the writings of a mind

Title: Beetle Crazy Cup
Genre: Racing - Arcade
Strap: Flower power - the economic energy source of the future

What do you mean, you’ve never done a handbrake-turn in a VW Campavan at 90mph? Oh you have? Well, how about one garbed up in 60’s hippie paraphernalia, whilst bopping along to Beach Boys-esque beats?

Beetle Crazy Cup is by far the maddest driving game ever to have graced the surface of a shiny round disc – and by all rights it should be impossible to take seriously. It is very hard to convey in words just how out-of-it’s-tree, fat-man-in-a-tutu, wearing-daisies-in-its-hair, bonkers this game really is. Thankfully, this magazine is so futuristic we are capable of also including pictures, and a quick glance at these should demonstrate that BCC is not attempting to steal any crowns from Geoff Crammond. So exactly what is it trying to do?

A nice way to lead in to the bulk of this review would be to set the environment; perhaps an era, perhaps a style, but BCC cannot be pinned down so easily. At first impressions you may believe that you have been transported back to the 1960’s – a fair assumption considering the burst of flowers that explode across the screen, followed by a superb opening titles sequence of film and in-game graphics, all accompanied by a kicking Beach Boy’s-like track. But this is soon disbanded when you see the range of cars available, and the various settings in which to hurtle them about. From the classic VW Beetle to the brand new "New Beetle Cup", from Campavans to monster trucks, there is no period of the 20th century that can excuse away the insides.

Settings range from a massive arena, to the beach, to town roads. Each track is variable, either by changing directions, or by opening up certain routes and closing others, and the arena is entirely remodelled for each advance in difficulty. This means that tracks never become tiresome or repetitive, but instead a modest challenge on an intelligent difficulty curve.

There are three modes of play: Quick Play, Championship, and Beetle Challenge. The first two are self-explanatory – an instant race mode, and a knock-out tournament – but the third mode is where BCC really shines. In the Beetle Challenge you can play in each of the five game styles, climbing the ladder of difficulty in each, until you eventually open up the final challenge. Along the way bonus levels are opened up, letting you have access to even more barmy cars, and more variations on the tracks.

So what are the game styles? There is "Speed" – bombing around indoor tracks at a terrifying pace, "Jump" – seeing how far you can hurl a nitro-powered car through the air, "Cross" – another indoor track, that crosses over in the middle, "Buggy" – exactly that, racing buggies around the beach, and "Monster" – monster truck courses involving dexterity and car-crushing. So the normal, run-of-the-mill racing game stuff then… Well, no.

All this fun is backed up by a brand new graphics engine developed by Xpiral called Ambush. Ambush allows an "infinite draw distance" on any spec machine, which means that everything is always on screen at once, with no fogging or drawing in the distance. And it manages all this without any lagging or slow-down. This remarkable achievement creates a wonderful environment for play, with breath-taking backgrounds, and stunning detail.

Of course a driving game is maked or breaked on its realism, and for a game that is so careful not to set itself in any recognisable reality, things feel pretty damn real. There is a real sense of being gripped to the road, and an unparalleled sense of the weight of your vehicle. After having driven a light bouncy buggy, a Campavan actually feels so heavy, and all this can be conveyed through the keyboard.

A little more adaptability to the cars would have made for a slightly more involving experience – instead of providing such a large number of cars to buy, the ability to enhance and improve what you already have would have been more satisfying. But aside from this niggle, BCC really achieves what it set out to do.

Beetle Crazy Cup is just so many sandwiches short of a picnic, that it becomes infectious, leaving all in its wake in a daze of insanity. It is addictive and extremely replayable. All this, and a really good laugh. There should probably be some sort of health warning on the box – "Danger, this game is completely nuts."

Margin Note:

The Price of Fame

As you progress up the levels you earn "Fame Points". These points are used to purchase better and more powerful cars in each class, allowing you to be able to compete against the increasing difficulty of the courses and the computer opponents. This increase at first seems steep, but when you are settled into the controls, it turns out to be perfectly balanced to maintain a strict level of challenge, without causing frustration.

 Fast, fun, and engrossing, and as mad as a box.


Tech Specs:

Publisher: Infogrames
Developer: Xpiral
Minimum System: P166 (with 3D card) PII 233 (without 3D card), 32Mb RAM, 300Mb HD
Recommended: PII 300, 12Mb 3D card, Force Feedback wheel
Multi-player: Up to 8 players
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