Just a crossover, a pass and a shot for a basket to understand where is the charm of NBA Playgrounds, an arcade basketball game that tickles and satisfies the itching of those who for years has been orphaned by NBA Jam and NBA Hang Time. With the NBA2K series, or the last, forgettable, attempts to revive NBA Live,
the binomial video games and basketball has become increasingly synonymous with sports simulation, with a meticulous attention to the management of the team and the planning of each action, offensive or defensive as it is.
Developed by Saber Interactive, NBA Playgrounds changes the register and presents itself as a middle ground between NBA Jam and NBA Street, with the bar that tends more towards the dementia and exaggeration of the former. It’s a two-on-two arcade, which recreates the light and exaggerated experience typical of the 90s games while modernizing it in a way that EA has not been able to do with the recent NBA Jam porting.
NBA Playgrounds has that light, fun and exaggerated approach that was missing from basketball fans
One of the main differences with the other titles on the NBA, Playgrounds slams it in the face as soon as you start the game the first time. By emptying three packs containing five random “figurines”, the first players with whom you can compose your team are unlocked.
Instead of having a full-featured roster right from the start, NBA Playgrounds allows you to access an ever-increasing selection of athletes as packages are received.Fortunately it is a different system from that adopted by EA with the Ultimate Team of FIFA: the bags are obtained in fact accumulating experience points, going up level and completing the tournaments, there is no shadow of microtransactions and the developers themselves have promised that future additions to the roster will come in the form of free updates.
At the moment it is still possible to unlock over 150 athletes, from current names like LeBron James, Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant up to former champions of the caliber of Magic Johnson and Allen Iverson. It’s a simple and smart way to stimulate to play and replay the (few) modes available,
but this does not mean that it is a system free from defects: turning athletes into figures of different rarity, obtainable only by leveling up, means that the more you go on and the more slowly you get sachets, while increasing the odds of finding duplicates and you risk spending tens of hours without ever getting that Shaquille O’Neal card that your friend caught in his first sachet.
The caricatural style of the athletes should be a clue to how much NBA Playgrounds takes very seriously, but it is when it comes down to the field that the game shows off all its eccentric personality. Between exaggerated elevations, slam dunks and acrobatic crossovers, the experience is reminiscent of both the offensive and the defending NBA Jam.
The limit of 12 seconds per action (unlike the traditional 24) requires a tighter pace and faster exchanges, while the absence of fouls makes the game very physical and aggressive. The iconic “on fire” by NBA Jam is replaced by a system of random power-ups that are activated by filling an indicator: there is one that allows you to make an infallible shot, another that doubles the points you get by crushing , another that makes you run without getting tired.