The Insight: When A Racing Obsession Fades Due A Sequel’s Mediocrity

By Makeda Byfield

My very first review as an NYVGCC intern was for the game Beach Buggy Racing. If I remember correctly, the review was not very positive. And yet, I was obsessed with this racing game. I’d play from sunset to sunrise with no stopping because the thrill and frustration kept me going. What a time! After an intervention from my younger siblings, I decided to delete it for good. I had my fun – but it was time to move on. Eventually, the experience that consumed my days faded into a distant memory.

And then my siblings found out about the game’s sequel: Beach Buggy 2. How cool would it be to play again? After all, my time at the Circle has taught me how to analyze and critique games. So while my siblings will read this and say I just wanted an excuse to play, I’m going to break down the differences between the original and the sequel.

To my initial pleasure, Beach Buggy 2 features a lot of familiar faces. This time around, players have the choice of starting out with Rez or Leiani. Rez, the fiery young racer, was the only driver players had the option of using in the original game; they were required to win a one-on-one battle against other drivers to add them onto their team. In Beach Buggy 2, you could expand your team by completing a battle, paying a ridiculous amount of gems (won solely through mystery boxes), or paying real money. Because the last two options were just not reasonable, and the opportunity to battle took a while to come by, I liked that gamers were allowed to start with two different players. If I didn’t want to use Rez, I could also race with Leilani. She’s described as a typical “good-girl” who loves “tattoos, surfing, flowers, flip-flops” and is intelligent enough to use her peaceful aura to fool the other drivers on the track. It gave me the slightest bit of variety and we could switch it up before unlocking more drivers.

Beach Buggy 2 also featured three new drivers that were not in the first game. Plus, Beach Buggy 2 gave more in-depth descriptions for each character, so I wasn’t required to use my imagination as much. I had a better understanding of each driver’s personality, special ability, and reason for racing. My criticism for the character portion: While Beach Buggy’s had a pre-set amount of races for a player to complete before they could battle a potential new driver, Beach Buggy 2 does not let you know how close you are to unlocking a new character. This made me feel a little unmotivated, especially since I didn’t know if all my time and effort was getting me any closer to the goal of expanding my racing team.

In my review for the original, I wrote that the tracks were not anything spectacular. That stands true for the sequel as well. But I will commend the game for adding a few new locations with trickier obstacles. For example, one track goes through the Wild, Wild West. On its own, it’s a bit boring. However, the shortcuts are riddled with dynamite that explodes upon impact, and a long jump over an active train track! Do you know how fun it is to drive up a ramp that forces you to fly above a moving train?! It’s terrifying, but the risks involved with going through a shortcut actually add a level of excitement to an otherwise lackluster game. I’m laughing as I write this- I know full well that I am filled with rage whenever these obstacles prevent me from successfully getting through a shortcut. But from an analytical standpoint, it was an unexpected addition to the game; I can give credit to the game makers for making sure the sequel wasn’t too similar to the original game.

One of my favorite things about Beach Buggy Racing was that I could play on the go. It was one of the things that set it apart from Mario Kart; because there was no internet needed, I could play on the train. With Beach Buggy 2, however, racers must play in real time while maintaining a stable internet connection throughout the duration of the entire race. This could be fun – if I wanted to interact with real drivers. That may very well be some people’s thing, and in that case, the game successfully appealed to that audience. I, however, treated this mobile racing game as a way to occupy myself when in spaces with no internet connection. To make matters worse, I don’t even think we’re playing against other real drivers! Instead, I’m being forced to play against AI, which is way more challenging than the ones in the original game. It would’ve been great if players had the option to play with or without an internet connection, like in the original game.

On another (smaller) note, there was no option to turn off camera tilt. This meant that the onscreen visuals moved whenever you tilted your device. I usually turned this game feature off in the original because it made me feel dizzy. With no way to do that in this version of the game, I found that I would not play for long amounts of time because the tilt motion gave me a bit of a headache.

Beach Buggy 2 took power ups to a whole new level. For starters, drivers get to customize a deck of power up cards, which impacts what tools you may pick up in mystery boxes during races. For example, you might use a shield to protect from attacks by other racers, a power up that allows you to control the racer in front of you, or jumbo tires that gives all the cars around you tires a crazy bounce instead of driving smoothly on the road. From there, you could use your coins to make power ups last longer or have a heavier impact. Coins are easily gained by placing high in races, events, or championships. Better powerups become available as players themselves move into a higher racing level (which is also attainable by winning races).

If I really cared about unlocking power ups, then I would have had plenty of incentive to keep racing. Unfortunately, my major concern was racing. The excessive powerups and level ups seemed like an unnecessary distraction to what really mattered – the race itself. Yes, they helped me target other racers and made it more entertaining to complete the two laps. I just didn’t really care for this aspect of the game.

I believe that the game makers used the most attention to detail on these aspects in an attempt to keep players engaged. Sadly, I saw through the glitz and glam. Smoother graphics, more challenging competitors, and excessive (yet hard to attain) prizes don’t make up for the fact that Beach Buggy 2 just…wasn’t enjoyable. It’s a shame, really. Maybe I’m simple for wanting a straightforward and easy to understand racing game. So be it. I love playing mindless, slightly annoying racing games on my morning commute! I always will. Beach Buggy 2 found a way to be more mediocre than the original game. This time, I couldn’t find much joy in the game.

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