Infogrames' Beetle Buggin' isn't exactly the answer to hard-core driving simulation fans' prayers. It offers a variety of tracks, options, and licensed cars, but it makes no pretenses of being a full-fledged racing simulator. Instead, Beetle Buggin' is content to be a lighthearted arcade-style racing game with a liberal physics engine, fairly simple graphics, and plenty of gameplay modes.
Beetle Buggin' has a very intuitive menu screen from which you can choose one of three single-player modes that make up the meat of the game: quick race, championship, and Beetle challenge. Each of the three modes is composed of five unique ways to race that include monster-truck driving, supercross races, off-road races, track races, and distance events. The supercross, off-road, and track events let you choose from a handful of cars that you'll race against seven rivals across a number of dirt, paved, and beach courses. The object of these racing events is simply to place first, and the game keeps it interesting by varying the time of day, weather conditions, and location of each race. Most of the racing modes have been designed simply to deliver the thrill of competitive racing without the worries of real-life physics or car trouble.
However, the jumps and the monster-truck events aren't as well designed as the other three. To pass a jumping event, you have to clear a certain number of yards by activating your car's nitrous booster at precisely the right distance before the ramp at exactly the right speed. However, you have no way of knowing what the required distance and speed are, short of attempting a series of trial-and-error runs. What's more frustrating is that the win conditions change completely every time you progress to a later jumping event.
While the monster-truck game of Beetle Buggin' is somewhat more forgiving, it's also a little agitating. During the monster-truck events, you have a limited amount of time to maneuver a massive Volkswagen truck around a course littered with cars and buses - the key word being, "maneuver." That's because you'll also have to contend with going around a series of cones and pylons, and you're penalized every time you run over one. It'd be perfectly acceptable if you were behind the wheel of a nimble sports car, but there's no place for precision driving on a monster-truck track.
Aside from its two more-problematic play modes, Beetle Buggin's varying modes of racing keep it fresh and enjoyable and push you to unlock more vehicles by successfully completing each of the events. Fans of the classic VW Bug, the most recognizable and widely produced car in the world, will also enjoy Beetle Buggin's wide selection of cars. Because of its licensing agreement with Volkswagen, Infogrames has included 17 unique VW models in the game, including favorites like the Baja Bug and the VW bus. Each of the models has several variants that boast unique paint jobs and enhanced engines that effectively raise the total number of vehicles in Beetle Buggin' to over 50 - more than enough to please even the most discriminating fahrvergnugen zealot.
The cars themselves are modeled with a fair amount of detail and are skinned using adequate texture sizes. However, the tracks are somewhat lacking by comparison: The textures used along most of the courses are washed out, and sprite-based trees, crowds, and other outlying objects are typical throughout the entire game. While the graphics won't win the game any awards, Beetle Buggin's 3D engine does make use of certain rendering technologies, like environment mapping and 32-bit color, that serve to keep the game's visuals on par with similar racing games.
For Volkswagen fans interested in nothing more than a few laps around the track in a classic '60s Bug, or a cruise along the beach with a Baja racer, then Beetle Buggin' is definitely a bargain. Its varied courses and vehicles enhance its replay value and will keep casual gamers coming back for more.