What makes a good licensed NBA street court basketball game? A wide selection of players, courts,or modes? Or maybe we judge the quality based on smooth controls or realism. For me, NBA Playgrounds manages to hit the sweet spot, fun factor.
The player availability is equivalent to many fantasy or ultimate team modes in sports games. You begin the game by opening three card packs that unlock players, pick a pair and hit the court in Exhibition Mode. The more you play the more you level up your profile and the players on the court. Each new profile level unlocks new card packs to open. As you play tournaments you earn gold packs and unlock Legend players like Shaq, Allen Iverson and others. As NBA players level up they unlock new moves and become more effective on the court.
Here I am talking about player performance like it’s 2K18, when in reality it’s more NBA Jam button slamming. Your dunks and shots are the same as most basketball games, but mix in the alley-oop and throwing elbows, this game feels like NBA Jam meets NFL Blitz and I like it. You can be a total jerk to to the AI (or your friends) and nobody will be the wiser. The only penalty is that it depletes your Lottery Picks bar. Which is essentially your special bar. As you make plays and score, the blue bar fills up at the top, dubbed the ‘Lottery Pick Bar’. Exhibition allows you access to all Lottery Picks (specials) and once it fills it does a random roll, which varies such as a blue power ball which virtually always makes it in the net, double score in a select regions of the court and more.
Everything takes time to unlock, even the modes. You start with Exhibition, and after you play a game you unlock Tournament mode which acts as the games campaign putting you through various courts around the globe and NBA duos as you progress each of the tournaments brackets. You unlock new card packs and new courts by doing this to use in exhibition and online mode. Players can also unlock more lottery picks to use online as well.
There are over 150 base players to unlock and several courts. The game is structured to keep the player busy for quite some time. Then there is the online, which is a lot more fun if you know the person on the other side, or save it for offline mode against friends for some good old fashioned couch-co-op. Online Tournaments are set to be added in a later update on consoles and fans can likely expect more players to be added as well. This is a game with potential to continue to grow as the fan base allows it.
While it may not have the finesse of other NBA licensed games, it manages to be a structurally solid pick-up and play street basketball game with a lot of licensed players to choose from. NBA Playgrounds is a great alternative in a market that has no real competition right now for the genre.
It may not be NBA Jam, but the balls sure to catch fire in NBA Playgrounds. They managed to bring just enough NBA stars and All-Stars into the mix to make a great alternative to titles of the same nature. If you want a fun pick up and play street court game online, or offline against friends, look no further. Hopefully this will be the first entry in a great franchise.
8 Slam Dunks, Out Of 10
Release Date: May 9th, 2017 (US)
Available Platforms: PlayStation 4 (Review), Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC
Publisher: Mad Dog Games
Developer: Saber Interactive
Disclosure: NBA Playgrounds was provided By Saber Interactive for coverage purposes.