Expanding from the 2017 original, the developers at Vector Unit took their time creating this sequel Beach Buggy Racing 2: Island Adventure. Sure, at first glance it can easily be determined as a Mario Kart rip-off but there is a staggering amount of game here. Although it features generic Miis as playable racers, it makes up for it with a mind blowing amount of content and options.
Adventure mode features an interactive map with each stopping point designated for a mission. Championship mode has players competing for a trophy that is comparable to the main mode in any Mario Kart game. Time trial mode rounds out the package with the goal of earning a fast completion time.
These modes are standard for any racing game but the options found within them have no being as robust as they are for the $20 download cost. First is the roster of characters. There are over a dozen racers available, each with their own unique features, pros and cons. The bland character designs are not memorable but having a large character selection screen encourages players to find a favorite through experimentation. The amount of vehicles available is also impressive. The garage can be filled with over 40 vehicles, each supported with their own attributes just like the drivers. There are also a couple dozen worlds and racetracks to explore. Further, players can adjust the time of time day and even the weather when competing on these tracks, presenting each race as something a bit new. Objectives are not solely based on time either. Sure, there is the standard race but there is also drift attack and more weapon-based objectives like fireworks fury.
Speaking of weapons and drifting, this sequel puts a heavy emphasis on the combat aspect of racing. There are so many weapons and power-ups available I cannot keep track of them all. The press released I received for this game says there are a total of 44 in the game and have no reason not to believe this. Even after playing for hours, I was stunned each time I encountered a new weapon during a race. If you are worried about pro players abusing the drift system, fear not as the drift system is tame. In fact, if the game’s controller map screen from the main menu didn’t tell me about the drift button, I would have never known about it or even cared about its absence. You can drift, but there isn’t a major difference in performance but more importantly, the track design never really calls for it.
Track design also isn’t as creative or epic in comparison to Mario Kart tracks. Like the generic characters, the track design is pretty tame, never difficult, and rarely features sharp turns. However, there are a lot of tracks and will take hours to simply race through them all a single time. Each track is mostly straightforward too, lacking significant shortcuts or flourishes. Unfortunately, earning that gold trophy, even on the lowest speed (aka difficulty) can be rather challenging due to cheap AI tactics. It is almost impossible to get 1st place but usually easy to get 2nd or 3rd. The 1st place AI opponent is basically in a league of their own, speeding away from the start and never looking back. Fighting for that silver or bronze is usually the name of the game so there are some balancing issues.
Perhaps the coolest option is the limited time events mode. Here, players can compete in daily or weekly challenges that constantly change. Scores are auto posted to the online leaderboard when completed and it is worthwhile to come back from time to time to see what is new and where you stand. I wish Mario Kart had something like this. The game also keeps track of all your stats in a detailed manor, just like the Smash Bros. games do for comparison. Some players might never check these details but adding this feature easily demonstrates how much the devs cared about their game.
As detailed and vast as this kart racers is, there are two blemishes that are distracting. The soundtrack, despite being well done, does not fit the mood of the game at all. Each tune feels like walking into a funeral home or sounds like something that should play in mid-September as summer is ending. It is way too somber for the happy-go-lucky visual presentation based around island hopping. The biggest missed opportunity is the lack of online play. Although the online leaderboards can enhance the replay value of the event mode, not being able to hit your friends with a flurry of dodgeballs on the last turn is a bit of a bummer. At the same time, local multiplayer can support up to 8 racers depending on the mode so that is pretty unique.
Vector Unit is not shy about making quality racing games as they also developed Hydro Thunder and the Riptide series. Although it might look stereotypical from screenshots or a trailer, these devs have used their knowledge and experience within the racing genre to create something more than a Mario Kart knockoff here with Beach Buggy Racing 2. You won’t care about the generic racer designers but the wealth of options and features is much higher than Nintendo’s flapship series.
Also available on Switch, PC, and PS4.