NBA 2K Playgrounds 2
Developer: Sabre Interactive
Publisher: 2K Sports
Review Context: I love arcade sport games, as it removes the seriousness of the sport and only keeps in what makes them fun. My first experience with this was Arch Rivals on the NES, but most people’s first foray into the genre was NBA Jam at arcades or on consoles. I’ve always jumped with excitement at playing an arcade sports game despite the sport (football, hockey, golf).
Date of Playthrough: October 18, 2018
Disclosure: This review was based off of a review copy
In case the title isn’t an indicator that this game shouldn’t be taken seriously, then the cartoony visuals will, with use of the Unreal Engine 4. Each player has exaggerated bodies and faces that fits with the very colorful and styleization world. Like the title suggestsl, all the venues are outdoors with ten different courts to choose from. The game runs at 60 frames per second, but you’ll only notice the smooth animation while dunking. Speaking of which, the highlight (dunking) is a sight to behold, with fireworks, explosions, and other effects happening when you are successful with a dunk, alley, self, and double alley-oops.
One of the biggest advantages of arcade sport games are the simplified controls. While doing basic moves works, the special moves may take some time to get use to. Crossovers are done with the right stick, while alley-oops to a cpu opponent is done with holding L2, then pressing pass when your teammate is in the sky. Doing that with a human teammate requires the teammate to perform the dunk task (turbo and the shoot button), while making sure the shot meter is in the green. Something I will explain later. Newcomers will be able to pick up the game with ease, but will take time to get the shoot timing down, which may cause some frustration of missing point blank shots.
NBA 2K Playgrounds 2 supports up to four players online and locally. The modes contain the following: Playgrounds Championship, Three Point Shooting, NBA Season, and Exhibition.
Playgrounds Championship is online mode for lobbies, tournaments, among other types where you can customize the rules, settings etc to your liking. Since I am not a PlayStation Plus subscriber, I was unable to try out the online modes for connectivity and lag issues. Three Point Shooting has you going one-on-one with another player for the most three pointers. I am surprised that a dunk contest wasn’t added, but I guess the main game itself is a dunk show, somewhat.
NBA Season is the game’s single player mode, having you playing an abridged NBA season. Instead of playing 82 games, you only go through 15 games, with the playoffs having you go best of 2 instead of 4 to move on in the playoffs. This is a nice change for people who don’t want the grind of the regular season, but it is a put off since you can’t lose too many games to qualify for the playoffs. Since the playoffs have you going to a best of 2, you can’t slouch around since being down 0-1 could be your final game.
Exhibition has you playing the game to your liking. You can choose the venue, change the type of basketball, and even adjust the time up to 12 minutes or by points (First to 20 points wins). While the modes are lacking, it is enough to keep the player entertained, right? First, let me explain the shot meter, as it not only helps you get better at shooting, but is a requirement. You do have the option to turn the meter off, but it makes shooting the ball harder and when you’re dunking/going for a layup I spend most of the time staring at the meter to the point I only manage to see the last end of the dunk. NBA 2K Playgrounds 2 does have a step up from other games as it contains lottery picks. Lottery picks occur when your team goes on a streak causing you to obtain power ups, for a limited time. Some of these can affect your gameplay, such as poison which causes your opponents to play badly, and my favorite is ice, which covers the goal with ice having forcing you to shoot multiple shots to break it. One of the biggest differences is the entire game is played in one quarter. This threw me off when I was expecting to play all four quarters. In the end, while I’m having fun with the game there is one feature that holds it back from being an awesome game, card packs.
In my trailer impressions I stated how I hoped the cards packs did not require using real money to unlock features. Unfortunately, I was half right. You can unlock players with in-game currency by completing games and earning ball bucks (BB). The grinding gets better as you level up, but how the players are locked is different. You have a choice to unlock a bronze, sliver, and gold pack. Gold gives you a high chance of unlocking legendary players (MJ, Kobe, LeBron, etc). Sliver gives you a moderate chance, while Bronze gives you the current roster (which is low). During my playthrough, I bought (with Ball Bucks) two Bronzes, Silvers, and one Gold. My team is the San Antonio Spurs, and I only managed to unlock one player from the Gold pack. I unlocked three of ten players for the team. I only unlocked the first two because I started Season mode, and I didn’t unlock any Spurs’ players, so the game unlocked the two lowest players. While I can unlock the players on my team, the lowest one cost 10,000 Ball Bucks for a team with ten players, which would take me a long time or hope the Gold pack unlocks all of them. There is a solution to this and it’s what you’re thinking. Buying Golden Bucks (real money), you can unlock everyone and new players in future updates. This is a slap in the face to me. Other games have all the teams’ roster unlocked from the start and you only have to unlock legendary players. The fact I have to pay more to have my complete team is madness or I can grind it out to earn more B.B. but if you do the math, I have to play a lot of games with the time limit set to max at 12 minutes to earn a lot of B.B. to have my complete Spurs. I’ve read people’s frustration with online mode of going against people who “paid to win” making the game one-sided. I personally feel this was 2K Sports’ doing, as they are receiving the same criticism with their in-game currency for the NBA 2K series.
The game’s soundtrack is well done to the style of 90s arcade basketball with rap inspired sound effects. Another plus for the game is the option of switching commentary to five different personalities. Though the option that gives you two people is mostly a one-man crew, as the second person only says something after a dunk. There are repeating lines and the delivery on all of them is flat and doesn’t come close to Tim Kitzrow’s (NBA Jam) exciting performance.
Similar Games Liked:
NBA Jam: On Fire Edition (XBLA)
NBA Street (GCN)
NBA Showtime: NBA on NBC (DC, N64)