When I was a kid, my dad used to mention something called Beach Blanket Bingo. I never figured out what that was, but despite having slightly less alliteration, I already like Beach Buggy Racing better. Vector Unit’s follow-up to Beach Buggy Blitz is a proper racer this time, and only a few restrictions in its free-to-play system keep it from becoming the absolute king of the beach.
Like any good sequel, Beach Buggy Racing kept the best aspects of its predecessor. It looks fantastic, with courses that are set on the beach (naturally), and in swamps, temples and other exotic locations. A number of different vehicles can be unlocked, and the cast of drivers includes an alien, a masked Mexican wrestler, a roller derby enthusiast and a guy who never gave up on disco. That should tell you all you need to know about how the game keeps its tongue firmly in cheek.
The big change is that while Blitz was an endless runner disguised as a racing game, this is the real deal. Success here means racing your way through eight different circuits, earning enough stars to unlock all eight events in each one and mastering your craft so that you can win a one-on-one race against the circuit boss and move on to the next one.
Driving requires mastering just two techniques: steering and braking, since your vehicle accelerates like it has a coconut permanently tied to the gas pedal (note: this is something that is not advised in real life). The default steering control option is tilt, but as the action gets chaotic in a hurry, the option to use tap steering allows for much greater precision while drifting through turns. Virtual brake pedals are at the bottom of either side of the screen under either control scheme, making them easy to reach.
Like any good kart-inspired racer, this one has a ton of power-ups out on the track that you can use to boost your speed or make life difficult for the opposition. Each driver also has a unique special ability that can be used once per race, meaning it needs to be saved for exactly the right moment.
That’s pretty much all you need to know to get racing, putting this game firmly in the “easy to learn, slightly trickier to master” category. The AI racers are no slouches, and even in the Easy Street circuit that starts off your career, it can be tough to earn all three stars. Most of the time, that requires finishing first in a six-buggy race, but there are occasional detours to things like solo time trials and stages where you have to wreck targets and other cars to provide some variety.
Coins won with your racing prowess can be spent on improving things like acceleration, top speed and handling, a necessity if you want to win the boss battles. Enough coins can get you entirely new vehicles to try out, and the premium currency, Gems, can be used to unlock bosses after you defeat them on the track. There’s also a Grease Monkey who will soup your ride for several races for the price of a few Gems.
Beach Buggy Racing is pretty generous with Gems, awarding them for achievements and beating bosses, so the in-app purchases really aren’t a huge deal. The ticket system is a little more irksome, though nothing out of the oridnary for this type of game. You use one of your five tickets to start each race, then need to wait several minutes for each ticket to refill. Again, it’s not a huge deal (plus finishing first in a race gets you a bonus ticket), but since some of the races early on can be over quickly, it can mean you burn through all five tickets in a jiffy.
It’s worth mentioning again how gorgeous this game is graphically, regardless of where you’re racing. Water will splash up on the screen and then blow off like it was a real windshield in wet conditions, and there’s a satisfying blur effect any time you use a speed boost of any kind. The tracks are also alive with birds, crabs and even dinosaurs moving around in the background, and occasionally across the course.
The only glaring omission from Beach Buggy Racing is multiplayer, as this is a game that would be an aboslute blast to play against five other humans, or even just against friends with a few AI drivers thrown in. Even so, this is a fun way to turn some off-road laps on your iOS or Android tablet, with enough challenge and content to keep you anticipating the return of your tickets.