Although Mario Kart will likely never be dethroned, other kart racers have attempted to make names for themselves by creating new takes on familiar mechanics. One such example is SEGA’s fantastic Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing franchise, which will hopefully get a third entry, while another is a newcomer to console gaming. That is, Beach Buggy Racing, a controller-based, HD iteration of a popular mobile series.
At its core, Beach Buggy Racing is a true kart racer that doesn’t try to be anything more. Instead of trying to rewrite the book, it attempts to excel with a core formula that borrows mechanics from genre greats while adding a few new elements. The result is a solid but unspectacular game that is fun for short bursts but ends up being frustrating more often than it should.
With a title that references a sandy beach, you’d think that all of the colourful racing would take place on golden dirt, but that isn’t the case. Sure, some of the game’s best courses are beach-based, but others take their themes from ancient temples, tiki huts, icebergs, marshes, aquariums and volcanoes. It’s a nice mixture, which plays out on a surprising amount of well-designed tracks, but nothing revolutionary. Then again, this is a port of a previously mobile-only series, and one that exists within a genre that loves such environments.
Beach Buggy Racing excels in the content department, offering a wealth of gameplay for an affordable $10 price tag. Not only are there a plethora of different championships to be won (several for each individual vehicle, in fact), but the game boasts a career mode that will take you hours to complete. On top of that, there’s split-screen racing, quick play and a daily challenge option.
If the racing was as impressive as its offered modes, we’d be talking about a must buy here, but we’re not. Still, that’s not to say that this is a bad game. It’s a fun and colourful romp; however, it’s not something that you’ll keep coming back to weeks, months or years down the road. If you’re just looking for something lighthearted to play, and have ten dollars at your disposal, then you can’t really go wrong here. Just don’t expect anything too great, or wholly original.
I don’t want to sit here and harp on Beach Buggy Racing for what it isn’t, though, because there is a decent racer to be found here. One that is not only jam packed with content, but also has quite a few neat power-ups on offer, including spiked tires (for better grip), zero gravity, explosive dragons, touch-sensitive dynamite and remote controlled apparatuses. It can be pretty fun, too, and could’ve been a lot better if it weren’t for its AI opponents’ way of stealing victory at the last moment. I can’t count how many times I came in second place after having an opponent use a power-up to zoom by me at the finish line, or just shy of its checkered banner.
Perhaps I found this experience more frustrating than most will, but I think that a lot of people will get annoyed by how cheap the catch-up AI can be, especially when it’s like that early on and doesn’t let up. Upgrading one’s selected vehicle does help, as does using your driver’s special ability (a one time speed boost, a flower trail that slows others down, or a bunch of bouncy beach balls, to name a few), but they don’t eliminate the problem.
The handling also isn’t perfect, but it’s good enough for the type of game that this is. If the price tag was higher than ten dollars and this was a new, console-specific IP, I’d be harder on the controls, but they do the job. Just expect to have to deal with some floatiness as you go around corners and attempt to navigate past obstacles.
Speaking of navigating, there are several different types of creatures and environmental facets that you’ll want to steer towards instead of against. Why? Well, if you’re going to attempt to get all of the game’s achievements — and good luck to you, because a couple of them will take you days to unlock because of their outrageous requirements — you’ll need to knock over 500 palm trees and hit specific amounts of crabs, penguins, seagulls and yetis. Needless to say, PETA won’t be pleased.
On the presentation side of things, you’ll find that Beach Buggy Racing is pretty inoffensive, outside of the animations that occur when beautiful creatures are hit or run over. This is a rather colourful and detailed game, which looks as you’d expect and performs rather well. Its music can be grating, though, as can its sound effects, but those can both be turned down or muted altogether.
By now, you should have a good idea as to whether or not this is an indie game that you’ll want to support. It all really depends on personal taste, including how much you like the kart racing genre itself. Since those games are few and far between these days, especially on next-gen consoles like the Xbox One, you may be more inclined to overlook Beach Buggy Racing‘s faults and give it a chance. I know that I’ll continue to play it for the time being, although it’s not something that I’ll keep on my hard drive for a long time.
This review is based on the Xbox One version of the game, which we were provided with.
Beach Buggy Racing comes to consoles as a decent but flawed experience. Its mobile roots show, and its catch up AI becomes frustrating rather quickly, yet it still manages to be fun during short sessions.