For as long as anyone can remember, people have been trying to go fast. While early on it was about running or other primitive methods of gaining speed, since the dawn of the 20th century it’s been about going fast in a powered vehicle. After the age of the video game began, that need for speed translated to the screens we play them on – with various twists and tweaks added to the mix in order to make things extraordinarily interesting. While Beach Buggy Racing doesn’t really do anything in that vein we haven’t seen before, it’s the presentation and the way things are put together that make it stand out. Like Mario Kart before it, Beach Buggy Racing is simply a very solid action-infused racer. Let me tell you a bit about why.
Fusing the fun of racing in cool vehicles with the competition-reinforcing item system, the game is very much like Mario Kart in that speed and competence on the track can be augmented by the luck system built into the random item boxes. You can be the fastest and most accurate driver out there, but if you can’t use the item system to keep yourself from being taken out, passed, or slowed down then you might not be the first across the finish line. Likewise, knowledge of the items and luck isn’t always going to get you to the front of the pack. It’s a symbiosis of sorts, and the player aware of both the strengths and weaknesses of both the racing and item systems is the one that will have an advantage going into any match up. This is especially important when going up against a boss in the career mode, as they tend to be the most tricky to take on direct.
As for the content the game offers, Beach Buggy Racing is packed with a 120 race career mode, a daily challenge mode, nine different tiered tournaments, a quick race mode for casual play, and split screen support for up to four local players. Add to that the nine cars, ten drivers, twelve courses, twenty seven power ups, upgrades (including four horse power tiers), and the game’s various competition options, and you aren’t likely to be playing the same thing the same way very often – unless by choice.
Players looking to get serious might want to step up to that by taking on the game’s career mode as their primary focus. It features nine progressively harder series’ to win your way through, with an unlockable racer to face at the end of each set of courses. These racers all have unique special abilities, so it might be worth changing things up in the driver department here and there (even if just to try out the new unlocks). As for progression in general, you’ll be looking to get stars by completing levels in first, second, or third – the amount of stars needed (in total) to unlock the next level listed on the series pages. Your placement will also denote how much money you get, which is used to upgrade your car across acceleration, top speed, handling, and strength attributes.
Overall however, you’ll simply be tested across races and other mini-games, which include bubble collection style follow the leader, rocket boost only time trials, rocket or bull-based target practice, and more. There’s lots of variation and ways to improve here, so it’s the perfect way to start playing the game seriously.
On the flip side, the daily challenge mode offers a unique task each day. It follows the same general rule as any level in career mode, and can be from any of the challenge types – I think I even had one that was boss fight style. It’s a mode perfect for a quick play here and there, and will always offer some sort of freshness due to the custom styling that comes with daily challenges.
If you want a different long-form challenge however, then you might want to take on the tournaments that Beach Buggy Racing offers. There are nine tournaments to take part in, with 100hp, 250hp, 500hp, and 1000hp variants in each – making for a rather varied and base-covering mode. I don’t know the exact number of courses across the tournaments, but rough calculation based on memory puts it somewhere up above the number of races in career mode. It’s content by the ton, and it’s aimed at the player with lots of time on their hands.
That said, the player coming for the short haul might want to start with quick race. A way to hop into a game with the fewest steps and frills as possible, it’s the go to mode for a quick game that’s all about getting right into your vehicle and throwing down against the computer. It’s a good place to practice with no real stakes, or jump in for a quick play. Use it and abuse it. 😛
Finally, split screen mode offers local multiplayer gameplay, and has single Joy-Con support baked in quite perfectly. It’s sort of unfortunate that they don’t give you the full gamut of customization options for races – opting instead for a few race run in a cup style, but it still works quite well. It’s also one of those games that’s easy to have a new player jump into, as its Mario Kart styling and simplistic controls owe to its shallow learning curve.
That’s not to say that the game isn’t hard to master however, as it most certainly has its moments. Things like the final few bosses in career mode and some of the follow style levels tripped me up quite a bit; and while I was consistently able to three star races in the lower tiers, the higher tiers had me scraping for stars here and there just to unlock the next level. Thankfully, the game is fun even in some of its more frustrating moments, and never actually seems unfair to the player. It doesn’t coddle you too much, but it doesn’t unnecessarily punish you either.
Speaking of being hands off, it seems that (in the controls department) split screen doesn’t require you to hold the accelerator… a rather odd choice if you ask me. Other modes use the right trigger (R/ZR/SR) for acceleration. That said, it’s standard fare that A will use any item you’ve got, B is both brake and reverse, and X will let you use your special ability once when filled. Steering is of course the left analog stick, and that pretty much covers it. It’s as easy to pick up as it seems, but you won’t be a master without practice, practice, practice!
Looking past the controls to how the game looks, Beach Buggy Racing is a rather pretty title – despite its basic cartoon styling. The levels you’ll take on are (for the most part) crisp and detailed, the cars are slightly cartoon-y but very stylish, and the effects when using items are all unique and atmospheric. Overall the graphical quality is pretty high for a game of its price and theme, and that’s part of what makes it so enticing to play.
In the audio department, Beach Buggy Racing is serviceable if not great. The background music can become a little repetitive if you play in large chunks, and the engine noises are a bit low on range, but the atmosphere they are looking to display here seems pretty well covered. I would’ve preferred licensed music, but it’s an indie title and it seems they put the money to better use elsewhere anyways.
It seems that we’re at that point where if you haven’t gleaned my general opinion thus far, I’ll simply have to state it outright; Beach Buggy Racing is a very fun game with a lot of content to keep you both interested and busy. Crushing the career mode and championships alone put me around fifteen hours into the game, and I’ve still got much love for it – and plenty left to do. Vector Unit have done a great job at slipping their game into the Mario Kart genre without being too clone-like or straying too far outside the proven lines, and have ended up with a title that stands on its own with a unique personality and graphical style. I’ll be keeping this one in my “just for fun” rotation for a very long time to come, and you should too; especially if you’ve got a friend or two to play with locally!