trending / - - - - - - - - -

trending / playstation 4 - ni no kuni - halo - wii u - bungie interview - ces top picks - radeon hd 7850 - woods pga tour

NBA Playgrounds Review: Jam Session

/ Jun 8th, 2017 No Comments

NBA Playgrounds Review

NBA Jam is 24 years old this year — not quite old enough to attempt to recapture its youth during a mid-life crisis. Still, NBA Playgrounds is exactly what would happen if NBA Jam dyed its graying hair and bought a sports car in an effort to appeal to a younger partner.

The core is essentially the same. NBA Playgrounds is a two-on-two basketball title focused on fast-paced, high-flying action. There are over-the-top dunks, two-hand shoves and game-changing powerups. It tries to captivate a youthful audience through card-collecting — a staple of modern sports gaming — and goofy caricatures of current and past NBA stars.

However, arcade basketball is a delicate balance, and NBA Playgrounds doesn’t quite get the formula right.

Double Dribble

When you first pick up NBA Playgrounds, it feels instantly familiar. Choose two basketball stars and you’ll be performing huge dunks within no time. The button scheme is minimal and games are only three- or five-minutes long, making it extremely easy to pick up and play NBA Playgrounds. Well-timed shoves and bonuses that are earned by filling up a “lottery pick” meter can change the course of games. The only thing missing is the sound of Tim Kitzrow yelling “Boomshakalaka!”
 

NBA Playgrounds

NBA Playgrounds feels familiar.

But as you continue to play, the wave of nostalgia quickly fades into a shore of failed dunk attempts and bad AI. Computer-controlled teammates wander around in circles, and it takes them way too long to respond to button commands for setting hard screens and going up for alley-oops. The action is not fast enough — players literally have to wait several seconds after each made basket until a whistle indicates the start of play again.

Shot timing is the biggest disruptor of the game’s flow, making it difficult to sink wide-open layups and mistime monster dunks — yes, even dunk attempts require players to release the button at the right time. This is a useless feature that becomes incredibly frustrating when Playgrounds decides to randomly enable slow motion while your character is flying through the air for a dunk. Just when you release the shot button, your player begins to float in mid-air and your dunk attempt is blocked by the rim.

Meanwhile, the timing mechanism is far too easy to master when it comes to three pointers. As a result, a game that should feature tons of rim-rattling jams and monster blocks becomes a three-point shooting contest. Way too often, big men like Shaquille O’Neal, who rarely set foot behind the three-point line in real life, was burying fall-away threes against me in rapid succession.

Shut Up and Jam

So many aspects of NBA Playgrounds negate its mind-numbing pleasure. From the start, you are left alone to figure out the game’s systems. Unless you’re paying careful attention, you won’t realize that executing a successful push empties your lottery pick meter. You won’t understand why opposing players are performing complex dribble moves that you can’t seem to pull off until you notice that you level up individual characters in the game as you use them.

I slowly began to pick up on these features as I experienced more of NBA Playgrounds, and it’s obvious that the game expects everyone else to do the same. Still, it’d be nice if there was some explanation of what leveling up characters actually does and how the gameplay systems work.

The lottery pick system is the perfect example of this, as it is mostly based on luck. Players fill up their lottery pick meter by performing moves during the game — alley-oops and blocked dunks provide the largest reward. When the meter is filled, players earn a completely random powerup. At first, the only upgrade available is an “on fire” like can’t miss shot, but more powerups become available as players level up. However, the game never explains what each powerup does, and it becomes obvious that some powerups impact the game much more than others. However, when you earn a lottery pick, the powerup rewarded to you is selected at random.
 

Playgrounds

Dunks are cool but threes are easier.

If you are lucky enough to earn a valuable lottery pick, it could change the game drastically. What makes NBA Playgrounds fun is that you are never truly out of the game, no matter how many points you need to come back. A few shoves, blocks and a solid powerup can quickly erase 10- or 20-point margins.

