NBA Playgrounds Review

by David Loft posted May 16th 2017

File Under Gaming

Its been more than a year since I have written anything on here, or posted on YouTube for that matter. I plan/hope to change that with at least something to write about or create a video about on a weekly basis. Today I'm hoping to kick that off with a review of NBA Playgrounds for the Nintendo Switch. Please feel free to scroll to the botton for the summary or if you prefer to watch a review. For everyone else, lets start with control

Controls feel a bit loose and imprecise which is an issue in a timing based game. Finding the perfect timing even after many hours is still difficult. Especially with dunks and layups as the timing mid jump feels awkward. As a result, timing three pointers is easier.

Moving on to audio, announcers are often delayed commenting on on a shot well after its made. While they often repeat themselves a bit too much, overall the quality is adequate. Sound Effects are well represented, nothing stands out for or against. It does its job filling in the atmosphere and bringing you to the court. Music is decent, but there's not enough tracks, and the single repeating menu song, while good, will get irritating quickly.

The visuals on the Switch definitely takes a noticeable hit. In Portable mode it looks downright horrendous. It's 540p at best and possible even 480p, were talking SD graphics here. On the TV it does fair substantially better and at quick glance is very similar to the PS4 and Xbox One. But upon closer inspection it shows a lack of polish, no depth of field, low frame rate of back ground assets & no motion blur. But the at the very least it runs at a solid 60 fps in both modes. The art style is on point and the characters have just the right amount of cartoon and realistic detail. The slow motion and camera zoom when dunking looks fabulous. These are definitely some strong points for the game.

The game can be fun, but it just has too many things getting in the way of just being a great arcade basketball game.

NBA Playgrounds provides more depth than NBA Jam, which is good as its more skill based, but as a result, makes it harder to pick up and play. Game modes are very sparse with just Exhibition and Tournament. Online is coming in the next patch, but it definitely should have been present at launch. There definitely needs to be more modes and variety. I'd like to see a 3 Point competition, Dunk Competition, an Arcade Mode and a one on one game of Twenty-One. This would go a long way to providing some variety and longevity to the game.

The game utilizes Power Ups which you can earn by earning enough points from dunking, stealing blocking and so on. Some of the power ups not so good while others are overpowered and can often decide who wins. The game can be fun, but it just has too many things getting in the way of just being a great arcade basketball game. In an attempt to do more than its predecessors, the developers may have lost focus.

There is a lot of balancing that needs to be done to improve the fun factor. The game needs more dunks. I will typically get just two or three dunks per game at best. If I'm trying to dunk I'll often end up running out of stamina and doing a lay up, or the ball will get stolen, or I get the timing wrong or it gets rejected. There's enough in the way they should just remove timing on Dunks. They also need to reduce the ability to steal by making the timing much harder. I've had matches where the ball was stolen 5 times in two seconds as it bounced back and forth like a ping pong ball. Neither side benefits from the current state.

Shoving also needs to completely change how it works. Tying it to the Power Up doesn't work as it limits when it can be used. It should be tied to stamina, requiring full stamina to shove and completely draining your stamina when shoving. In its current state it’s also overpowered, so it should stop the shot, but it should not always knock the ball lose. Instead only knocking the ball lose if timed perfectly with the shot.

Add in long load times which reduces its quick pick up play-ability and you end up with a rather mixed bag.

Now bare in mind this is describing my experience in Tournament mode, where I have spent most of my time. Exhibition mode is much more easy going. I found Exhibition set to Advance offers the best overall gaming experience as stealing and shoving aren't as common and dunking is easier as a result. But I want to beat the game and unlock all the courts and to do this I must play Tournament mode and in that mode I find the game frustrating.

When I'm not getting the ball stolen every available moment, and when I'm able to mix up the play between alley oops, dunks, and three pointers, when I make a killer shot block, or steal the ball and follow up with a massive dunk it's amazingly fun. But that's few and far between and the more likely reality is missing the timing on a simple layup or dunk multiple times and you have a game where the fun factor just drains away. Add in long load times which reduces its quick pick up play-ability and you end up with a rather mixed bag.

So far I likely come off like I don't like NBA Playgrounds. But I actually do, I'm not mad I'm just disappointed. Yet I've played a lot of hours so far, definitely a good sign. as I have many games I could be playing. And when it comes together and I make the perfect alley-oop, or a buzzer winning three pointer, I can't help but smile.

Score: 6.5

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