Beach Buggy Racing is a kart racing car combat game available for download from the PlayStation Store for the PS4. Vector Unit was founded in December 2007 by Ralf Knoesel and Matt Small with a team comprising of just 4 members including themselves. Vector Unit’s focus is clearly on racing games as their first game released on July 28th 2010 in the form of Hydro Thunder Hurricane which was followed by Riptide GP in 2011, Shine Runner and the prequel to Beach Buggy Racing titled Beach Buggy Blitz in 2012, Riptide GP 2 in 2013 and Beach Buggy Racing releasing initially in 2014 on iOS and Android platforms.
Career mode consists of 9 series of events with an ever-increasing amount of events contained within each series as the first series contains 6 races with the second series onwards containing 9 races and upwards, although only the first series of events are initially available as you have to earn enough gold stars for finishing on the podium with 1 gold star for a third place finish, 2 gold stars for second and 3 gold stars for winning the race to unlock the later races in a career series, so you can therefore reach the end of each series and beat the boss in order to unlock the following series of events as well as the ability to select the character from the switch drivers screen.
Championship mode is initially locked, although it can be unlocked by beating the boss of the first series of career events with Championship mode consisting of randomly generated series of races against difficult A.I. opposition with 4 engine classes for each car resulting in a total of 32 championships, but only the slowest engine class for each vehicle will be available at first with the following 3 engine classes having to be unlocked for each vehicle by winning the previous championship.
Quick Race mode is initially locked, although it can be unlocked by beating the boss of the first series of career events with Quick Race mode consisting of single races set upon tracks which will be unlocked from your progression through the Championship mode.
Daily Challenges includes a new challenge everyday such as the expected objective of completing a lap of a track within a certain time limit to the rather unique shooting gallery in which you have to destroy targets and opposing cars by collecting and firing fireworks to reach a certain amount of points within a specific time limit, alongside a variety of other potential objectives for each Daily Challenge.
You can earn coins by finishing races as high as possible which is really important as the coins are used to purchase upgrades for your cars to improve a certain element of the car performance such as increased acceleration, top speed, handling and strength with the upgrades costing more coins as you progress through the quality of car upgrades. Upgrades will be required to win particular races as you progress further through each type of event; for instance you may earn a podium position with a third place finish, therefore resulting in having to upgrade your car to an entirely higher level in order to improve your performance to gain the race win.
The track design is amazing as there are 15 tracks from a variety of environments including a tropical beach, seaside town, an otherworldly planet reminiscent of Mars, ancient ruins, jungles, a Tiki temple and more besides with every track has secret shortcuts which are discernible from the camera angles during the introduction prior to the start of the race.
The car design is pretty good as there are 8 cars available to select including buggies, rally car, truck, lunar rover, monster truck, a hot rod and a sports car with every vehicle having its own parameters of minimum and maximum performance.
Character design is just as varied as the track design and car design as there are a total of 10 characters to choose from with every character having their own unique look, character ability and even a character bio to provide an insight into their personalities. For instance, Rez has a faster boost, while the ghostly pirate McSkelly summons the power of Davy Jones to allow him to drive through cars and weapons; Disco Jimmy infects his opponents with the urge to boogie as he passes them as they continue to dance; El Zipo who uses high power wrestling moves to temporarily knock out his opponents; Leilani calls upon flowers to blossom to hold up her opponents; Roxie Roller punches her opponents out of the way; and more besides.
There is a real sense of speed to each vehicle which only increases as the cars are upgraded further and ascend through the engine classes as you attempt to keep your kart from crashing and landing on its side, while also avoiding the possibilities of not accidentally carrying too much speed through a corner or being bumped by an opponent off the edge of the track which are all potential scenarios which could arise and significantly reduce your chances of winning the race, although the handling feels appropriate for the pace of the kart for as long as the handling is equally upgraded.
Car combat elements are an excellent design choice as it provides a new layer of gameplay as there are a total of 27 power-ups and weapons such as fireworks, fireballs, a set of 3 bouncing dodgeballs, a freeze ray to freeze opposing drivers and their cars, lightning strikes which immediately zap any of the opposition in front of you, an oil slick which spills a pool of oil on track for your opponents to spin on, lowering the gravity of the cars ahead, speed boosts, shields and much more besides. Some of the power-ups are on occasion collected in mystery crates that display a question mark to clarify a random selection that introduces a luck of the draw element in potentially key moments of the race with the possibility of the next power-up or weapon you collect turning the tide of the race in your favour.
There is only a single camera angle which is placed behind the kart from a third-person perspective, although it is well positioned it cannot be adjusted for any players who wish to move it further forwards or backwards, while it cannot be panned around the kart or look behind the kart to check if an opposing driver is catching up with greater momentum through a straight to overtake on the inside or outside which somewhat detracts from the usual variety of camera angles and camera functionality available throughout the racing genre.
The performance during remote play is excellent with the graphics, audio and general performance are all of the same quality as the PS4 version, while the control scheme has been optimised resulting in a control scheme in which the accelerator has been moved from R2 to the top right of the touch screen, although it would have perhaps been better suited to the R button instead as you may have to lift your thumb off the top right of the touch screen to press X when activating a power-up which of course depends upon the size of your hands, although if your thumbs can simultaneously tap the top right of the touch screen and press X then it will quickly begin to feel like a natural control scheme.
