As someone who doesn’t frequently shoot any hoops, I picked up NBA playgrounds because of it’s quirky design. The title, which launched for Switch on May 9th did so without the inclusion of any online multiplayer features. To date, this is still the case.
It should be mentioned that currently, if you pick up a copy of NBA playgrounds, then you will receive a free copy of Shaq-FU upon it’s release later this year. The developers have noted that this offer will continue for the duration of time that online multiplayer is missing from Playgrounds!
I mention that because, in all honesty if that hadn’t been the case I would have never even considered buying NBA Playgrounds, and in turn you would have never read this review.
From this point onwards, this shall therefore be a review of the single player aspect of the game.
To start with, NBA Playgrounds integrates an ultimate team style pack opening concept into its single player. However, unlike EA’s famous system there aren’t any microtransactions in Playgrounds forcing you to pay premium for quality players. Instead you earn packs by completing games and earning XP.
Personally, I’ve found Playgrounds to play a bit like a basic version of FIFA Street (if anyone remember’s FIFA Street then you can have a bonus point at this stage). Unlike traditional basketball, which acts as a non contact sport, Playgrounds allows you shove the opposition to the ground with very little repercussions.
The basic premise of the game follows that of normal NBA, the aim being to outscore your opponent in a two v two environment. However, throughout play there is a “Lottery pick bar” which fills up and then randomly assigns a bonus to your team. Bonuses range from faster running to double points and overall bring an extra dimension of tension to the game. With lottery pick, games can go from feeling unwinnable to within touching distance to a matter of seconds or if you’re unlucky, vice versa.
With lottery pick, games can go from feeling unwinnable to within touching distance to a matter of seconds
As someone who doesn’t know the first thing about basketball besides that Lebron, Jordan and Shaq were supposedly decent ball bouncers, I have enjoyed the fact that this literally doesn’t matter in NBA Playgrounds. Each player within the game is given an overall rating/rarity – Bronze, Silver or Gold. Then, in addition, each player has six stats each given a rating out of ten.
These consist of Dunk, Three Point, Two Point, Still and then Block, Speed Stamina and Rebound. It’s pretty easy from these to determine whether a player is set up for offence or defence and from there its plain sailing.
Each exhibition match can be customised to a basic level. You can choose whether or not to set the game to have a time or point limit and in which stadium you wish to lay down those sweet sweet slam dunkings. Stadium selection again brings over a “FIFA Street” style with courts taking place in a range of places including a hotel rooftop.
You can choose whether or not to set the game to have a time or point limit and in which stadium you wish to lay down those sweet sweet slam dunkings.
The gameplay is very much reminiscent of NBA Jam, which released back in the 90’s. But, with improved graphics and a flashy arsenal of moves at the players disposal it’s still a welcome arrival.
NBA Playgrounds begins with a very quick tutorial, but mastering timing can take a few games. Both shooting and swiping the ball away from an opponent need precision. Mistiming a combination even on the easier levels will often lead to the merciless opposing AI punishing you in quick succession.
Mistiming a combination even on the easier levels will often lead to the merciless opposing AI punishing you in quick succession
XP at times moves to slowly and a few levels in the game becomes a bit of a grind for packs. That being said, the games short and simple gameplay makes Playgrounds the perfect way to kill short bursts of time. Free flowing basketball on the go – don’t mind if I do.
Our Editor-in-Chief, Jared purchased NBA: Playgrounds for Nintendo Switch from the Nintendo eShop for £17.99. This review is solely for the single-player mode. Jared has spent around 4 hours shooting hoops and trying to choose a team to get behind… GO LAKERS!!