Basketball is widely played in American neighbourhoods wherever courts have been constructed. And this street-driven ethos is why the NBA has licensed numerous arcade series over the years.
NBA Playgrounds is the organisation’s latest attempt at trying to rediscover its arcade roots in video games. NBA Jam was the first example, having been released in 1993, while NBA Street first emerged in the early ‘00s.
This time around, the NBA has awarded the publishing licence to Mad Dog Games, while Saber Interactive handles the development. EA Sports will continue to oversee the mainstream perspective with NBA Live, while NBA Playgrounds is a much more casual experience and easier to figure out.
NBA Playgrounds is a stripped-down experience where two-on-two matches are played out in an engine where players go from side to side on a basketball court trying to score points. Meanwhile, the in-game players appear as cartoonish characters superimposed on the screen.
In the action itself, players can perform three-pointers from downtown or else get in close for some dunks. However, the street aspect of the game comes to the fore whenever an opponent uses trips and punches to prevent scores. This is not one for the basketball purists, but rather the gamers who want to fool around.
Gamers are invited to pick their favourite NBA teams, with the focus being on the star talents and iconic names rather than fringe players. To make it simple, all of the game stats for players are scored out of 10.
Attack will present categories for dunking, three-pointers, and two-pointers, while defence will cover steals and blocks. There is a final category for other stats, including speed, stamina, and rebounds.
NBA Playgrounds’ ability to let players create their dream duo from legends like Magic Johnson and Oscar Robertson creates a fun sense of “what if?” when seeing the action play out.
NBA Playgrounds could have a bright future among eSports players through a dedication to simple arcade gameplay. Add in the widespread compatibility of the game across PS4, XBOX One, Nintendo Switch, and PC and this could find a loyal audience among basketball fans wanting an alternative to the more serious NBA Live.
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