[Disclosure: A review code was provided for the contents of this article]
NBA Playgrounds is a recent release that, with its caricatured sportsmen, playground setting and quite exaggerated arcade-like attempt at fun basketball, is arguably aimed at younger gamers or those who prefer simpler retro games. It should not be confused with 2K Sports’ NBA 2K series or even EA Sports’ NBA Live installments, being closer instead to the old NBA Street.
There are many problems with the basic gameplay of NBA Playgrounds which irritate this gamer frequently. For example, it is difficult to gauge or control the accuracy of shots. This crucial aspect of most sports games should be much easier, arguably, than the likes of NBA 2K17, but actually appears more difficult because of its inconsistency. If this reviewer is not mistaken, it was easier to gauge how good your shot would be on the FIFA 2003 soccer game. That is a sad indictment of how annoying and poor the shooting is on here.
Moreover, defence is very difficult because you cannot take the ball from the opposition easily, even though, with less regulations than in standard NBA basketball, this sport involves contact, with buttons for elbowing and stealing.
The fact that jumping is unpredictable on defence also does not help either. Making the gameplay even worse is the lack of clarity with regard to how much power you gain from tricks, especially in comparison to NBA Street 3 or FIFA Street 2, with this game clearly being inferior to the latter despite being over ten years younger than the EA Big game.
Sometimes the game is too slow to recommence, as gamers are often left waiting several seconds for a whistle before recommencing after the opposing team has scored – that is not ideal in a sport so fast-paced. It would be better if the game were even more exaggerated (for an example, see the craziness of FootLOL or the PS2’s violent Red Card) or a lot more realistic (like modern EA Sports titles), but as it is, the gameplay is mediocre.
Although many improvements could be made elsewhere, the game’s bland soundtrack stands out like a square-shaped basketball as a huge disappointment when one remembers the music of NBA Street 3 and NFL Street 3. It is difficult to know who your best players are, either overall or attribute-by-attribute, which does not make the game any more likeable.
To be fair, the game looks bold and bright, and the caricatures make things more interesting, while the gameplay is capable of causing the odd moment of enjoyment or excitement. But these should be background positives rather than the main good points. We should be getting far more from a game affiliated with the NBA that costs as much as it does.