Xbox One, Switch, PS4
Developer: Saber Interactive
As far as basketball games go, there is one that stands above them all as the premier title when looking fora realistic approach to basketball and of course that is the NBA 2K series. However, there has been a noticeable hole in the genre for a fun, non-realistic NBA basketball game and that is where NBA Playgrounds comes in and saves the day! Developed by Saber Interactive and released on May 9th, 2017 to all current generation systems.
NBA Playgrounds features the 2-on-2 arcade-style gameplay popularized by games such as the NBA Jam series. It features a wide array of players, both classic and active, picking up the rock to dominate the playground with each player has their own stats and skills. using your own tag team of players from throughout the NBA’s history (and a few Youtubers) and shoot, dunk, steal, push and rebound your way to victory.
I can very easily admit that the gameplay needs some smoothing over and that after each patch the ease of shooting has flip-flopped from too easy to too difficult, but despite this the game remains fun and entertaining. The game features game-changing Lottery Picks which you earn after filling a bar by completing great plays and can range from a Lightning Ball that will always go in despite the player’s shooting statistics (provided you cross half court first), or you can earn a bonus that doubles points from deep for a short time. Lottery picks are an integral part of the game and proper utilization of them can save even the most lopsided game. Once they are able to strike the perfect balance of shot difficulty, the game will climb up another notch for sure.
So like I said, NBA Playgrounds features a wide variety of players from throughout the rich history of the NBA. You can choose from players from all 30 NBA teams and as of the 1.2.0 update you can also select players from the pre-Oklahoma City Thunder team, the SeattleSupersonics and a few Youtubers. The players are unlocked via player packs that you get every time you level up or when you clear a tournament and they come in silver or gold. The gold packs obviously give you better odds at the great Legends players.
The players come in three different categories: Regulars, Epics, and Legends. This is based off of their career achievements, their star power, and the legacy they have left behind or will leave behind! Legends also are also able to perform special signature moves that the player has been known for, such as Dirk Nowitzki’s step back jumper, or Pete “Pistol Pete” Maravich’s no-look passes. These extra moves make the Legends a little more versatile in terms of move repertoire but that doesn’t mean that they have better stats all around. The player’s stats are allocated into the different categories of the game such as 2-pt. and 3-pt. shot, dunks, rebound, block, speed, and stamina. As in the real life, you can expect guards and bigs to have opposing proficiencies. A good balance of all stats is important to win!
I have played more games in my life than I care to count and it is so rare to see the level of community engagement that the development team does is fantastic! The game has hit its fair share of snags with development as patches for the game’s post launch content take their time making to the consoles.
If you own the game on PC, Playstation, or Xbox then you have nothing to worry about, however, if you have a Nintendo Switch, good luck. I personally own the game on both my Xbox as well as my Switch and after almost 2 months since release, it is still without online capabilities and has yet to receive any of the three patches that the other platforms have received. The struggle is definitely real if you have invested in both Nintendo’s newest console and Saber’s energetic indie Basketball game.
The developers have assured their player base that the update was submitted long ago and that the patches are awaiting finalization from Nintendo. Whatever the situation is, there are definitely a ton of Switch owners growing impatient and unfortunately Saber is taking the brunt of the flak. They have even gone as far as to offer their next game Shaq-Fu: A Legend Reborn for free to NBA Playgrounds owners.
A fun and different sports game that aside from some technical and online issues, and an inferior version of the game, it is a much needed break from the realism that is dominating the sports game genre! Its wacky and energetic demeanor carves out a definitive role for it self in today’s gaming world. Its art style and soundtrack also serve to provide a little more energy to the equation. At its $20 price point its a good buy for the product that your getting and it is great for playing with friends due to its relatively simple controls. If you have a system that isn’t a switch I recommend buying this product but if you are one of those Switch owners, then I recommend waiting for that elusive patch to finally arrive before you buy it!