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Gaming Review: NBA Playgrounds

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Mad Dog Games and Saber Interactive have released a two-on-two arcade basketball game with big names that’s reminiscent of the NBA Jam games of yesteryear. This four-player gem dropped with an affordable price of $19.99 just in time for the actual NBA playoffs. The game mixes light RPG level-up elements and leverages the childhood hobby of collecting basketball cards to open up and develop playable characters. The result is game that is a slam dunk for any sports fan, especially if you’re looking to fill your Nintendo Switch library with sport titles.

Pacing: A+
In NBA Playgrounds, you start from scratch with the number of available players. The game will allow you to open up a couple packs of basketball player cards. You start with this short list of available players and work your way up to earn more basketball cards to deepen your roster of usable players. To my dismay, no Lakers were immediately available after completing half of the available tournaments. Yet, when my daughter played the game on her profile, Lakers players were immediately available. This means that not all gamers will have the same experience of opening up characters. The experience is random…and very gratifying. The issue that arises from treating players like Pokemon is there’s no option to trade between gamers with multiple Nintendo Switches. This would be a great next step if Saber Interactive wants to build on this idea for future iterations of the title.

This review is being written with all of the single-player Tournament Modes completed. What this means is that all of the gold packs of basketball cards and available stages / playgrounds have been discovered for the purposes of this review. It also means that I’ve put in over 200 single-player matches to achieve the goal of opening up as many characters as I could and leveling them up. Overall, the experience and pacing of the game to force you to play is top notch.

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Art Design: C+
The visuals in NBA Playgrounds is not jaw-dropping for a sports game, but does the job it needs to do to give each stage / playground some variation. The effects are decent for the power-ups and sufficiently help the gamer player know when something different is happening on screen. The big headed NBA Jam design can be seen in this game. Individual players are actually recognizable if you didn’t see their uniform or jersey number. When docked, the game does take on more detailed visuals on a 1080p TV.

Gameplay Design: B
The gameplay is a little more deeper than NBA Jam. It’s actually harder to time a jump shot or a dunk in order for it to be successful. Early on when you play the game, this can be very frustrating with missed shots being accompanied with the words “Early” or “Late” to show that you’ve missed time the button press. While there is a learning curve, it really does help those who put in the time to get the timing down as opposed to someone who just picks the game up and has an equal opportunity to beat you by button mashing. There’s also room for strategy on offense and defense especially when trying to mix up the man-to-man coverage for mismatches. The lottery meter and steals can be both a super pay-off and penalizing depending on what end of the payoff your getting. The bottom line here is that you can be much better when you incorporate strategy. Sometimes a jump shot is preferable to a dunk that may be blocked.

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Presentation: C+
The presentation for NBA Playgrounds is solid. There are a few minor setbacks: (1) The lack of a proper scoreboard is the major gripe those who frequent my living room express; (2) there are also missing NBA legends like Kobe Bryant from the final roster; (3) the broadcasting voices are minimal not very exciting; (4) the word “very” is spelled “ver” and I don’t think its slang; and (5) only Shaq and LeBron have celebration dances when they score on a unique special move. Aside from those minor things, the game’s presentation is more than worthy of the $20 price tag.

Overall
As I’m wrapping this review, I’m planning a tournament tonight around this game. It’s that much fun to play with 2 to 4 people. NBA Playgrounds will help you win the living room because it’s a fun multi-player experience and a great promotional product for on-the-go gaming for the Nintendo Switch. The single-player experience is very well-designed to push you to open more and more characters. Overall, a solid experience.

Final Grade: B-

NBA Playgrounds is available for all systems.

Source(s): Nintendo Website
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Pete Taase once was a Sith Lord, but was brought back from the depths of dark side by his younglings and old VHS cassettes that require the tracking button to make the screen clearer to view.

Twitter: @PeteTaase
Nintendo Switch Friend Code: SW-8562-8783-7012

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