NBA Playgrounds

NBA Playgrounds Review

Arcade basketball is back

A.J. Maciejewski

Reviewed by playing a PlayStation 4 on

NBA Playgrounds is also available for Xbox One and Switch

ESRB Everyone rating

There are so many sports games that it's ridiculous yet a well-done arcade interpretation always seems to stand out. NBA Playgrounds brings a massive roster of caricature ballers to your living room so let's take to the street and shoot some hoops.

NBA Playgrounds screenshot 1
Nerlens Noel and Emmanuel Mudiay school a couple old-timers

As someone who generally doesn't enjoy sports games, I've always been a fan of arcade-style Basketball and NBA Playgrounds definitely fits the bill with its enjoyable 2-on-2 formula. After booting it up and playing a match, you'll be surprised how accessible the gameplay is. Being able to perform basic shots and passes as well as snatch the ball away from your opponent is incredibly intuitive. After a few matches, you'll get the itch to learn the more advanced moves so you can improve your b-ball skills. Thankfully, there are plenty of moves to master. Eventually, you'll find yourself faking shots, dunking, and pulling off alley-oops with style. In the end, whether you're a rookie or want to hone your skills to that of a Harlem Globetrotter; you'll find yourself enjoying every second of NBA Playgrounds' satisfying and comprehensive gameplay.

The visuals in NBA Playgrounds are perfectly arcade-like with colourful environments, goofy yet endearing character models, and neat effects such as slow camera zoom-ins whenever someone's attempting a cool shot. You'll find yourself shooting hoops in New York, Tokyo, Paris, Shanghai, London, Las Vegas, Seattle, and Venice Beach. Each themed court looks great complete with plenty of background commotion and a suitable lively atmosphere. The music is mostly composed of hip hop beats yet the audio shines brightest when it comes to the effects and announcer. The spot-on sounds of dribbling the ball and sneakers squeaking on the court add a layer of authenticity. Meanwhile, the commentator is a hoot to listen to as he makes fun of players in clever ways that'll make you laugh out loud from time to time. It's such an enjoyable game to play and the lively presentation only amplifies the fun.

NBA Playgrounds screenshot 2
Wait, how did we end up in Tokyo?

One of NBA Playgrounds' coolest features is that it boasts a collection of 150 playable characters. Whenever you perform certain in-game tasks, you'll unlock a pack of basketball cards that may include a few new players. It's incredibly rewarding to slowly amass an army of professional ballers. You can play as these chums either locally or online. That being said, the multiplayer is very bare-bones as it's just 2-on-2 basketball with no in-depth configuration. As a result, there is virtually no variety when it comes to the included modes.

Along the same lines, the single player campaign is very short as it takes only a couple of hours to complete the handful of tournaments. On the other hand, there are optional goals that you can try and accomplish during each match which helps add some replay value for perfectionists. Besides that, you could always challenge computer-controlled opponents but that quickly overstays its welcome.

Finally, one issue that I had while playing is that certain moves seemed touch and go when trying to pull them off. For example, I would be able to successfully perform an alley-oop once then the next time, I'd mess it up although I seemingly did the exact same thing. Of course, these advanced moves aren't necessary but I wish what you did wrong was made clearer when attempting them.

NBA Playgrounds screenshot 3
I'll take one baguette and a couple of insoles

If you dig arcade basketball then NBA Playgrounds is a great addition to the genre. Ballers of all skill levels can find something to love in its enjoyably cartoony take on the sport although your b-ball career may be over well before you'd expect it to.

  • + Accessible gameplay that appeals to both newbies and pro-ballers
  • + Lively presentation and awesome audio
  • + Loads of players to unlock
  • - Little variety when it comes to modes
  • - Single player campaign is over too quickly
  • - Certain moves are annoying to pull off
8.0 out of 10
Gameplay video for NBA Playgrounds 6:55
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