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The bizarre story of Rockstar’s Austin Powers Kart Racer canceled

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On March 24, 2000, Rockstar Games released a press release for a new racing game. No, it wasn’t Midnight Club, it was Austin Powers: Mojo Rally, a kart racer based on the English spy obsessed with fucking Mike Myers. Scheduled to launch exclusively for the Dreamcast in November of that year, Mojo Rally was being developed by Brighton-based Climax Studios. But it was unceremoniously canceled, despite an enthusiastic speech from Rockstar President and GTA Executive Producer Sam Houser. “The power of the Dreamcast will allow us to bring the world of Austin Powers to life in all its shagadelic splendor,” he said in the press release. “Mojo Rally will undoubtedly become the go-to party racing game on the Sega Dreamcast this year. It will be the grooviest racing game ever to be released.”

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“Visually and from a gameplay standpoint, Mojo Rally is going to blow away the opposition,” executive producer Nick Baynes, now studio director at Mafia: developer of the Hangar 13 Definitive Edition, said in a 2000 interview with IGN. . “We have an extremely talented and experienced team here in Brighton, and the end product will make you very, very excited.” It’s quite a sale for a go-kart racing game, but the world was a very different place around the turn of the millennium. Austin Powers was massive, with the second film, The Spy Who Shagged Me, grossing $ 300 million at the box office, which is roughly $ 500 million today. You couldn’t go five minutes without someone nearby doing a bad Austin Powers voice or the little finger-to-mouth Dr. Evil thing. It was a really twisted time to be alive.


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Mojo Rally looked like a pretty typical kart racer, with bonuses and weapons accompanying the Mario Kart-flavored slapstick races. But taking inspiration from the time travel theme in The Spy Who Shagged Me, you could have traveled through time portals halfway through and spawned in other locations, which looked like a neat gimmick. There were 15 trails planned, including the Las Vegas Strip, Dr. Evil volcano lair, ’60s London, and a “reduced gravity moon level.” Other features promised by Rockstar included random weather effects, split-screen multiplayer for 1 to 4 players, “a phenomenal physics engine” and “stunning 640x480px resolution that will take full advantage of the psychedelic.”




Austin Powers

According to another Q&A with Baynes for the now defunct website Game Interviews, Mojo Rally’s particular kart racing brand would be “as comfortable as an old slipper, but as refreshing as a bucket of ice. in your pants “. He said it would have “depth as well as a great look” and that it would feature bonuses including Fat Bastard throwing greasy chicken thighs at other runners and Dr. Evil zapping them with a laser. “The best part of this interview, however, is Baynes’ description of the game’s Mojo system. Apparently you would gradually fill up your Mojo meter as you collect bonuses on the track and” when it’s full, your vehicle gets very excited, baby, and temporarily enjoys improved speed and traction. “


Rockstar also hired “a great funk band” (according to Baynes) to record over 70 minutes of original music for the game, which is probably left in a safe somewhere, if it still exists. The identity of the group has never been revealed. Apparently the game, whose engine was reportedly written entirely from scratch, was also going to take full advantage of “the 128-bit power of the Dreamcast”, and was aiming for a solid 60fps, even in 4-player mode. would have been something of a technical feat at the time. It is clear that a lot of resources were invested in the creation of Mojo Rally, not to mention securing the probably very expensive rights to the Austin Powers license, which makes its abrupt cancellation particularly intriguing.


So what killed Mojo Rally? According to some reports, the developers couldn’t (perhaps unsurprisingly) get Austin Powers’ humor to work in the context of a go-kart racer, especially an E for everyone. “We won’t fuck and Fat Bastard might find himself called out in a very low voice,” Baynes said in the IGN interview, suggesting that this was indeed a concern, although he said the game would still capture the sense of humor from the movies. Rockstar’s press release even describes the character as “an overweight Scottish man born out of wedlock.” Games weren’t the only thing struggling with his name either, with the Fat Bastard action figure being sold simply as Fat. Man. The pursuit of an E rating, presumably to get more sales, was probably the first nail in his coffin.




