I know what you’re thinking, is NBA Playgrounds like NBA Jam or maybe NBA Street? Is this a nostalgia-filled arcade basketball worth your time? Well, Playgrounds is flashy, and entertaining but leaves little else to do with repetitive gameplay.
Playgrounds might borrow from its predecessors but it can stand on its own, too. Taking place in two-on-two games, Playgrounds wants you working your way through tournaments set around the world set in places like New York, Paris, Shangai, Tokyo, London, and Las Vegas. These unlock after reaching level 2 and opening card packs to unlock over 200 real players from 30 NBA teams, with athletes like Steph Curry, Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, and more.
I’ve spent time and money playing and unlocking content in FIFA’s Ultimate Team, seeing card packs utilized in Playgrounds brings me joy, the big reason being that card packs here don’t cost real money and there are no microtransactions at all. The only way to get more packs is to play and level up and winning every tournament.
Offline tournaments pit you against the computer in a series of games against the computer. Each tournament has of four games, with the venue rotating for each series. Given the limited amount of modes to play, it’s here the bulk of the content can be unlocked. Within each game is a challenge to complete, so be sure to switch up your team as needed.
Online competition is where it’s at, playing against real people brings the experience to a higher level, after spending time offline in the only mode available. Post-release content is planned and there’s word of a four on four mode.
Shooting mechanics are time-based, a few hours playing though, and you’ll master the mechanic, earning extra points for each basket which go a long way when you’re going back and forth. Shooting in Playgrounds is about holding the Square button and then releasing it at the perfect moment. Either releasing too early or too late will have you miss the hoop, but, time it perfect and you’ll score extra points.
Word to the wise though, shoving in NBA Playgrounds is frowned upon, as I learned the hard way. What happens when you shove here is that you’re allowed to shove once, which will drain your stamina bar and leave you hanging. This setback of not being able to push tasks you with trying to steal often, avoiding physical contact all together.
Lottery Picks provide power ups such as speed boosts, an electric ball that’s invincible, three pointers that count as double in points, etc. Being rough with your opponent by shoving them lowers your Lottery Bar. This is frowned upon and can cost you the game if you’re not paying attention and rough-housing the opponent.
Couch co-op is where I spent most my review time, having a friend over, spending time dunking on each other, earning power ups and all around having a pleasant time. Sabre Interactive has included many animations, too, and you’ll notice them crossover, fade away, and dunk with over 300 of them! Learning how to crossover, shove, and steal are essential keys to success if you want to win.
NBA Playgrounds does its own thing, it works, but there’s room to improve, and with Sabre Interactive promising more modes and more players – I’m excited to see what the future holds. The gameplay works, even it isn’t as fast as NBA Jam. The graphics and player models, especially some of the retro players are great. Saber Interactive has created a game that has the potential to become something special.