Last time Vector Unit ventured into console gaming, they brought us exhilarating water-based fun in the form of Riptide GP2. Having dried ourselves off, we’re now set to vacate our Hydro Jets in favour of a land vehicle… the beach buggy. Beach Buggy Racing is the name of the game, so let’s see if this kart racing game has anything to offer that others do not.
Beach Buggy Racing puts the player behind the wheel in a third-person viewpoint, across races against a field of competitors and around various tracks with a large number of power-ups to collect. It’s all very bright and cartoony. Immediately in the back of your mind there are comparisons to one of the greatest non-serious racers of all time, Mario Kart, but I’ll nip this in the bud by saying Beach Buggy Racing isn’t in the same league as Nintendo’s money maker. There will be a huge difference in the amount of investment for a start and so it’s really not fair to compare one to the other.
After a relatively simple tutorial, your first port of call will be the Career where you can compete across many Series comprising of events which ultimately leads to a boss race which unlocks a new character. Considering each character has a different special ability to be used once per event, having more of them unlocked gives you increased options when an event calls for a speed boost (Rez) or the ability to swap places (B’Zorp) with a racer higher up in the pack mid-race!
It isn’t just all straight forward races either; they’ve added other event types such as Elimination where every so often the last place racer gets eliminated and Boost Blitz which is basically a time trial. We’ve seen those before, many times, however Vector Unit have brought in a couple of fresh ideas in Stampede (drive into objects and other racers for points) and Shooting Gallery (shooting firework rockets at stuff awards points) to name just two.
Every event has up to three possible stars to earn and by gathering more stars you’ll unlock additional races and the all important one versus one boss race. Now here comes my first gripe… each Series has a HP rating for the level of vehicle that must be used ranging from 100 to 1000HP. I accumulated enough coins (from winning and even just participating) to improve my vehicle to 500HP. Obviously to compete in lesser events it’ll downgrade to a high end 250HP, yet when I attempted one of the earlier events with my top of the range car it was more of a struggle that I anticipated. I should be faster, the handling should be better but instead it felt identical to when I had the bare minimum of improvements, rendering my upgrades within the 250HP parameters useless.
Subsequently I found myself repeating races multiple times to finish first because my vehicle had dodgier handling and the A.I. channelled their inner Lewis Hamilton. And with no difficulty settings you can’t even adjust it to make it all that little bit easier.
Races aren’t won solely based on ability behind the wheel though, the power-ups can influence the outcome greatly, with some luck. Featuring 27 in total, the real game-changers are the Death Bat, a firey bat of death that homes in on first place, and the Low Gravity power-up which sees cars in front of you lose their gravitational pull. If you keep your fingers crossed for one of these at the right time then the power is in your hands to turn a race on its head. Or it could present you with a Chicken Crate to use on those behind you, unless you’re in sixth place and then you’ll probably need all manner of awesome power-ups and a small miracle to recover.
There’s no shortage of events in the Career, meaning plenty of hours of gaming are to be had, however it isn’t the type of game to keep you hooked in. In fact after a couple of races, even on different tracks, it became a little boring. I think that’s partly down to a few of the twelve tracks in the game being uninspiring, despite having shortcuts and minor hazards such as giant crabs in the way. One of the most creative tracks is “Red Planet”; that being said it’s a pain in the backside when you’re bouncing and floating on the red half of the track, rendering the idea rather irritating.
What else can you do? Well it’s more of the same outside of Career, with a Quick Race option and a Championships mode. In Championships you’ll be able to choose a championship related to a vehicle and then participate in a series of racing like a mini-season, where whomever has the most points after all the races wins. There’s also the Daily Challenge which is a randomly chosen event using a specific vehicle and character; it’s good for earning coins.
I’ve always found games like this to thrive in the multiplayer aspect and so I was disappointed to find no options to race online with friends or random gamers. There is however, up to six player split-screen action offline for some chaotic enjoyment to be had if you have a gathering. Now to just find five more controllers…
Beach Buggy Racing struggles to bring anything fresh to the table, meaning it’s just another kart racing game. In a world of Mario and Sonic dominating this racing genre, there should still be a place for this game being a cheaper option but I’ve played many low budget titles that are on par with this one. Don’t be mistaken, this isn’t a terrible game by any means but it just doesn’t deliver on being an addictive racer.
I wouldn’t recommend rushing to add Beach Buggy Racing to your gaming collection unless you’re unfamiliar with other kart racers.