Austin Powers

Another problem was the sheer volume of mostly terrible licensed kart racers released in the late 90s and early 2000s. The market was saturated with games like Star Wars: Super Bombad Racing, South Park Rally, Disney World Quest: Magical Racing Tour and Mickey’s Speedway, and people justifiably had enough. Similar to the current wave of platform fighters desperately trying to become the next Smash, these games were an attempt to build on the success of Mario Kart. However, despite heavyweight licenses like Star Wars and South Park, these were just basically bad, half-baked games. Rockstar really couldn’t have chosen a worse time to launch a go-kart racer, and that was almost certainly one of the main factors in Mojo Rally’s sudden demise.


Before its cancellation, Mojo Rally made a few brief appearances in the video game press. A half-page preview was printed in the June 2000 issue of DC-UK, an unofficial Dreamcast magazine, saying that while there are currently a lot of go-kart racers on the market, “the Austin License Powers, and all the shagadelic opportunities that offer, should make Mojo Rally a groovy addition to Dreamcast’s selection of race-’em-ups. “The overall tone of the preview is quite dismissive, however, reflecting the general unease surrounding the genre at the time. That was pretty much the extent of its preview coverage. Mojo Rally mostly appears in release date listings, with a November launch that never happened. was not heavily promoted, possibly suggesting a lack of faith behind the scenes.


Looking at the Dreamcast newsgroup posts around the time of the game’s announcement, the reaction has been mixed to say the least. “These games are a perfect example of what game developers will do for real money,” wrote user Bengk on March 23, 2000, the day Rockstar issued its press release. “What a stupid ass game.” Benjamin, however, was more positive. “I think it’s pretty original. There isn’t a wacky kart racing game on the Dreamcast, so it has a niche to fill.” As for user Morten Rath, posted March 28, 2000, he simply said, “Let Austin Powers suffocate with vomit. Most of the other Mojo Rally mentions on these groups come from people posting upcoming release lists to prove to naysayers that DC was not a doomed console. Sorry guys. We appreciate your service.




Austin Powers

Unfortunately, no screenshots or video footage of Mojo Rally exist, and no video game archivist has managed to get their hands on a playable prototype. The only evidence we have, besides the press release and media coverage, is a series of renderings of various characters and their karts. These include Austin himself in his Shaguar brand, Frau Farbissina riding a tank, Fat Bastard on a motorcycle, and Dr. Evil driving a motorized version of the chair from his evil lair. There is actually something quite charming about the art style and its mix of digitized faces, oversized heads and low-poly models. As for where these images came from, they’ve been shared so many times (usually by people stunned that an Austin Powers kart racer ever existed) that the original source has long been lost.


According to a Tweeter by Xbox co-creator Seamus Blackley, Sam Houser offered Microsoft a few games for potential release on the new console, including something called Grand Theft Auto 3 that Houser seemed to have little confidence in and the folks at Xbox passed on. . Whoops. Another game, however, was apparently more exciting. “The exciting game he was pushing?” Blackley tweeted. “Austin Powers. True story.” Now I don’t know for sure that this was the Mojo Rally, but it certainly looks like it could have been. The Xbox launched in 2001, so the timing is lining up. Now imagine a world where GTA 3 never released and never completely transformed the industry, but Austin Powers: Mojo Rally brought it out instead. How things could have been different.


Rockstar did, however, release an Austin Powers game in 2000. Two, in fact, for the Game Boy Color. Austin Powers: Oh, hold on! was a collection of minigames featuring the Pac-Man Mojo Maze scam, a side-scrolling platformer, and a loosely themed version of the Othello board game. The other, Austin Powers: Welcome to My Underground Lair, was basically the same, but focused more on the character of Dr. Evil. Both were developed by Tarantula Studios, which now manages the quality assurance of Rockstar projects under the name Rockstar Lincoln. There was also a ghastly Austin Powers pinball game released for the original PlayStation, but Rockstar wasn’t involved in that one. Considering its popularity, there weren’t as many Austin Powers games in the 2000s as you might think.


It’s still fascinating read on canceled video games, and Austin Powers: Mojo Rally is a particularly compelling example, especially the lack of information available online and the complete lack of verifiable footage in the game. you like those kinds of stories, The Games That Weren’t by Bitmap Books is a comprehensive collection of other games that have never been released. (They didn’t pay me to say that, it’s just a good book.) Somewhere out there, an early prototype of Mojo Rally might exist on an old, dusty, unmarked CD-ROM in a drawer, and I ‘really hope someone finds it and pulls it online. With most games canceled, you understand why they were killed, but I honestly think it could have been amazing. I guess we’ll never know, which is decidedly unshagadelic.


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