NBA Playgrounds - Game Review

Source:Hella Average Gaming, Cameron

        Remember a time when arcade style basketball games were all the rage? I picture a better time, sitting on my couch with a friend, yelling at my television, and jumping up to gloat when I slammed a flaming basketball in the hoop. As time passed, those games faded, and were replaced by realistic, licensed sports games, with all the accoutrements of modern gaming. However, Saber Interactive has released a 2v2, arcade style basketball game, in the style of NBA Jam and NBA Street. The mechanics, art style, and overall feel are amazing, and it is same to say this is a true spiritual successor to games of the past.

        When first booting up Playgrounds, there is no tutorial, but certain game play modes are locked until you win an exhibition match. Once this is completed, a tournament mode is unlocked, and you must win your first tournament to unlock online play. This makeshift tutorial allows the player to dive right in, and get hands on with the mechanics. If you have ever played an arcade basketball game, it will feel somewhat familiar. Instead of releasing the shoot button at the top of your shot animation, there is now a meter that appears when you shoot. This meter is very unforgiving, and if you don't release your shot in the green on your meter, you will absolutely miss your attempt. Once you learn to utilize this meter, the game begins to work it's magic. The shooting is fluid, and the animations are nice. Nothing is more satisfying than blowing past your opponent with a crossover, and doing an over the top dunk. You can steal the ball from your opponent, and throw elbows when you are on offense. NBA Playgrounds attributes stats to every player you receive, and it is important to pay attention to these, and pick your players based on your play style. If you like to get in the paint and dunk on your opponents, then make sure your player has a high dunk stat. Also, don't plan to steal the ball if you don't have a high steal, or stamina stat. All these game play mechanics mesh to form a fantastic game, with great animations, and responsive controls.

        NBA Playgrounds has phenomenal graphics, and animations. Visually, the game looks like a modern version of NBA Jam. It seems obvious that the developers at Saber Interactive were fans of the old arcade style games, and did their homework. There are special crossover animations, dunk animations, shot animations, and of course, your ball can ignite in blue flames when you get a specific power up. Certain characters even have special animations unique to them. Lay down a sick dunk, or hit a deep three pointer, and just maybe your character will gloat, and taunt the other team. Not only are the characters impressive, the backdrops are well designed too, many based on different countries. Other than the announcers, which deliver funny lines at first, but quickly become stale, there is no voice acting in the game. This is definitely not your high resolution, realistic basketball game, but a cartoon style arcade game, that pays homage to its predecessors.

        Overall, NBA Playgrounds has scratched an itch I didn't even realize I had. It has given my friends and I hours of enjoyment, and will continue to do so. At $19.99, I highly recommend you pick this game up, and add it to your library. If you are looking for a game you can jump into easily, play a few matches, and sit back down, this is for you. Also, if you want a blast playing with, or against your friends, this game is perfect. You can play NBA Playgrounds on your Playstation 4, Xbox One, PC, and Nintendo Switch. As always, play on, and stay Hella Average.