Beach Buggy Racing is more Blackpool than the Bahamas. Vector Unit's debut PlayStation 4 outing ditches the basic backdrops of Super Mario Kart's dowdy Donut Plains, and attempts to inject a little sunshine into the humble kart racer by setting the action beside the sea. Despite the Californian company's best intentions, though, this oceanic affair fails to make waves – even if it's perfectly competent at keeping its head above water.
Despite being re-tuned for home consoles, there's a smartphone game nestling beneath this colourful title's bonnet. Currency allocation has been completely revised so you won't have to deal with pesky microtransactions, but while this tweak will leave you with the spare change required to nab a Cornetto or three, it's the controls that have failed to adequately make the transition to the DualShock 4. Indeed, it all feels a bit slow and unresponsive at times.
We should stress that this issue is only really apparent on the lower speed settings, as unlocking the blisteringly fast 1000cc vehicles will see you rewarded with much more receptive rides. However, because the release's structure demands you play through the slower events first, you'll need to really invest before you get to the good bits. It doesn't help that in career mode you need spend in-game coins in order to upgrade your vehicle, virtually locking you into a single class.
The racing's not bad once you get accustomed to the slow turning speeds, but the handling feels like it's been tailored to tilt rather than analogue sticks. The aforementioned campaign gives you plenty to do – with podium places in hundreds of different events awarding you with Angry Birds-esque stars – but it's hardly breaking new ground. Well, apart from when you're using that one power-up that splits the Earth's core in two.
All of the usual kart racing sins apply: rubber banding is more prevalent than a Loom factory while power-ups are almost impossible to eschew. Few things are more irritating than losing on the home straight due to a barrage of missiles crushing your car, but seeing as this is something that Nintendo's yet to solve, we suppose that we'll cut the studio some slack. Still, the emphasis on racing lines and even drifting feels even less pronounced here – it just doesn't matter all that much.
That's not to say that the game's bad, though – like a British holiday resort, it has a certain appeal. Daily Challenges, for example, will keep you coming back for quick cash injections, while the stages are varied enough to keep things feeling fresh for several hours. Tracks are littered with short cuts and secrets, and there are even different characters with unique abilities to complement the title's suite of vehicles.
To be fair, there's actually a lot more to this than its tacky, vinyl figure-inspired art style may suggest – and, on the whole, it looks better than its drivers, too. Decent lighting paves the way for different moods; some tracks are set under the orange skies of early evening, while the glaciers of the predictable snow stage burn brightly beneath the full strength of the sun. The studio even flexes its Hydro Thunder chops with some nice droplet effects.
And it maintains a smooth framerate under the intense pressure of four-player split screen, which is an achievement deserving of praise in this day-and-age. Multiplayer is generally more fun than the solo experience because each player's ability behind the wheel counts – and, of course, it's always more entertaining sticking a firework up someone's ass when it's the person sitting next to you. Loners may lament the lack of online play, mind.
There's too much content in Beach Buggy Racing for it to accurately be described as shallow, but outside of the seaside motif, there's not a whole lot here that feels fresh. The controls can seem slow at first and it fails to address many of the genre's major pitfalls, but if you're desperate for a kart racer on your PS4, then this sunny side up outing should tide you over until something better comes along. Just remember to slap on the sunscreen before taking to the track.