Beach Buggy Racing: Nintendo Switch review

Do you like beaches? Do you like buggies? Do you like racing? Then pay attention! Beach Buggy Racing may not feature many of the eponymous sand-traversing automobiles, but it is a kart racer lavished with love. The problem is, if you’re going to release a kart game on Switch, you’re going up against some pretty stiff competition…

The BBR launch press release repeatedly stresses the smooth 60fps frame rate. Say what you will about other aspects of the game (and we will, soon enough), but trundling along really is a lovely smooth experience. That’s an extremely important box ticked for any racer.

Okay, no point dancing around the issue any longer; yes, this is another game that takes great big dollops of inspiration from Mario Kart. Cartoony visuals, very arcadey handling, characters and vehicles of exaggerated design, and weapon pickups scattered along the track. While there are some suspiciously familiar ways to annoy your opponents (speed boosts, fake weapon pickup, missile that homes in to the racer in first place, etc.), there are original ideas too; or at least, ones taken from other games. The main point of difference for the experience is character abilities.

Gulls on film (presuming you’re recording the footage, and… oh, shut up)

BBR has several drivers to choose from, gradually made available to you as you unlock each one-on-one race where you need to beat them to the finish line. Your choice of character doesn’t affect things such as traction or top speed (so far as we can tell), but it does dictate what special ability you have to hand. Once per race, you can activate this for a temporary advantage or buff of some kind. The skeleton pirate can drive through opponents, the chap with the hat can send beach balls everywhere to send his opponents flying, the lady racer gets a small speed boost while leaving a trail of flowers that slows anybody who strays into it… Thought has gone into these varied and interesting additions.

BBR was first released as a mobile game and, while there are thankfully no microtransactions here, the unlock system has been jiggled about slightly for Switch so that cars and upgrades are accessed solely with the in-game coins. The game would’ve benefitted from further jiggling, mind you. The unlocks, upgrades, and even the coins themselves prove to be an unwelcome hangover from the excesses of the mobile night before. The emphasis on unlocks & upgrades for success is occasionally a little too great (though not so severe as other mobile-to-console ports), and the speed with which you gain access to everything a little too slow. Not to bang on about Mario Kart 8, but that gives you all the characters (except one) and a huge chunk of vehicle options just for getting past the title screen. New parts are unlocked fairly regularly in Mario’s reckless driving simulator, and there’s no need to worry about other racers having upgraded machines.

It’s a game of skull.

It’s the times when success hinges on a vehicle or upgrade that you can’t yet afford that stand out for all the wrong reasons. It doesn’t help that it’s possible to upgrade your car too much, with the result that it’s automatically downgraded (temporarily) if you try using it in a race/championship intended for slightly less powerful wheeled wonders. You can’t even enjoy using all those coins you grinded for to buy a souped-up machine that makes things considerably easier for you (which would have offset the slightly loose handling).

Lack of online play reduces the appeal still further, though there is local versus on offer. There’s no getting away from the fact however that, although this costs only a fifth of the RRP of Mario Kart 8, it only has a fifth of the quality, too. And, of course, you could download the original version of this for your phone or tablet for free. That said, plenty of people adore the mobile version. If that’s you, and you have a Switch, this offers you the chance to play without microtransactions but with a massively improved frame rate, sharpened graphics, local multiplayer with a friend or three, and the choice of portable or TV play. It may not show a lot of ambition, but Beach Buggy Racing does what it wants to with confidence.

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Written by Luke K

Luke plays lots of videogames, now and again stopping to write about them. He's the editor in chief at Critical Gamer, which fools him into thinking his life has some kind of value. Chances are, if you pick up a copy of the latest Official PlayStation Magazine or GamesMaster, you'll find something he's written in there. Luke doesn't have a short temper. If you suggest otherwise, he will punch you in the face.

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