It has been a long time since we’ve had an arcade-style basketball game, and the last iteration of NBA Jam was a complete flop. NBA Playgrounds takes us back to the court and offers an experience similar to NBA Jam, which is a positive for sure.
NBA Playgrounds thankfully is a fully licensed game and includes players of past and present. You will find great NBA players such as LeBron James and Stephen Curry along with retired players like Magic Johnson, Wilt Chamberlain and Playgrounds cover athlete Allen Iverson. The roster is in depth and offers a nice variety of players from present and past. Being an arcade-style basketball game, it doesn’t follow the same formula that you would see on the actual court. It’s a 2 on 2 style that features no rules, essentially like EA’s FIFA Street. Being an arcade-style basketball game it’s all about pulling off amazing dunks, shoves and moves. This isn’t a serious basketball title, if you are after the traditional experience NBA 2k would be the more suitable title. The game is very nostalgic and features a nice 90s inspired soundtrack. Those that miss NBA Jam will likely feel nostalgia with this title, it’s very fitting. The game opens you up into how things work with regards to unlocking players. You will earn packets of cards to open, each packet will hold players that can beef up your roster. The further you progress in the game, the better the card packet will likely be and you’ll likely end up getting some rare or legendary players.
There are various NBA teams to choose from with various teams having more players to unlock, the Pelicans having the least characters with three, and the Nuggets having the most with eight. You are able to mix and match players from any team and any era. Visually it’s a bit basic and could do with some more work. The character models are a bit off and the type of cartoony style they have gone for isn’t too appealing. The backgrounds for the various courts are decent and all feature crowds which look good, it’s just a shame the players themselves don’t have the same charm that NBA Jam offered. The gameplay is stellar, Saber Interactive have done an excellent job making the title feel like NBA jam, it is a bit slower than NBA Jam and I would have liked to see the pacing faster, but it offers a great experience and is incredibly fun to play, especially against friends.
As mentioned briefly before, there are no rules, anything goes, which encourages some roughhousing. The shooting is quite hard to get down especially if you are going for 3 or even…4-pointers, your timing has to be spot on to be graced with the higher points. That challenge and timing add’s an added level to the gameplay experience and limits those types of players who will keep shooting from anywhere expecting it to go in, it actually requires a bit of skill. Of course you can do all sorts of dunks and lay-ups to the other players to pull of some sweet dunks.
You will want to check each players stats as you want to look for someone that has a pretty balanced skill set or have one player that is better at dunks and one that might be good a three pointers.
Players have a selection of skills which are listed below:
- 3-point shot
- 2-point shot
The game currently only comes with three modes: Exhibition, Tournaments and Online Match. Tournaments is where I spent most of my time, there’s various locations around the world to play, from New York to Japan, each time you win or lose you will gain XP that will level up the players you are playing with. Each segment of the tournament features set challenges, if you complete challenges you will earn more XP. It’s a decent mode, offers enough to give you an understanding of the game and prepares you for online play. Online play at the moment doesn’t allow you to play friends which is a drawback, there is no option either to have 2 players v 2 other players which is also a feature that I would have liked to have seen. Online works well for what it offers, it’s not as in-depth as I would have hoped and needs work in regards to online modes, but as it stands it’s still enjoyable to hop online and have a few minutes of fun.
Overall I would recommend NBA Playgrounds for those who want a fun arcade-style title that has a few throwbacks to NBA Jam whilst still offering a different experience. The gameplay is fun and has some nice moments especially when earning charged moves. The title does lack modes however and would benefit from a few more being added. A challenge mode/a mini game mode would be a nice addition for offline play and for online like I mentioned above needs more modes and abilities to play friends. Currently as it stands it’s a good title, needs a few updates, if more modes are added I will look into updating the review and it could score an 8, but at the moment I think a 6 is justifiable, good game, offers enough for short playing sessions but it does need work.
+ If you liked NBA Jam you'll like this
+ Offers some nice quick fun
+ Fully licensed roster
- Design is very simplistic
- Online modes are lacking
- Offline modes needs more content