NBA Playgrounds brings back that classic NBA 2-on-2 arcade action. Featuring online play and a massive roster of current and retired NBA superstars from every team. Does NBA PLaygrounds score a 3-pointer? Read our review below…
The NBA 2K series has set the standard for basketball games and nothing else has really come close to it, but the one void it hasn’t managed to fill is the more arcade style experience and that’s where NBA Playgrounds enters the room. Somewhere in between NBA Jam and NBA Street, Playgrounds is an arcade basketball game that doesn’t take itself too seriously and aims to concentrate on fast paced, over the top basketball fun that can be enjoyed in single player as well as online or offline multiplayer. Fully licensed with a selection of well known players from each team, including legends too, Playgrounds concentrates on 2v2 matches to allow for fast frantic play and it works really well.
The game modes to choose from consist of exhibition, tournament and online. Playing each one will give you XP that increases your overall level and also increases level of the players you use too. Unlocking players is very similar to NBA 2K’s MyTeam and FIFA Ultimate Team where you obtain packs and open them to reveal what players you’ve managed to get, but there is one huge difference between Playgrounds and the other games mentioned and that is that there are no microtransactions to be seen whatsoever in NBA Playgrounds. Packs are earned by levelling up and winning tournaments with two different kinds that you can earn in silver and gold with the gold packs giving you more of a chance of bagging a legend such as Magic Johnson or Shaquille O’Neil. Developer Saber Interactive and publisher Mad Dog Games have to take a lot of credit for making the decision not to add any extra cost to the game as they easily could have with the gold and silver pack model but they have kept it purely as an earned reward rather than a money making exercise, which is rare these days, especially in sports games.
NBA Playgrounds has a simple but effective control scheme but even though it’s basic it plays well and its pretty smooth throughout. Anyone familiar with other basketball games will be familiar with the shooting in this game as it adopts a very similar method. Shots have to be timed by releasing the shot button at the peak of the jump in order to stand a chance of scoring, especially in the three point area. There is the regular sprint, pass and trick mechanics to accompany the shooting and there are also dunk moves too. The defence side is a little more flexible than regular basketball as you have the option to push your opponent over as well as trying to steal the ball or checking them by jumping in the air to stop them shooting. All of this can be done but you have to carefully manage the rather strict stamina of your player as it plays a big part in how you play the game. Throughout playing a match you get the chance to fill your power meter by executing dunks and stealing the ball and once filled it presents you with a lottery pick that can grant you a random power up like score multipliers, unlimited stamina, precision shots and more. All of this adds to the frantic fun that be had with this game and I found very little to fault with the gameplay other than its core gameplay and special moves becoming a little repetitive after a while, but it rarely impacted the fun I had with it.
NBA Playgrounds has a cartoon visual style with a lot of attention to detail, especially in the character models who look like a cartoon version of the real life players that they are based on. The courts are filled with crowds and other things going on in the background that reference the city you are playing in and the whole game is vibrant and sharp. It all looks good, with licenses from every team in the game being present and some pretty smooth animations and frame rate too and all of this combined gives NBA Playgrounds lots of personality that is pleasing on the eye and accompanies the fun filled gameplay really well. The in game commentary isn’t bad either, despite it getting a little repetitive the more you play but it’s quirky and has that Celebrity Deathmatch sound to it that’s fairly exaggerated and very tongue in cheek, but much like the visuals, it compliments everything else in the game and fits in nicely.
There is one major criticism though and that’s the amount of content and game modes that are available, even after you’ve completed the Tournaments mode. The online aspect of the game plays really well with very little to no lag at all but it’s very thin on the ground in terms of its features. There are no options to have a private match with your mates and there isn’t any kind of lobby system as it literally throws you straight in to a match with some other random online player. The developer has been very vocal in promising future content updates though and hopefully that will include some extra online features and some more game modes to add to the very limited mode options on offer from day one. With that being said though it doesn’t change the fact that the core gameplay and personality of NBA Playgrounds will give you hours of entertainment and it’s a game that I have certainly enjoyed and will most definitely spend more hours enjoying.