America - Front
America - Back
By Evan Norris 19th Mar 2021 | 1,354 views
Beach Buggy Racing has been a surprisingly reliable kart racing series. The first console game wasn't great, but delivered a satisfactory mix of arcade racing, local multiplayer mayhem, and colorful locales. Its sequel, Beach Buggy Racing 2: Island Adventure, fares even better. Thanks to tighter controls and a larger set of tracks, it fixes some of the problems with the premier installment. It also introduces new characters, new power-ups, and a massive adventure mode, although these additions create a few issues.
Like any good kart racer, Island Adventure is approachable and easy-to-learn. The controls are simple and snappy: steer with the left stick, accelerate with the right trigger, initiate a drift by tapping the left trigger, and use your power-ups and special character moves with the face buttons. It's simple, it's intuitive, it's an ideal control scheme for players of all skill levels. Up to four players locally (sorry, no online) will deploy these controls across 23 tracks, hoping to outrace, outlast, and outgun their opponents.
The greatest success of Island Adventure is the sheer amount of content it offers players. It includes a deep Adventure mode (more on that later) and nine multi-race trophy events called "championships", which come in four speed classes. It also boasts a Quick Race option, with several variants: time trial, last car standing, drift attack, firework fury, etc. Finally, there are weekly rotating tournaments with online leaderboards, to keep things interesting. All of these — minus the weekly tournaments — are fully customizable, with options for speed settings, mirror mode, weather, and variant. If you really want to get into the weeds, you can modify things like number of cars, laps, driver ability usage, power-up bubbles, power-up frequency and logic, and even add/subtract individual power-ups from the overall pool.
You may find yourself experimenting with these power-up options, mostly because the base game is a little too random and chaotic. There are a few reasons for this. One, the game includes 44 power-ups, more than any other kart racing game — according to developer Vector Unit — so there are a lot of different dynamics at play in any given race. Two, many of the power-ups have large areas-of-effect and/or impact every other racer on the track. Three, Island Adventure adds a second item slot, a la Mario Kart: Double Dash!!, so there are more power-ups in play. When all this combines with each character's unique special move, which can be used twice a race, things can get very messy. There are just a few too many projectiles, hazards, and disruptions per race, at least on the default settings.
The best single component of Island Adventure is Adventure mode, an expansive campaign with over 140 individual challenges, a few secrets, and an overworld map. This mode is massive, with lots of different race variants, including multi-event championships. Via Adventure, you'll unlock new cars and racers, and win stars based on where you finish. It will take you 10+ hours to see it all, and many more to unlock all 447 stars.
While the campaign is really just a chain of discrete racing events, the map goes a long way to making it feel more like an adventure. There are branching paths; car upgrades; star gates that require a certain number of stars to bypass; and fun little cosmetic touches like a sword in a stone in the Castle area or a grazing brachiosaurus in the Swamp.
The only downside to Adventure mode, apart from the aforementioned disruptive, chaotic gameplay, is repetition. The campaign features over ten unique biomes — which is great — but not enough unique tracks or race types to keep things fresh. You'll see the same tracks and variants many times over. Furthermore, you'll see older tracks repeated in newer environments, leading to some incongruous matches. What is Shipwreck Reef doing in the wasteland, for example?
The good news about tracks: there are a lot of them. The game boast 23 tracks, up from 15 in the first game. They cover a wide thematic range — from seaside resorts to crumbling ruins to an outer space biodome — and feature lots of secret paths and quirks. One thing to note for Beach Buggy Racing veterans: many of the racetracks here are recycled from the first game.
While Island Adventure has made advancements in controls and total tracks, its audiovisual design is still a little lacking. The game marks a step up from Beach Buggy Racing in terms of graphics, no doubt, but still suffers from some clunky character models and menus that remind you the franchise started on mobile devices. As for music, the twangy soundtrack is fine in small doses but gets old after long sessions.
If you're looking for a new racing game, consider investing in Beach Buggy 2: Island Adventure. It's an approachable racer with snappy controls, interesting tracks, and loads of content that will keep you and your friends occupied for hours. The moment-to-moment gameplay is a bit too chaotic and Adventure mode suffers from some repetition, but in general this is an island getaway worth taking — particularly if you're a fan of kart racers.