The controls are well mapped to the DualShock 4 controller with the control scheme consisting of pressing R2 to accelerate; pressing L2 to brake; pressing X to use a power-up; pressing triangle to activate a character ability; changing the direction of the left analogue stick or alternatively pressing left or right on the d-pad to steer the car; pressing the share button takes you to the share feature menu; and pressing the options button to display the pause menu. The DualShock 4 controller vibrates when your kart has a heavy landing from a large jump, collides with on track objects or another kart and when your kart is hit by a power-up from an opposing driver. There is no touch pad or light bar implementation which is surprising as the touch pad could have been used as an alternative to activate a power-up or use a character ability, although if the ability to look behind your kart or change the camera angle was included in the game then they would have been just as ideal to be mapped to the touch pad, while the light bar could have displayed a tone of colour for each power-up such as light blue for a shield, dark orange for a fireball, dark blue for a boost and flashing red when hit by a power-up from an opposing driver.
The cartoon styled graphics is excellent with amazing water effects, while the car models look just as great in 1080p resolution, alongside an incredible level of performance at 60FPS with smooth car animations and the ability for vehicles to truly provide a sense of speed which only progresses as you earn faster cars and upgrade your cars to perform at their maximum potential.
The presentation of the game is solid with a great user interface across various menus such as the main menu, game mode selection menus, upgrades menu, power-ups menu, switch car menu, switch driver menu and settings & info menu with support for navigation via the left analogue stick, directional pad and face buttons, although it does not include support for navigation via the right analogue stick or touch pad. The background of the menu screens looks very colourful and vibrant as the main menu includes karts racing past the camera on a picturesque island as a flock of seagulls fly overhead and the waterfall flows into the sea, while each menu screen shows a different small part of the island.
The audio revolves around sound effects including kart engines accelerating and boosting, karts colliding with one another and on track objects, power-ups being collected, utilised and making contact with another kart, while the music mostly consists of upbeat rock guitar riffs and acoustic guitar. There is surprisingly no DualShock 4 speaker implementation, although it could have produced character voice-overs to add more personality to each character or any layer of audio such as kart engines, power-ups, collisions or even music.
The trophy list includes 46 trophies with 34 bronze trophies, 8 silver trophies, 3 gold trophies and 1 platinum trophy. There are some easy trophies which you will earn rather quickly such as the Colour Theory bronze trophy for painting a car and the Pure Speed bronze trophy for winning a race without using a power-up which can be easily achieved after some upgrades to your kart, while there are some trophies which will be earned naturally by progressing through the game such as the Beginner bronze trophy for earning all the stars in Easy Street; the Trans-Siberian silver trophy for driving a distance of 9,289km; The 1% gold trophy for earning over 1,000,000 coins in your career; the 5-Time Champ bronze trophy for becoming a 5-time 1,000HP champion; and more besides. The hardest trophies have to be the Super Challenger silver trophy for beating 7 Daily Challenges consecutively and the Egg Hunter silver trophy for finding 10 Easter Eggs. It is estimated that depending upon skill and a good trophy guide to provide some helpful tips that it would take between 10 to 15 hours to platinum the trophy list.
There are no difficulty levels, although the difficulty curve is noticeable as the career series produces a steady increase in the amount of laps as you progress throughout the career from the first series boss onwards with the opposing drivers appearing to be more aggressive in their usage of attacking power-ups to prevent you from building a large lead out in front of the race.
The split-screen multiplayer possesses an excellent level of performance for 2 to 4 players featuring 4 categories of karts including 100 HP, 250 HP, 500 HP and 1,000 HP engine classes for faster and more challenging racing with 6 championships each comprising of multiple races, 8 vehicles, 9 characters and plenty of paint jobs to choose from, although there are no A.I. opponents to fill the empty grid slots. There is no online multiplayer which is disappointing given how it could have replicated the split-screen multiplayer features in online multiplayer with the potential to even have split-screen online multiplayer races.
The online leaderboards focuses on the best times for the races throughout the career events in comparison to your PSN friends with each leaderboard containing each player’s rank and best time with the positioning of each player based upon how quick they have completed that particular race, although it would have been great to see the inclusion of worldwide online leaderboards and individual best lap times for each track as well as online leaderboards for the Championships, Quick Race and Daily Challenge game modes due to the different race durations and unique objectives of the Daily Challenges game mode.
The replayability stems from many areas such as the fun of the car combat gameplay elements, a multitude of game modes, unlocking content including new characters for selection in any game mode from beating the boss of each series of career events, earning in-game currency to upgrade cars, earning gold stars to unlock new races in the series of career events and earning gold coins to purchase upgrades for your karts by performing well in races and entertaining split-screen multiplayer for up to 4 players will have you returning to the game for a long time to come.
• Title: Beach Buggy Racing
• Developer: Vector Unit
• Publisher: Vector Unit
• System: PS4
• Format: PSN Download
• Cross-Buy: No
• Cross-Play: No
• Players: 1-4 (Local Multiplayer)
• Hard Drive Space Required: 158.6MB