Beach Buggy Racing is a kart racing game from Vector Unit which originally appeared on mobile phones. And yes, before you ask, on mobiles it’s a free to download game with in app purchases. Now, before you run for the hills, all of the in app purchases have been gutted from the Switch release and everything is accessible far more easily by making simple progress through the game.
With that out of the way, how does a simple kart racing game stack up on a full fat console? Depending on how you look at it, surprisingly well, although comparisons to a certain other kart racing game on the Switch are inevitable.
If you’ve played a kart racer before, you know how this one plays out. At the beginning you only have access to one character although the others can be unlocked by winning against the end boss of each cup. There are a variety of vehicles to choose from, either a dune buggy, monster truck or some different kinds of sports cars.
Despite its mobile origins, there are no motion controls. They have been taken out and you can only direct your vehicle of choice with the analogue stick. The ZR shoulder button provides the acceleration although in the options you can activate an auto-accelerate mode. If the reaction to Mario Kart 8 Deluxe’s inclusiveness is anything to be going by, it’s nice that it’s there for those who may benefit from it.
Naturally, the main objective is to compete against fellow racers and trying your best to get first place, all the while picking whacky items in order to hinder your rivals. It’s a tried and tested means that, all though very simple, very few actually make it into something worthwhile. Beach Buggy Racing tries, I’ll say that.
Let’s get over some of the road bumps first. It doesn’t look great. Firmly in the PlayStation 2 era, it does its best for a mobile platform, but sticks out like a sore thumb on a big TV. Some may say cheap, outdated or a myriad other words to describe the obvious. It’s a mobile game. Sure they could have spent some extra time and money on improving polygons and textures, but it is what it is. A port of a mobile phone game.
Secondly, it doesn’t have anywhere near the level of polish and detail you’d expect, or at least from what you’re used to. Again, it comes across as a little cheap.
Finally, the personality. This is usually where almost every other kart racer also fails hard in comparison to Mario Kart. You can’t get involved with the characters or universe and, as I’ll mention again later, the items have no cohesion or realisation to them. There’s no believable world around it.
So it’s not going well. But you know, Beach Buggy Racing is the little game that could. Because actually, against all my preconceptions, I found myself enjoying playing through it race by race. For a start, the driving mechanics are pretty decent. Sure, the physics may not always agree with reality and are slightly exaggerated, it’s really quite easy and seamless to pick up and play. There’s no drifting button, which always feels odd, but once you get past that you’ll find yourself enjoying playing it.
There’s a hefty single player experience, something which even puts Mario to shame. The Career play is where you’ll spend the most of your time at the beginning. With nine cups hosted by different characters, each of which has a large amount of events, all of which you can attain between one to three stars depending on how you do. The game boasts to have 360 stars to collect which equals to 120 competitions. That’s a lot, for sure. This is a racing game that will last you quite a while to 100% complete it.
They’re not all just races too. Again, putting Mario to shame, there’s a solid variety of events to compete in, similar to Sonic Racing Transformed. Sometimes you’ll have to boost solo around a track to get the fastest time, occasionally you’ll have to pick up rockets and blast as many targets as you can to earn points and then there’s my least favourite, which is the elimination round which takes away the driver chasing the pack every 15 seconds or so. It’s a fine challenge, but often bloody difficult in Beach Buggy Racing.
Other things going firmly in the games favour include semi-destructible environments and obstacles, more game modes than career such as Quick Play, Daily Challenges and Championship Mode which lets you play randomly generated races against difficult opponents. You can do this to earn three stars for every vehicle in every speed class. It’s a lot! Vehicles are also upgradeable using coins you earn by competing in races. You can power up your strength, acceleration, max speed and handling; all of which is vital for winning. Things are expensive too, so it’s actually best to choose one vehicle and stick with it for the first time playing through. You can also change the colour of your cars and their patterns. Beach Buggy Racing seems to go above and beyond for what is expected of a small mobile game, for sure.
It’s not all wonderful though. There’s some rather horrific rubber banding at times, seemingly at random. You’ll be miles ahead, turning the final corner, get hit by the homing attack and your opponents somehow defy all physics and pass you, leaving you scratching your head in 6th place or something. It’s not an often occurrence but it does rear its ugly head once in a while and can make Beach Buggy Racing quite the challenge later on.
The power ups are also a bit bland. There’s a metric tonne of them, so there’s that. But they just don’t have the personality or cohesion to make them seem picked less randomly. More interestingly though, each driver has their own unique special move that can be used once per race. For example, the first character has an extended boost which also greatly improves handling. The second driver you unlock begins to leave a trail of flowers behind her car, slowing down anyone who drives into them. I think it’s a nice addition to the genre, but one does have to worry about balance issues where it’s obvious some characters are more advantageous than others.
The track design is pretty good overall. Beach Buggy Racing stretches beyond the beach setting and ventures into the weird and wonderful including going into space and onto glaciers. With 15 tracks in total, it doesn’t sound like a lot, but honestly it didn’t feel that small to me and there are no stinkers to ruin the fun. I think there’s a solid selection.
An addition to the Switch port is the option of local multiplayer for up to four people, nice, but to be expected. Sadly there’s no online multiplayer though, so you’ll have to stick with Mario for that.
I think what sets Beach Buggy Racing apart from other kart racers of the same ilk, is the fact you can clearly see they’ve tried to put together a good game for their budget and original platform. It’s not a quick cash in. They want to make their game worthwhile for you and in some regards they have. I enjoyed playing it for what it was. At its current starting price I think I would recommend Beach Buggy Racing but certainly not to everyone. As much as it tries, it can’t hold a candle to Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. Beach Buggy Racing is probably there for parents looking for a cheaper alternative for their kids. And that’s fair. There’s always been a time and a place for parents on a budget and in that regard you really can’t go wrong. There’re much worse attempts out there and at least you can feel Beach Buggy Racing is a game that is trying its best.
Game provided by Vector Unit.