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Beach Buggy Racing / 15th June 2015

Ah, the smell of the sea and the feel of sand is lovely, and even in Scotland we can appreciate the beach - though for a few days of the year only and even still, this is subject to the weather, so those looking for refunds can bolt (though you should also query why you came to Scotland in the first place). Anyway, it is this meteorological inconsistency that means that Beach Buggy Racing is probably best at home within my own console, and it really has to be said this game is indeed best played on a console as opposed to the original version which can be found on your smartphone device, riddled with micro transaction and various other unpleasant phone-like features. Now, putting that aside, with a certain Nintendo game as well as Sega’s own All-Star Racing available on console platforms, is there really a place for a new challenger? Perhaps.

To start with though, it’d probably be best to get this over and done with; Mario Kart 8 is, without a shadow of a doubt, the best kart racer ever made, and it is highly unlikely that any other attempts to crack the market created outwith Nintendo will likely change this. The legendary developer invented the genre, after all, and have nearly perfected the formula each and every time. Though we only know that they haven’t every time they release a new iteration in the series and seemingly manage to achieve the impossible.

Ever since Super Mario Kart on the Super Nintendo, other developers have tried their own shot at the genre, though in fairness they did create some great titles. There was a time when I would simply roll my eyes each time that I would see one of the many shoddy clones hitting the market. Studio after studio continued to pump out these games only for the quality to hit an all-time low, resulting in what can best be described as “shovel ware” for the Wii. Regardless, it is still sad to see that many of these third-party studios have disappeared, joined by more than a few of the classic studios, leaving the indie scene behind to pick up the pieces, but thankfully, this may not prove to be too disastrous, as they are now beginning us signs of genuine hope that the smaller titles get their day thanks to the move towards digital self-publishing. As phones become swamped with trash titles, some developers manage to dream a little bit bigger, and I welcome their efforts on consoles if they can rise above the “shovel ware” that drowned the Wii.

Beach Buggy Racing is one of those efforts, bringing a welcome splash of colour and fun to the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One consoles, allowing it to stand out well in their AAA dominated games libraries. The low asking price is nice and the amount of content represents exceptional value, with a large career mode taking place across some twelve courses. Races can range from timed challenges to destroying targets and other racers, though of course standard circuit racing is also included. The game offers a large selection of weapons – though perhaps there’s actually too many, as some seem to be able to create real carnage and with this being a kart racer, can lead to too many unfair occurrences - but several of which will feel immediately familiar to any kart racing fan.

With Beach Buggy Racing having been a phone game previously, it has been tweaked for the home consoles and the overall port is very good. There are remnants of its previously jaded past, as the game lets you buy stuff to upgrade your kart, and there are indeed many to choose from. As you progress, of course, you earn money in the game which can be spent on a variety of upgrades, though perhaps it is best to select a kart and stick with it, fully upgrading the entire roster of vehicles would become quite a slog otherwise, though thankfully the game does dish out the plunder quite regularly in the console port.

There are other issues left over, such as the handling. As we have come to expect, some racers simply take a little while to get used to the handling model, and Beach Buggy Racing is certainly no exception. Eventually you will adapt, and become accustomed to the notion that the driving in this game feels somewhat akin to manoeuvring a shopping trolley with Victoria Sponge tyres through a tropical, outdoor market on the surface of moon. The handling feels floaty, bouncy, and slow, which kind of makes it feel like I am still playing it on a phone. Then again, perhaps that’s just me?

The graphics are certainly not bad, as they are fairly detailed, but it all still feels and looks a bit generic, and that is perhaps the game’s biggest problem. From the characters that should be bursting with personality, yet never really come alive, to the track designs that can range from great to completely uninspiring, but clearly some love did go into its creation. There are lots of small details scattered around the courses, including some animals to knock about, pesky gulls for one, and there are also alternative routes and jumps, which can be rather tricky to master with such soft handling. The music here never gets overly annoying as it’s not really that bad, but it really does lack variety which makes it feel a bit like an afterthought, which is a real shame. It should also be noted that are some minor audio issues (popping) on the Xbox One version for those who enjoy their audio, though hopefully, this will be fixed with an update.

Beach Buggy Racing comes fitted out with some action-packed, split-screen and online multiplayer modes (the Xbox One version actually supports up to six racers on a single screen), along with a host of daily challenges to try and entice you back for more. So should you pick this up? Well, the answer to that depends on whether you own a Wii U or not; if you do, then just go play Mario Kart 8 instead. But if you don’t, and you need your kart racing fix on the PS4 or Xbox One, then sure, go ahead and pick this up, as for very little expenditure you’ll get a fun, fast game that certainly has its issues, but hey, what games don’t ship with their fair share of those these days?

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