Developer: Mad Dog Games
Publisher: Saber Interactive Incorporated
Platform: Nintendo Switch (eShop)
Category: Sports, Arcade
Release Date: 9th of May, 2017 (JP, EU & NA)
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Good day to you all, Mike here! So I am back again to review another Switch Game and this time it is NBA Playgrounds. I have never really been a fan of sports games and have always felt that sports were activities worth doing rather than playing on a TV screen but I have always had a soft spot for basketball and it was one of the few sports I actually enjoyed to play. Still, as regards to sports games I could never really get into them and found changing between players to be confusing as hell. NBA Playgrounds however, being a 2v2 match minimizes the confusion whilst still being very fun to play.
The aim of the game is much like any typical basketball game, score as many points as possible by means of throwing the ball or dunking it into the opposing teams hoop. You can unlock players by opening card packs which you obtain by leveling up the players you currently have. As you win games, you earn experience points which when you level up can also unlock special skills and increase your ranking. All players start at bronze status but can go up to Gold status by increasing their level.
There are three modes of play (four if you count the tutorial that is hidden in the settings) including Exhibition, Tournament & Online. Online mode is currently unavailable and will be patched in by the developers at a later date (of writing this review). Exhibition is a single match which you can play alone or with friends and can set various match options like how long to play for, which playground to play on and CPU difficulty. Tournament mode has you travel to different playgrounds around the world including the Las Vegas, Tokyo, Paris & London. You will face off against four different teams which you must beat to become champion and unlock the next playground. Each match has a special challenge like dunk three times in a match or block an opponent twice which if you complete them all in the tournament, you can unlock new balls.
There are around 20 different teams, each with 5-8 different NBA Legends retired and active to choose from but to play as them, you will have to unlock them first and for that you will need to earn card packs through completing tournaments and levelling up your current players as I mentioned previously. Gameplay is very enjoyable and can be played in short bursts or long sessions and is very competitive, AI difficulty could do with adjusting a little, at least the rookie difficulty as I can play quite well in tournament mode against Gold status players but then get my backside handed to my by supposed “Rookie” AI in exhibition mode. The stunts and the power ups are a nice touch and really give the game a touch of character. We all know that it is completely ridiculous to see anybody slam dunk a ball within a triple pirouette and then backflip off the basket but these touches to make the game fun to play and watching famous Basketball legends elbowing each other or donkey kicking other players in mid air is certainly my idea of entertainment.
The match commentary is very good and is directly aimed at the player rather than the those on the court by praising you for pulling off crazy moves and ridiculing you for messing up the simplest of shots or dunks by saying things like “You need to read the manual.”The graphics are very good and run well on the Switch. The players have a charicature look which fits the aesthetic of the game just fine as it doesn’t take itself too seriously with its unrealistic stunts and power-ups.
NBA Playgrounds can be played with up to four people on one console for 2v2 matches in local multiplayer. Once the online mode is updated into the game, there will also be leagues and divisions to engage in against other players around the world. Each player can play on a separate Joy-Con or Pro Controller, which all have their own command formats layout which can be a tricky task to change between techniques. I am still trying to master the Alley-oop with AI but i just can’t seem to pull it off.
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I am a big fan of this game, I will admit. I like the humour of the game, The simplicity of 2V2 means you haven’t got to change between too many players and they are easier to distinguish on the Switch Screen. The crazy moves and the fact that you can play it anytime, anywhere means there is alway an opportunity to play B-Ball.
I do have some criticisms which aren’t enough to deter me from playing but it would make playing the game much more enjoyable. Firstly would to dumb down the AI in rookie mode so that I don’t get my backside handed to me by the supposedly “Easy” AI. A training mode would be appreciated so that I can improve on my dunks, crossovers and rebounds. The controls can take some time to get to grips with but sometimes the AI team mate is not as responsive as they should be. With that aside and the fact that NBA Playgrounds will only cost you $19.99/€19.99 in the eShop, it is definitely a title worth picking up whether to play alone or with friends and is well worth a score of 8/10.
THE VERDICT: 8/10