Last year's debut arcade basketball game from Saber Interactive was definitely a big surprise for many gamers. This year, they're at it again with a sequel so let's see if it's a slam dunk.
The original NBA Playgrounds provided an incredible take on the sport that appealed to both hardcore ballers and casual fans of arcade sports games. This time around, not much has changed in this regard as NBA 2K Playgrounds 2 offers just as much accessible 2-on-2 B-ball fun. What I enjoy most about the controls and overall gameplay is that everything is as complicated as you want it to be. If you're comfortable just utilizing the basic controls while running around the court, passing, and taking a shot whenever you want then you can succeed. However, if you want to perform advanced moves like double alley-oops and shot fakes then those options are available to master. In other words, this is a basketball game that anyone can easily enjoy regardless of their skill level.
Another impressive aspect of NBA 2K Playgrounds 2 is the fact that it features over 300 unlockable players. You can select legends and more contemporary ballers from 31 teams as well as a ragtag group known as The Playgrounders. Each player has their own set of stats that indicate how good they are at dunking, getting 2 and 3 pointers, stealing, blocking, and rebounding. They also have their own speed and stamina ratings. Assembling your dream team can take quite some time as you'd want your players to match your play style as well as complement each other's abilities. For example, effectively taking advantage of one baller's 3 point skills and another's dunking ability can easily put you over the top. By the way, this roster is massive compared to the original's collection of 150 players.
NBA 2K Playgrounds 2 looks and sounds fantastic. Whereas I found the visuals in the first game to be slightly blurry, everything here is much more detailed, cleaner, and sharper. The environments are especially awesome and they're impressive enough to be a notch above what the original provided in terms of lively atmosphere and memorable locations. When it comes to audio, NBA 2K Playgrounds 2 is similar to the first in that the hip hop beats, charming and often humorous announcers, and satisfying effects amplify the fun.
There are a couple of additional ways to enjoy basketball in NBA 2K Playgrounds 2 when compared to the original. Now, you can compete in a comprehensive NBA Season mode which can take hours to complete. Therefore, it can be quite disheartening to lose and have to start again from the beginning. That being said, with the ability to choose from a few difficulty settings as well as the various teams, you're looking at a ton of replay value. Another cool addition is the 3 point contest mini-game which has you try and sink as many 3 pointers as you can. I found myself playing that mode a bit too much. It's simple but strangely addictive.
All of that being said, I wish there were more mini-games and modes to help flesh out the content in NBA 2K Playgrounds 2. These couple of additions are great and the core modes that allow you to play against the AI as well as multiplayer with online players or friends are great but it just doesn't feel like enough of a step up from the first game. The gameplay is also almost identical to the original so I wish there was more to set it apart. Complaints aside, it's a ton of fun and this is still slightly better than last year's offering.
Arcade sports games aren't as plentiful as they once were so the fact that NBA 2K Playgrounds 2 is as enjoyable as it is speaks volumes for what the genre is capable of. Plus, those who played the original are sure to appreciate its additions and refined visuals.
- + Tight arcade basketball gameplay that's as complex as you want it to be
- + Spot-on cartoon visuals and sound
- + NBA Season mode has a lot of replay value
- - Not much different to the first game
- - Could use more mini-games and modes such as the very fun 3 point contest