You may have heard of Ubi Soft's S.C.A.R.S (or Super Computer Animal Racing Simulation) before, as it came out for the Sony PlayStation several months back. A futuristic racing game that melded the gameplay concepts of Psygnosis' Wipeout XL and Nintendo's Super Mario Kart together, S.C.A.R.S. was a surprisingly fun combat racer on that system, silly back story (virtual reality racing in animal-themed cars circa the year 3000) aside. Unfortunately, the Nintendo 64 version is another matter entirely.
The game offers five animal cars (mammoth, lion, rhino, shark, and mantis) at its outset, each of them varying in degrees of speed, armor, grip, and weapons. If you want to go for speed, you use the speedy mantis or shark, while if you'd rather shoot your way through the competition, there's the heavily armored and weaponed mammoth or rhino. The title's grand prix mode is composed of three main cups, good for at least several races each, and a customizable cup that can be set for up to eight races. The challenge mode has you race against one of four extra rides (scorpion, cheetah, cobra, and panther) that become playable only once you've beaten them, which is far from easy - they don't call it challenge mode for nothing.
The earlier reference to Wipeout XL pertains mostly to S.C.A.R.S.' futuristic theme and color palette, while the gameplay has more in common with Super Mario Kart, with all the power-sliding around corners that goes on within. The power-up and weapon systems are similar to both, with numerous and varied icon-based items spread all over the tracks for you to pick up. The standard missiles, shields, and turbos are present, with the more imaginative magnet (freezes drivers in place for a few grueling seconds), two kinds of energy barriers that have to be leaped over, and a cool ticking bomb that gets passed back and forth from racer to racer like a hot potato.
Visually, S.C.A.R.S. on the N64 is a great letdown. The PlayStation version had fantastic lighting effects, sharp colors, and a good feeling of speed, but on the N64, S.C.A.R.S. is blurry, not quite as fast, and has much more overt draw-in (even more so in the multiplayer mode). The music has also taken a major hit, replacing fairly listenable tracks with "noodley"-sounding sub-techno. Even with all these plusses turning up minused, the game's multiplayer mode could've helped it catch back up by including additional modes (such as a Mario Kart 64-style deathmatch), but alas, you just get to race up to three other human players in smaller, graphically less-impressive windows.
The PlayStation version of S.C.A.R.S. wasn't incredibly deep but offered a lot of good, dumb, driving/shooting fun and was at least worth checking out, but there really isn't much reason to look this title up over the rapidly growing number of futuristic racers on the N64.