Despite this, NBA Playgrounds can feel like a grind. The way to unlock new characters is by collecting cards, which are earned by winning tournaments and leveling up. However, there are not enough tournaments to keep players coming back and collecting cards is not very useful because there is little distinction between players once they are on the court.

Overall

If NBA Jam is the Michael Jordan of arcade basketball games, NBA Playgrounds is like Jordan on the Wizards. There are flashes of greatness and we relish these moments because this is what we expect to see. However, these moments are thinly sliced and sandwiched between grinding mediocrity.

Pulling off impossible dunks and miraculous comebacks in Playgrounds is thrilling, and is especially rewarding in local multiplayer, but the arcade experience is hurt by an overabundance of three pointers and a feeling of repetition. NBA Playgrounds captures the magic of its arcade basketball predecessors, but it only does so in small bursts, and that is simply not enough.

NBA Playgrounds was reviewed on Xbox One with a code for the game provided by the publisher.

 

Ryan Bloom

Ryan Bloom

Chief Editor at Gaming Illustrated
Ryan Bloom is a writer and avid gamer from Orange County. He received a B.A. in Communications with a minor in American Studies from California State University, Fullerton in 2010. Follow him on Twitter @BloomsTweets.
Ryan Bloom

tags: , , ,

Related Posts

Hob Review

Hob Review: Reclamation

Oct 12th, 2017No Comments

SoundBlasterX Vanguard KO8 Review

SoundBlasterX Vanguard KO8 Keyboard Review

Oct 6th, 2017No Comments

Tooth & Tail Review

Tooth & Tail Review: Food Chain

Oct 5th, 2017No Comments

SteamWorld Dig 2 Review

SteamWorld Dig 2 Review: Striking Gold

Oct 3rd, 2017No Comments

Top Articles

NBA PLAYGROUNDS REVIEW: JAM SESSION

Gaming Illustrated RATING

Overall67%

MECHANICS7.5

It isn't quite as deep as NBA Street nor as simple as NBA Jam, but the core mechanics combine a bit of the styles of each of those games in a way that works well.

GRAPHICS7.5

There is certainly a distinct style in NBA Playgrounds, and the cartoonish caricatures fit the tone for the over-the-top gameplay.

REPLAY VALUE6

With only a few game modes and no customization, the only real reason to continue playing is to grind for new player cards.

GAMEPLAY6

AI teammates are basically useless, and the game doesn't do enough to inform its players about the nuances of gameplay.

Hob Review: Reclamation Oct 12th, 2017 at 10:00

SoundBlasterX Vanguard KO8 Keyboard Review Oct 6th, 2017 at 12:54

Tooth & Tail Review: Food Chain Oct 5th, 2017 at 10:00

SteamWorld Dig 2 Review: Striking Gold Oct 3rd, 2017 at 10:00

Destiny 2 Review: Growth in the Light Sep 20th, 2017 at 10:00

Phantom Trigger Review: Dissociation Sep 11th, 2017 at 11:00

Destiny 2 Review in Progress: Brilliant Spark Sep 8th, 2017 at 5:07

Absolver Review: Fists of Fury Aug 29th, 2017 at 12:00

Agents of Mayhem Review: Doing the Most Aug 25th, 2017 at 10:00

Sundered Review: Virtual Insanity Aug 21st, 2017 at 12:00

bestjett buyeww 3216395683 link


besttrew buyhfgh 3216395683 link


bestavbe buydfgss 3216395683 link


bestjett buyeww 5415127970 link


besttrew buyhfgh 5415127970 link


bestavbe buydfgss 5415127970 link


bestjett buyeww 9844725222 link


besttrew buyhfgh 9844725222 link


bestavbe buydfgss 9844725222 link


bestjett buyeww 3373748763 link


besttrew buyhfgh 3373748763 link


bestavbe buydfgss 3373748763 link


bestjett buyeww 1795090593 link


besttrew buyhfgh 1795090593 link


bestavbe buydfgss 1795090593 link