More than twenty years after the first movie was released, it’s strange to recall that Austin Powers was once a staggeringly popular franchise. These days, we tend to think of the unfrozen secret agent as the first in a series of increasingly over the top weirdos played by Mike Myers or perhaps as a Halloween costume for the same kind of guy who would dress as Borat. At the turn of the century, however, Austin Powers was making hundreds of millions at the box office and featuring high-profile guest stars like Tom Cruise, Britney Spears, Steven Spielberg, and Beyoncé.
There were music videos, licensed action figures, a pinball machine, a collectible card game, and commercials for Pepsi and Heineken among many others. HBO even bought the rights to make an animated series. It was during this licensing spree that Take-Two Interactive decided to make a series of Austin Powers video games to be developed by Climax Studios and published by Rockstar — yes, that Rockstar. And while they did release two minigame collections for the Game Boy Color, one game didn’t make it to release. That game was Austin Powers: Mojo Rally.
The Spy Who Blue Shelled Me
Austin Powers: Mojo Rally was to be a kart racer for the Sega Dreamcast, featuring an assortment of the series’ heroes and villains racing around movie locations like London, Las Vegas, and The Moon. Each kart would handle differently, and the levels were to have various gravity and weather effects. The characters were all rendered in a photorealistic style with bobblehead proportions, sort of a strange middle ground between Funko Pops and Angela Anaconda. Rockstar even hired a funk band to produce 70 minutes of original music. And, for some reason, the game was rated “E for Everyone.”
In an interview with IGN Dreamcast, the game’s executive producer said “We won’t be shagging and Fat Bastard might find himself being referred to in a very hushed voice but other than that we’re able to recreate much of the movie’s humor.” This, combined with the choice of genre, was likely an attempt to reach as wide an audience as possible. The other two Austin Powers games released by Rockstar for the Game Boy Color were rated “T for Teen,” making them outliers on the platform. Perhaps Rockstar figured a family-friendly kart racer was a safer bet.
Still, it seems like a strange move. Being horny is about 90% of the Austin Powers character. Even Gex, a character who literally just quotes Austin Powers out loud in his parody-of-a-parody spy game is constantly horny and is implied to have sex with a human woman. And the “M” rated South Park Rally had come out the year before — so it’s not as if there wasn’t a precedent for more edgy humor in the genre. In any case, I am very doubtful of the producer’s claim in the same interview that “the end product will make you very, very horny.”
As far as not calling Fat Bastard by name, the Austin Powers action figures simply called him “Fat Man,” so perhaps the game would have done the same. Mojo Rally’s frankly out of control press release calls him “an overweight Scottish man born out of wedlock” and I do like to imagine that entire phrase being on screen under his character portrait. Felicity Shagwell appears to be a playable character, but in an “E” rated game who knows if they would have kept her surname. One has to assume that classic characters such as Alotta Fagina and Ivana Humpalot would not have made the cut as unlockables.
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It’s tough to tell exactly how far along the game was in production. The April 2000 issue of the UK Official Dreamcast Magazine claimed an unnamed Austin Powers game was coming to Dreamcast in July. Mojo Rally’s press release is from March 2000 and says it was set to be released in October of that same year. Unfortunately, by October, the game was cancelled, citing the market surplus of kart racing games. Indeed, in that year alone Mickey Mouse, Looney Tunes, Wacky Races, The Muppets, and even Woody Woodpecker all starred in their own Mario Kart clones.
Austin Powers: Mojo Rally is fascinating for how real and tangible it feels for a game that was never released. I can clearly picture it on a demo disc between Ready 2 Rumble and Sega Bass Fishing. I can see myself arguing with owners of an even more non-existent PC port that the Dreamcast version is actually better. I imagine a world where the game has become a bizarre meme, with a way too specific catchphrase repeating far too often during each race. It’s the perfect game to picture being speedrun at Awesome Games Done Quick at three in the morning.
Sadly, the world might never know the true and specific weirdness of Austin Powers: Mojo Rally. The artwork, the soundtrack, whatever goofy ‘60s fonts they probably used — who can say if any of it managed to survive? The same month that Mojo Rally was scheduled to come out, the Playstation 2 was released. Half a year later, the Dreamcast was discontinued. Climax Studios would spend the next decade making Xbox RPG Sudeki, Silent Hill: Origins and Shattered Memories, and many more racing games, including one of my personal favorites of all time: Split/Second. Perhaps assets or code from Mojo Rally were reused in some of games, the ghost of Austin Powers lurking just below the surface. For now, Austin Powers: Mojo Rally remains frozen in time — much like Austin himself.