I have been excited about this ever since I heard the words "platform racer". Sure this has been done before to some degree with Mario Cart and Diddy Kong racing, but neither were perfect and they were both very kid oriented. So, when I heard about racing the new Volkswagon Beetle through a platform environment I was immediately interested. After playing it, I have to say that they concept pays off big time, but with a little bit more tuning the whole game could have been phenomenal.
The game takes place on huge tracks running through basic platform environments. There is a snow level, a beach level, and one that is a drive in the hills. However, the levels are huge and the tracks are extremely large. We're talking "3 minutes a lap" long. This gives the level designers enough space to change the environment three or four times in one track. For example, the third track starts on the beach, then goes into a Jurassic Park-like zoo complete with falling electrical wires and a wild T-Rex, then it goes through a villiage, and into a live volcano. The real treat with the tracks is the fact that they are so open and there are so many different ways to navigate through a course. Much like in Rush and Rush 2 (which uses the same engine as Beetle) there are a variety of shortcuts and alternate paths. There are shortcuts in altenate paths. Sometimes I took a shortcut and drove for half a minute off of the main road before I finally found my way back to the competition.
The reason that there are all of these different ways to go is where the "adventure" in Beetle Adventure Racing comes in. There are boxes with point values on them raging from 2 to 10 and it is your job to find them all. Each course has 100 points. Find enough and you will get a continue; find them all and you get a bonus. This makes the game. It gives reasons to take the alternate routes and try for the hard jumps, since there are very few boxes on the beaten path. However, as I quickly learned, the alternate paths are often much more difficult and I sank a lot of cars in the water and blew up a couple by driving headfirst into a wall or into hot lava.
Last but not least as if the game was not packed with enough things to do, there is a Beetle Battle mode where you and up to three of your friends can take each other on in a fight to see who can collect colored ladybugs the fastest. Ok, so it is not the toughest objective, but there are plenty of weapons and pick-ups with which you can destroy each other. Blow them away with missles or flip their screen upside down with a goofy ray. The biggest disadvantage with this is that each player can only pick up one thing at a time and cannot get anything else until they have used it, but that is not any different from the battle modes on Mario Cart or Diddy. However, if you want to race your friends you will have to do it one at a time. The multi-player racing only supports 2 players.
There are two downsides to this game: graphics and control. Pretty big downsides, I know. While each level is beautifully crafted and scenic, the game is not expansion pak compatible so much of it is not crisp and instead is blurry and foggy. It is hard to see games like Rogue Squadron and Vigilante 8 and then have a new release looking the way this does The graphics are not bad, but they could be better. The technology is out there. Another difficulty was the control. Trying to turn with the Bugs is a chore and it just seems better if you bounce off of the wall and keep on going. The control gets especially weird when the car has to go into reverse. You have to press two different buttons and many times my car would be going backwards in the wrong direction and it would take a while to correct itself. Meanwhile, all of the other cars pass me and I am stuck against a wall.
Even with these flaws, Beetle Adventure Racing is one of the best of its kind. The replay value on it is huge. I was constantly finding new roads and point boxes that I had never seen before. The enviroments are very open and it really felt like I could drive anywhere, and very often I could. If you are looking for a racing game that does not take the skill of Gran Tourismo or Need for Speed and is focused on fun rather than driving prowess, or if you just want a more mature Diddy Kong, get Beetle Adventure Racing and try not to blow yourself up.
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