These days sports franchises are a fairly competitive genre to tackle for developers and publishers.
You have dominant forces such EA and 2K covering most sports. The arcade version of sports videogames seems to be lost to the days of old though; NBA Jam, Powerstar Golf, NFL Blitz, and MLB Slugfest haven’t seen the spotlight for years.
This doesn’t leave other companies much room to compete with something like an NBA title. Saber Interactive has approached the job in the right way.
While most games today focus on realism and skill, NBA Playgrounds focuses on what any average person plays sport for; fun. There’s certainly no shortage of it either.
NBA Playgrounds is from the Rocket League school of modern games; ridiculous, fast and insane arcade goodness.
He’s on Fire
The first thing you will notice are the visuals and design. All players are caricatures of their real-life counterparts. The courts and backgrounds are fun little street designs set in famous locations around the world. The movements and styles of the players is also eccentric and fun.
NBA Playgrounds doesn’t boast a lot of content outside of the online features. I still think there’s plenty to do considering the price point though. You can play a standard exhibition match against AI or with up to three other players. There’s also a tournament mode that allows you to unlock other features like new courts and balls.
In both modes you gain experience for playing that goes to both an overall level up system and individual players. This allows you to unlock more players by earning pack and level up those players as you use them.
The gameplay is infuriating and fun all at the same time. The lack of a tutorial, short of explaining what the button layout is makes getting a feel for the game pretty hard at first. I was missing most of my shots and could hardly defend. Albeit, I eventually got a feel for it and started making ground.
The dunks and alley-oops are fun and if used properly can give you a good advantage over the opponent. Each tournament mode match has a side objective which forces you to try all aspects of the gameplay which helped me improve a lot. Some require a certain number of steals, blocks or uses of the shot roulette.
As you play and perform special moves, get steals, sink shots etc you’ll fill up your roulette meter. Once full, you’ll get one of a range of special boosts; infinite sprint, bonus points for dunks, a shorter shot clock for your opponent and so on. They all have a time limit, but they can change the flow of a game drastically.
The online feature is essentially the main focus of game. There’s a competitive ranked system and casual online games to chose from. My experiences were dependent on the other player’s connection. If they were lagging, I typically was at a disadvantage. I would take a shot and next second my opponent was shooting down the other end of the court.
When the connection was fine both ways it was fun. Most people tend to use the push feature which can be annoying, but allows you to get an advantage if you keep your cool. Which is rare.
The best fun I had playing NBA Playgrounds was sitting there with a mate playing together. The old couch co-op had us laughing and really getting into it. When you nail the alley-oops and combo dunks it’s rather fulfilling. The memories kept flowing back of NBA jam after school with friends.
If you want a good couch co op game that you can have a couple of quick games with it’s perfect.
NBA Playgrounds was reviewed using a digital promo code on PS4 provided to PowerUp! by Saber Interactive and a digital retail code on Nintendo Switch purchased by the reviewer.
Game Title: NBA Playgrounds
Lack of Tutorial - 3/10
Finally Seeing Lebron James's Head Size Match His Ego - 10/10
Couch Co-op Raging - 8/10