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Tour de 64   


The severe lack of content and control issues ruin what could have otherwise been an enjoyable racer.

This is another game I found in a bargain bin a while back. Not once have I ever heard anybody claim this to be a good game, much less have I heard anyone say they have played it, which didn't give me high hopes that it was going to be the least bit enjoyable.

AeroGauge is a futuristic racer akin to F-Zero, with the biggest difference being that the vehicles are essentially flying and can move vertically in a limited range. Also, like its brethren, the A.I. is very tough to beat, even on the easiest difficulty setting. The game has the standard modes, such as Grand Prix and a 2-player VS. Mode, so there is nothing special or unique. With six short tracks and ten unbalanced vehicles, there isn't much variety to be found here. The only place the game has any longevity is overcoming the steep learning curve.

The Grand Prix consists of the four tracks available at the start. Before each race, you are required to play a 2-lap qualifier before the 3-lap race, and how good your best lap time is will determine your starting position for the real race. You can skip the qualifier if you so choose, but doing so will put you in last as your starting position. It is a good idea to drive the qualifier as a warm-up when it is your first time playing that particular track, but for repeated plays through the Grand Prix mode, it becomes largely an annoyance.

To put it bluntly, the controls are just awkward. Hold the "A" button to accelerate, press "B" to brake (something which will never be used), and hold "Z" to drift. It sounds simple enough, but the method of achieving the turbo boost is needlessly complicated. To achieve a turbo boost, you must hold the drift button and turn left or right, and then let go of both drift and accelerate whilst still turning. Immediately after releasing the buttons, you must resume holding the accelerator. Perfect timing is required in order for it to work. It feels very unintuitive and doesn't seem like it could ever be performed consistently through practice; if the turbo were activated through a more user-friendly method, it would nearly eliminate the frustration factor of the controls. There is also a temperature gauge for the turbo, and if too many are used consecutively then the gauge will fill, preventing you from using the boost for a while. The problem with the gauge is that it will become completely full even when it fills up to the point about two bars from the top, making it somewhat difficult to judge if another turbo can be squeezed out before it fills.

In order to take first place, you have to race flawlessly to beat the perfect CPU players. Although on Novice they don't travel as fast as they can, on all difficulties they take each turn with ease and never miss a boost. Considering that failing a turbo on a tight turn can cause you to come to a complete stop, it can be very frustrating. On top of this, you are required to stay above a certain overall position that's raised with each race, and there is no option to restart a race.

What really brings the game's rating down is the significant lack of content. The two unlockable tracks are basically remixes of two of the other tracks, so there are essentially four tracks. Making matters worse, the courses are very short, taking less than a minute to complete a single lap. These four, however, are quite varied in terrain and obstacles, ranging from a canyon chasm to a beach to a cityscape, and including elements such as tubes. There are five hidden vehicles which are obtained by completing the Grand Prix with the five starting vehicles; they have the exact same stats as the vehicles used to unlock them, so they are nothing more than an aesthetic change. One of these vehicles is a Nintendo 64 controller which, possibly ironically, has poor control. Speaking of stats, most vehicles are completely lacking in several areas such as speed or handling, and excel in vague areas such as stability. It would seem that a certain vehicle, the Interceptor, is easily the best vehicle, as it has a full speed stat and a half-full bar in all other categories.

The graphics are a mixed bag. There is a fair amount of texture work on the environments, but there is also quite a bit of fog and pop-up. Fortunately, this comes at a fairly smooth framerate (24 FPS I believe), with no slowdown that I could see, even when all eight racers are visible. The music consists of mostly rock, with the N64's signature tinny electric guitar. Each track has its own tune, complete with an up-tempo remix which plays during the final lap. The music is quite repetitive, and usually doesn't last for a single lap before looping. The sound effects aren't exactly suitable for their corresponding actions: vehicle engines sound like the engine noise from inside an airplane, and activating a turbo sounds more like a car crashing into a wall.

The groundwork for a great game is here with the game's interesting track designs, relatively smooth framerate, and would-be tight control if not for the awkward method of achieving a turbo. As it stands, AeroGuage is a short-lived tough-as-nails racer for anyone who takes the time to master the spotty control scheme. Unfortunately, its difficulty comes from all the wrong sources. By the time you grasp the controls, you've already seen everything the game has on offer, likely three times over. There are other games out there on the Nintendo 64 which will better satisfy the desire for futuristic racing fun.




04/15/2010 at 12:13 PM

Unless I'm mistaken, the way you turbo boost sounds a lot like the method in ExciteBots.

Kathrine Theidy Staff Alumnus

04/15/2010 at 05:38 PM

It's completely different. ExciteBots has a turbo button. You hold that button to turbo, you release it to return to normal gas.

AeroGauge is nothing like that.


04/17/2010 at 12:02 PM

Sorry--I meant the turbo boost you can use when you take turns.

Kathrine Theidy Staff Alumnus

04/17/2010 at 04:11 PM

ExciteBots has no other forms of turbo that I'm aware of. You can earn stars (points) simply by drifting, but that's all.

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