NBA Playgrounds – Review

NBA Playgrounds is a 2-on-2 basketball game that takes some inspiration from perennial favorite NBA Jam. Unfortunately it doesn’t quite hit the heights that NBA Jam does but NBA Playgrounds is a decent game in its own right. In it you have exhibition games, tournaments, online competition and more. It should be noted however that we are reviewing the Nintendo Switch version. This is important to note because the online matches are not functional yet on the Switch version, despite comments from the developer a couple weeks ago that it was “coming soon”. So with that being the case we obviously won’t be reviewing the online portion of NBA Playgrounds.

NBA Playgrounds features legends from yesteryear in addition to some of today’s players. The two men that were on my team for most of my playtime was Matt Barnes from the Golden State Warriors and Dell Curry from the Charlotte Hornets. I started out with an exhibition game to try and get a handle on how the game controls. I noticed there was only one court available to be in the beginning but the game features eight different court locations from New York to Paris to Seattle and then Venice Beach. Access to each court is unlocked once you meet certain criteria, such as winning a tournament. As you play games (regardless of mode) your player will be earning experience and your overall profile will be leveling up as well. When your player levels up they might learn some new moves or become a better overall player. When your profile levels up you will get access to a pack of cards, similar to the pack of sports cards you can buy at a store. Those packs will contain new players that you can use on a court. For example you might get a card for Steph Curry and then you’ll be able to use him in the game or a legend like Magic Johnson. There are times where you might get a duplicate card and in that case you will simply earn some more XP.

Up above I mentioned that there is a tournament mode and in this mode you will have to travel around the world to compete with other NBA stars. You start out in New York and then there is Paris, Tokyo, Shanghai, London, Las Vegas and more. A tournament will generally consist of four games that you need to go through and win. Each game will have a different optional challenge for you to complete if you so choose such as hitting a certain number of three point shots or getting a certain number of blocks. Once you beat a tournament you will get a special gold pack of cards where you have a better chance at getting a really great player then you normally do with the standard silver packs. All 30 NBA teams are represented in the game and you can always check your card collection to see who you have collected and who you need to get. The game helps you out by putting an exclamation mark near a team that just unlocked a new player so you don’t always have to check all 30 teams to see which ones recently got a new player.

Playing through NBA Playgrounds it took me a few moments to get used to the controls but after I did I started raining three pointers like the Splash Brothers. There were definitely times though where the controls weren’t nearly as responsive as they would need to be. I would go up and try to block an opponent driving to the basket but it seemed like the game would hesitate for a second at times which would result in my guy jumping up late or missing the block entirely. It also seemed to be a little sluggish at times when I was trying to scramble for a loose ball or doing something else that was spontaneous.

NBA Playgrounds is a decent 2-on-2 over the top basketball game. You can tell where it drew inspiration from but it never really gets to that level. As I mentioned above I wasn’t able to use the online portion at all as the development team has yet to issue the patch that will turn the online servers on. This is currently the only basketball game available on the Switch so if you really need a basketball game to play then this should fit nicely despite some of its shortcomings. At least until NBA 2K comes out for the Switch later this year.

Score: 6/10
Originally posted on Gaming Target

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