My friend Holly was over the other night, and we were shopping around for games on the PlayStation store. Keeping an eye out for local co-op games, we stumbled across Beach Buggy Racing by Vector Unit. It’s a karting game, just like Mario Kart, and it’s soooooooooo worth the ten bucks (it’s on mobile devices too).
There are multiple game modes, including split screen racing. Subsequent split-screen races have resulted in ridiculously close games, determined by whose bumper crossed the line at the most crucial instant, full of laughter, trash-talk, tears, anger and joy. I’ve experienced wins and losses determined by hundredths of a second.
The 25-plus power-ups do the usual; there’s dynamite (which only detonates if you hit or get hit by something), the “moon” power-up releases gravity so opponents fly up into the air, there’s a springboard you can drop, missiles you can fire, and a few varieties of boosts.
All the maps have shortcuts, of course. Some shortcuts live up to their name, others are amazing if you can pull them off, and the remainder are too risky to try depending on your speed. You can change out your character driver, each of which has his or her own special skill made to confuse, wreck or outrun opponents. You unlock each new driver by winning a boss race against him or her. These are tricky endeavors.
The cars range from lunar rovers to buggies to muscle cars and sports cars. I’m partial to the muscle car, although it’s not the fastest of the choices.
Career mode takes you through a series of races, culminating with the boss fights at each stage, and as you upgrade your kart and win more difficult races, you earn more money, etc.
The championship mode consists of four stages of rally races for each car, but you need to have each car leveled up as you progress through the stages. It’s expensive, and there’s grinding involved. Players can earn money in races, however it’s not much unless you win, and even then, it’s slow-moving in the beginning.
Once I got my muscle car leveled up enough and learned the tracks, I discovered the best way to earn cash: Quick Race mode. My muscle car can race at the highest difficulty, and if I win (or shall I say, when I win), I receive 500 bucks to invest back into whichever car I choose.
Aside from already getting hours of split-screen mayhem in with my pals, I’ve played the heck out of this game on my own too. Best part – when Holly got home that night, she bought it. Her scores show up next to mine, and I keep finding all the races where she beat me so I can beat her back, even when we’re not playing together. It’s pure, innocent bliss to beat your friends, isn’t it?
For some reason, LittleBigPlanet Karting didn’t do it for me when it came out. I can’t say why at this point, it’s been so long since I played it, but I guarantee it didn’t grab me like Beach Buggy Racing has. I’ve been longing for a game like this, and Vector Unit delivered.
The music is clever and fun, although I turned it off. It’s not unusual for me to turn off music in a game if the music serves no other purpose than to exist. The music in BBR doesn’t tip me off to any events, so it’s unnecessary to my success as a player (haha! But true). Therefore, I’ve been enjoying the viola da gamba suites by J.S. Bach – a suitable soundtrack for racing!
Or listen to whatever music you’d like. As far as Beach Buggy Racing goes, buy it. Play it. Love it!
Emily Reese is an on-air host for Classical Minnesota Public Radio. She is also the host and producer for Top Score, Classical MPR’s podcast about video game soundtracks, and created MPR’s Listening to Learn series. She earned an undergrad certificate in music education and jazz studies from the University of Colorado — Boulder, and a Master’s degree in music theory from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Emily lives in Twin Cities with her cat June Bug and loves gaming, with or without friends.