would never think would be in that type of level. An example of this is the gigantic T-Rex head in Inferno Isle. Not only is this the best graphical element in the entire game, but it always comes out in a different spot, depending on where you are in terms of placement and position on the road. I like this T-Rex head so much, I think it should get its own game. T-Rex Head 64. What many people will do is compare this to Diddy Kong Racing, but in fact, it's not all the same. Diddy Kong Racing offered exploration, then racing. They were separate. This game melds the two seamlessly. This is superb, and as hard as I try, I will always have a place for this game in my heart.