In case you haven't noticed over the past few years, the Switch has become home to a wide variety of karting games, and the vast majority of them are a bit rubbish.
For every Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled, there’s a Hello Kitty Kruisers, Garfield Kart Furious Racing or Lawnmower Game: Racing just waiting to crush you to your very core and make you wish you’d never been born. Or at least that you had been born, but hadn’t played any of those particular games, which is probably a more realistic compromise.
If you look at our article ranking the best kart racing games on Switch, though, you may be surprised to see a certain title near the top of the list. Beach Buggy Racing received a very respectable score of 7/10 when we reviewed it, making it the best non-licensed karting game on the system. It didn’t do anything particularly remarkable, but was a solid enough kart racer that didn't offend us too much. Now the sequel is here, and you know something? It’s even better. Not by a million miles, mind you, but it does now mean that if for whatever reason you just want good old-fashioned karting fun without any licensed shenanigans attached, this might just be the best option available to you now.
As with its predecessor, Beach Buggy Racing 2: Island Adventure's title may conjure up images of tropical locations, but while there are plenty of sunkissed shores to race along, there are also more varied locales. There are 23 tracks in total, compared to 15 in the previous game, and new additions include Raytona Stadium (which is basically a ‘homage’ to Wario Stadium), the futuristic Biodome Delta and the post-apocalyptic Dryptopia.
There are 13 racers to choose from, with one hidden character (as opposed to 10 in the first game). Newcomers include BeatBot (part-beatbox, part-robot), Clutch (a “mysterious nomad of the wastelands”) and the eccentric purple-haired Mikka. Each character has their own special moves, which makes choosing them a slightly more interesting task than in most other karting games.
Lead character Rez, for example, has a move called Burning Rubber where he gets a speed boost and leaves a fiery trail behind him that spins out any enemies who drive over it. Disco Jimmy, meanwhile, gets the "Dance Fever" move, which puts a disco ball above other racers’ heads and makes them pull over to boogie while he overtakes them. It’s a fun way to give some variety to a set of characters who, let’s face it, most players won’t know from Adam. (And Adam isn’t in it.)
There’s also a wide variety of power-ups, 44 of them to be precise, which can seem a little daunting at first. Even though there’s an extremely useful Collection menu where you can view each one of them, read what it does and even get tips on how best to use and avoid them, learning 44 of anything can be overwhelming, which is where the surprisingly excellent Adventure mode comes into play.
This is a story mode of sorts that starts you off with just two characters, six cars (out of 40) and a far more manageable 14 power-ups. Adventure mode consists of 149 separate events, which come in various flavours: normal races, time trials, Last Car Standing, drift and weapons challenges and even the occasional multi-race championship. As you play through them and earn stars you’ll unlock more characters, cars and power-ups at a steady rate, which makes it a lot easier to slowly get used to everything one chunk at a time.
Needless to say, collecting all 447 stars will take you a while, especially because you can also set a difficulty level for each of them (meaning if you really want to properly complete it you’ll need to get three stars on every event in Very Hard difficulty). And yet, crucially, having a mode this size doesn’t really feel like a chore because of the way you’re frequently unlocking new things.
Also keeping things interesting is the fact that all 14 characters and all 40 cars have their own bespoke set of achievements, and clearing them all will get you an alternate outfit or gold colour scheme respectively. These range from straightforward tasks like winning a certain number of races with a specific car, to more elaborate ones like drifting 2500m in a single race with your car and still winning. It’s a great way to ensure you’re doing more than just mindlessly taking part in races, and if you’re the type who needs to collect everything, there’s an enormous degree of longevity here.
All of this would be for nought if the actual racing was hot trash, of course, but thankfully that isn’t the case. Everything’s about as solid as you could hope for; the handling is nice and responsive, powersliding is satisfying (though you can’t get big speed boosts out of them, which is a shame) and while many of the roads are quite wide, the course designs are still perfectly pleasant and some of the shortcuts are fun to navigate.
Even better, everything runs silky smooth for the vast majority of the time. The game runs at 60 frames per second in both docked and handheld mode, and both versions look nice and sharp with no noticeable blurring. There can be the occasional dropped frame here and there when things get a bit hectic, but it’s almost always a solid 60.
Before we get too carried away, the game isn’t without its issues, though none of them are particularly galling. When you’re in first place you can sometimes find yourself being hit with a barrage of weapons, which is obviously commonplace in a karting game, but given that so many weapons affect every character at once it can feel particularly frequent here. There’s also no escaping the fact that, to be brutally frank, there’s nothing here that’s remarkably new. The race types have all been seen before, the characters are serviceable, the racing is your typical combination of powerslides and weapons you’ve seen in countless other karting games.
It’s just that everything’s done so competently here that it’s difficult to find anything to truly be annoyed about. It may not be exceptional, but it does what it does exceptionally well, and while it’s never going to have anywhere near the popularity of licensed karting games or the mighty Mario Kart, the combination of its solid gameplay and its relatively cheap $19.99 / £17.99 price point mean anyone who takes a punt on it will be more than a little pleasantly surprised. It just does everything right.
Beach Buggy Racing 2 builds on the already decent first game to provide a genuinely entertaining karting title. It may come just short of competing with the Marios, Sonics and Crash Bandicoots of this world, but it's nevertheless a solid racer that runs smoothly, provides satisfying controls and has an enormous amount of things to do before you can consider it 100% complete. If you're looking for another karting game you should really give this one some consideration, despite the lack of recognisable branding.