These days, everyone’s trying to generate a hit kart racing game along the lines of what Nintendo did with Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. However most of the time, these companies miss, either because they rush their products out the door or they just can’t match the majesty of the multi-million seller.
Nonetheless there are some that come close. Sonic and All Stars Racing Transformed remains amazing after all these years; and Activision’s Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled is a real treat. But other than that, most of these indie kart racing games end up burning out their welcome.
That said, Beach Buggy Racing 2: Island Adventure is a real surprise. No one really asked for a sequel to this tropically themed kart racing game, but the developers at Vector Unit (Hydro Thunder Hurricane) managed to deliver anyway. And for what the game lacks in genuine characterization, it more than makes up for with tight racing fun.
A whole lot to do here
Beach Buggy Racing 2 has plenty of content between its single player and multiplayer – and that more than justifies the paltry $20 price tag.
The single player campaign requires you to capture over 440 stars in all, divided mostly across three stars per race. And what’s more, the races are actually entertaining, with adjustable difficulty settings, a whole lot of obstacles to overcome (damn you, crabs) and some neat options that allow you to power up your vehicle along the way.
You can also unlock additional racers as you go along, piling up your roster of selectable racers. That said, their personalities are somewhat lacking, as they seem to follow trademark types (the cool guy, the island girl) instead of being memorable characters. Still, they fit the bill, and their special abilities are noteworthy.
As for multiplayer, it’s a lot of fun, with up to four players able to join matches locally in split-screen. It’s not the greatest when it comes to online support, but there’s a lot to do here if you’re racing alongside your kids, your roommates or your buddies when they drop by. And with so many courses and racers available, you’ll find a whole lot to do here – more than you might’ve expected from a game that fits into the “indie” category.
Gameplay and graphics that deliver
As for the rest of Beach Buggy Racing 2, it’s got a lot to offer. The gameplay is a genuine surprise, as the vehicles handle nicely on all sorts of terrain. They can be a bit “airy” sometimes, particularly if you hit a spring trap and go flying out of control. But overall, it’s not bad at all when it comes to turns, powerslides and power-ups.
Speaking of power-ups, they perform well enough. They’re not the most original ones introduced in a kart-racing game, but they’re effective and fun to pull off. The only downside is that they get piled up when racing against AI opponents, so be prepared to avoid traps a lot more often than you’d expect.
Presentation-wise, Beach Buggy Racing 2 is a nice surprise. The character design may not be the greatest (generic faces all around), but the tracks look excellent and offer a great deal of island variety. The game runs very smoothly as well, at a beautiful 60 frames per second with all sorts of neat little details. Even in split-screen, the game looks like a delight.
The audio’s not bad either. Most of the music is inspired “surf rock,” something you’d likely hear on a trip to Hawaii or something. But it suits the game, and you’ll like the various tunes available here. The sound effects are good, too, though the lack of character voices is noticeable.
Get your bug-gy on
Obviously something like Beach Buggy Racing 2: Island Adventure isn’t going to replace your favorite AAA kart-racer in your life. But as a suitable alternative that won’t leave too big a dent in your wallet, it’s not bad at all. The gameplay’s a good deal of fun; the presentation is sharp (for an “indie” title, anyway); and there’s a lot to do on your own and with friends. Sure, there could be improvements for the third go-around – if it happens – but this is a neat little island getaway that deserves a spot in your collection.