Summer may be over, but there’s a new (to Switch) kart-racer that aims to prove otherwise. Beach Buggy Racing is the name, and it aims to offer some Mario Kart-esque fun at a budget price. Admittedly, it can look like it may be third-rate shovelware upon first glance, but who knows? There could be some genuine enjoyment to be had with this title yet.
The logo, character, and HUD designs could look rather underwhelming (which is why it can look like it’s revisiting the realm of Wii shovelware). Look past that, though, and there is actually a visually pleasing game here. I don’t often comment on filesizes, but I’m surprised by how colorful and detailed the graphics are despite the fact Beach Buggy Racing is only 117 MB large. The framerate is at 60 frames per second, and there are some pretty cool visual effects adding to the overall flavor.
The sound design is probably my least favorite aspect of the game. Musically, there is only a small handful of randomly selected tunes that play in each race. They are all in the same genre: the variation of rock that is often associated with a beach setting. Too bad some racetracks aren’t actually beach-themed. Oops! Not any better are the sound effects – particularly when an item is used, which can sometimes be obnoxious and distractedly out of place depending on the item being played.
Beach Buggy Racing contains fifteen tracks and plenty of game modes at hand. There’s the usual Grand Prix-style races and local split-screen multiplayer, but there are also Daily Challenges and a meaty Career Mode. While it doesn’t have online play like Mario Kart, it at least features incentives to keep playing in single-player. There are characters to unlock, vehicles to upgrade, and achievements courtesy of the game’s own achievement system.
The tracks aren’t as elaborate as in other notable kart racers, but they do have their shortcuts and differing themes. Racing on them can be fun, assuming you can look past the buggy’s floaty nature and that the items can range from helpful to annoying. Whereas certain items are projectiles that behave like they do in Mario Kart or Crash Team Racing, others can be applied directly on someone no matter what. This allows things to easily disrupt the player’s flow, notably including items that have a lasting period of time (such as one that reverses the steering controls temporarily).
The most of my time spent playing Beach Buggy Racing was in the Career Mode. It consists of nine “series” with many levels in each. These levels can consist of races or missions that take place within the fifteen tracks. While I can compliment the game for ambitiously adding depth to a budget title, I am not a big fan of how some things are handled. Firstly, I think if you were to cut the mode down by less than half of its size, it would be much better; there are so many reused tracks throughout that the repetition is one of the biggest issues with the mode. Another is that the further you go into the game, the higher the speed the cars move at. I know that’s obvious, but Beach Buggy Racing takes this to an uncomfortable turn.
I don’t think the tracks were designed (or even playtested in some cases) with these speeds in mind. And due to the floatiness of the buggies, it’s easy to either careen straight off the track or hit a bump that flips the car onto its side. Not helping any of this is the increasingly stubborn AI that’s already trying hard to make sure you don’t get the stars you need. To advance in Career Mode at all, you NEED to have a good amount of stars collected from the series you’re playing. Even at that, every now and then, the game will force you to gather enough coins to upgrade your car. Coins are collected in various ways so the grinds won’t be prolonging and exhausting, but that still means there will be grinding sessions regardless. Grinding is always a no-no in my book, and much to my dismay, the Championships (Grand Prix) Mode works that way, too.
Despite these things, there is some merit in the gameplay. Although I wish the cars were more grounded, mastering the courses with them is pretty fun. It can also be enjoyable to strike an opponent with a projectile item, if just to watch him or her fly out of his or her car like a ragdoll as you zoom right by. Even when I have complaints about the speed’s relationship with the tracks, I can’t help but smile a bit when gathering airtime – The track, “Red Planet”, is loaded with this – or intensely racing along at the quicker pace said speed allows for.
Overall, it has its issues and rough edges. Nevertheless, if you’re willing to put aside its more questionable quirks, you may get a kick out of Beach Buggy Racing if you’re looking for another kart-racer to have on Switch. Obviously, it’s not better than Mario Kart 8 Deluxe; then again, what game in the genre could be? For $9.99, Beach Buggy Racing is an acceptable offering in its own right, if in a dire need of improvement in some areas.