NBA Playgrounds is an attempt to bring back the arcade-styled basketball games like NBA Jam and NBA Street, however despite a fun and casual gameplay designed around cooperative gaming, the game still falls short of the goal thanks to its bland A.I and lack of gameplay modes.
NBA Playgrounds features a miniaturized stylized version of the real-life NBA All-Stars. These characters are all based on their real-life counterparts but the one aspect that is slightly annoying to me here is how the characters are now tied to card packs. As the game begins, you will be given 3 set of the card packs each with atleast 5 NBA Stars. These card packs are randomized so good luck getting your favorite player from them. However you can win these card packs by competing in some of the gameplay modes offered in the game.
While the majority of the NBA All-Stars will be locked at the start of the game, you can attempt to unlock them by participating in the various game modes. The first is the exhibition mode that simply puts 4 players against each other. You can go with 3 A.I controlled opponents or play the game cooperatively with a friend. In the case of the former, the gameplay is rather dull as it is very easy to cheese and exploit the A.I leading to a game where you will be scoring points one after another without feeling any actual sense of accomplishment. You can also play exhibition mode with a friend or you try your hand at the tournament mode, which requires some good skills if you want to win the higher ranked tournaments.
NBA Playground gameplay is built on providing a fun filled basketball game and it manages to deliver on it, however not without some issues. While it is nice to perform tricks and slam dunk the ball in the basket, the controls will take some time to get used to and even then, the randomization of the tricks and how some of the more cool looking moves are executed can make for some confusing moments during the gameplay.
The game features a variety of different courts to play in, mostly from around the world. Each of the court doesn’t offer any difference in term of gameplay but does provide a nice animated background for the matches. The controls for the game are easy to understand but the tricks will take some time to learn. I was always surprised to see the enemy player pulling some spectacular tricks. This could have been learned in a proper training mode but this is an aspect of the game that feels lacking. It is all down to luck and your own skills, which doesn’t amount to much aside from making sure you aim the ball correctly at the basket leading to points.
While NBA Playgrounds offers a simplified set of controls for the player, the A.I partner on the court has its own way and can only be utilized for simple actions. The lack of depth in gameplay is what makes the game repetitive although this repetition doesn’t feel as bad when the game is played with friends, since the A.I usually has their own tricks while a human character is prone to making errors. Defending is an aspect that I never managed to learn properly so it always comes down to mashing buttons to make sure the opponent doesn’t get to score point. Again, this is an idea that could be executed properly but as it stands, the implementation is rather poor despite the controls being fairly easy to learn.
The game also offers an online multiplayer mode but it feels like a stripped up version of the offline mode. While it is possible to play with up to 4 players offline, the online multiplayer is limited to just 2 vs. 2 encounters and that is also restricted to just 2 players. This is a step down from the offline multiplayer and hopefully something that is fixed in a future patch.
The game has a decent replay value since there is a progression system that rewards experience points leading to new card unlocks and new NBA All-Stars. Since each of the major NBA player comes with its own advantage, unlocking them can be fun. Tournaments reward with a Gold pack which increases the chance of getting a Legendary player, but aside from that, you will have to rely on your luck in order to get your star player unlocked in the game.
NBA Playgrounds Review (PS4)
NBA Playgrounds feels like an experiment to bring the arcade basketball style back into action. It might have an enjoyable gameplay system that is casual friendly but it lacks in content and gameplay modes, not to mention it is simply not fun to play against the dull A.I controlled opponents.