The kart racing genre is a weird one. You see, on one side we have the likes of Mario, Crash and Sonic vying for podium spots with some of the most fun racing experiences you could ever wish for. There’s a middle-of-the-field pack that Nickelodeon have got sewn up, and there are some back of the grid grunters in the form of Race with Ryan, Garfield and Meow Motors. Then there’s Beach Buggy Racing, a franchise that originally came to Xbox in 2015, that is only now receiving a bit of an upgrade package in the form of Beach Buggy Racing 2: Island Adventure. And you know what? I like what Vector Unit has done.
Don’t get me wrong, Beach Buggy Racing 2: Island Adventure isn’t challenging those best of kart racers for honours, but as a game that you can dip in and out of at will, living out the life of some weird characters and jumping behind the wheel of a frantic little racer for a quick race or two, it does the job required.
Pretty much continuing on from where the first game left off, but upping the quality, Beach Buggy Racing 2 does what you would expect of any such game from the kart genre: you choose a fun little character, hop aboard a fun little car – choosing one that you prefer from a list, each with a variety of stats – and get dropped onto a fun little circuit before being left to get to the end as fast as you can. It’s the usual simple stuff and Beach Buggy 2 doesn’t ever deviate from the norms.
The racing is a piece of solid enjoyment too, with numerous worlds bringing together a ton of tracks that each have their own unique styles and environments. You’ll be found heading to the deserts of Egypt, will spend time dodging fire-breathing castle-dwelling dragons, and you’ll be navigating your way through the darkest dino-filled jungles. Things turn weirder still as you head into outer space, as Beach Buggy 2 forgets about its roots and allows us to take in racing across all manner of environments.
Of course, any kart racer worth its salt relies on the weaponry that is included and Beach Buggy Racing 2 is no different. It’s great to see 44 different power-ups present throughout the game, and with these being drip-fed into action through the well-thought-out Adventure Mode you’ll probably get the chance to utilise them all too. Admittedly some do feel extremely similar to one another, but the usual speed boosts, oil slicks, homing missiles and rockets are nicely complemented by some more ‘out there’ options – smashing through chicken coops will see your opponents left with feathers flying, reverse controls always bring a bit of a panic and hitting others with Donut Tires and anti-grav knocks see them struggling to keep on course.
No matter how fun you find these tracks and weapons though, repetition does occasionally rear its head in Beach Buggy Racing 2. After all, this is nothing but a mad weapon-collecting dash to a line that you’ll chase over and over, but thankfully Vector Unit have added all manner of challenges to the game to freshen things up. With the Adventure Mode playing out through a Mario style map screen, picking and choosing which races you wish to attempt, and when, is very much left in your hands. Aside from a little linear motion in order to push you through to the next chapter and world, if there’s a race type you fancy cracking on with, or prefer to hunt down the Grease Monkeys who will add upgrades to all your cars in an instant, you can work a route out to it.
Many of the events are different too, not just in the usual way of mixing up standard races with time trials, drifts, last man standing or full leagues, but in Beach Buggy Racing 2 each of those comes with its own set of rules. Some may play out as a straightforward race – you and your competitors grab as many weapons as they can and utilise them for all they are worth. But others will see weapon limits in play, will have everyone constantly strapped to a stick of dynamite, or see racers fully-powered so that little can hurt them. There’s a host of variety found in here and it ensures that the Island Adventure is one you wish to take in.
There’s more though and throughout the Adventure Mode you’ll find numerous cars and characters which can be unlocked; each of which has their own long list of challenges, and when you consider the roster sits at 14 drivers and 40 vehicles, those lists are crazy long. Unlocking the challenges is a cinch though; this may mean having to play x amount of races with a specific character, or to smash a number of items whilst racing around a certain course. It’s this which adds even more flavour and options to the table, ensuring that the Adventure that plays out isn’t just left to be a case of ‘win enough stars to progress’. Although obviously that is one of the main aims.
Aside from the Adventure and Vector Unit keep chugging out the content with multi-event Championships over a number of different skill and speed levels, race rule types and track amendments, weekly tournaments that enable you to see your name up in lights, and a host of individual Time Trials for when time is short. The chance to compete in local multiplayer races is obviously present too – I mean, what kart racer wouldn’t let you do this? – and again it’s pretty much a case of taking what you’ve learnt from years of kart racers; choose your own race rules and a party of up to eight players can all get competing for bragging right. The only real issue is finding seven local friends ready to compete.
In terms of content, Beach Buggy Racing 2: Island Adventure is chock-full of a ton of kart racing craziness, but occasionally it does all get a bit much. Supremely bright, super colourful and full of plenty of cartoon character, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the visual style that is being run; on the whole it’s a pretty smooth affair no matter how much is going down on track. But occasionally, just occasionally, the odd hiccup will kick in, whether that is an upside-down kart taking too long to reset, or whether an out of bounds situation is a bit too early with the call.
The main thrust and drive of this game is the madness that unfolds, and the unpredictability that any kart racer comes with, but that is also where the slight frustrations arise, especially when you suddenly find yourself on the receiving end of an absolute barrage of attacks that have seemingly come from nowhere. Add in the fact that those events which use specific items permanently attached to racers – more specifically the Dyn-O-Mite and Angry Bull power-ups – devolve into near permanent resets, and Beach Buggy Racing 2 just falls short of what is required of the very best kart racer.
And as I’m on the negative-train, some of the world map navigation in the Adventure Mode is occasionally a tad fiddly too, whilst the constant repetition of the fun, catchy, yet highly annoying race soundtrack very quickly grates.
Beach Buggy Racing 2: Island Adventure on Xbox is a bit of a surprise. After the original game fell flat, I was expecting pretty much the same to occur here, but whilst it’s not quite a good enough racer to compete with Crash, Mario and Sonic in the very finest kart racing league, it can easily hold its own in the formula below it. Should you be a kart racing fan, or are just looking for a fun game that plays host to a ton of content, you could do worse than Beach Buggy Racing 2: Island Adventure.