NBA Playgrounds Is Not The New NBA Jam

NBA Playgrounds' trailer — indeed, its entire existence — is a throwback to arcade sports games like NBA Jam and NBA Street. The kind of experiences where you don't even need to be a fan of the sport in question to be able to jump on, learn a few moves, and have a good time.

Like those classics, there's the making of a quick, fun sports game here. Unlike them, this game seems to have some fundamental problems.

Here's a quick rundown of my impressions after a couple of days playing the PC version of the game:

The Good

  • It looks great! The caricatures of NBA stars are (for the most part) spot on, sometimes hilariously so, and if the game made sure it copied one thing from NBA Jam perfectly it's the spectacle and sensation of a big dunk, presented here with slow-motion camera and explosive effects.
  • Aside from crossovers, which are comically over-sized, player movement has a nice pace to it, and the animation for things such as blocks is clean and precise. It isn't quite as fast as NBA Jam, but it never feels slow. Well, except for...

The Bad

  • Every time you get scored on in NBA Playgrounds, one of your players collects the ball and stands under the basket so they can throw it to their teammate to resume play. Only instead of being able to quickly inbounds the ball and get going, the game makes you wait until both your opponents are at the other end of the court. For a game taking place on such a small court, and being played at such an otherwise frantic pace, it's an excruciating slowdown that really harms the flow of the game.
  • NBA Playgrounds has, like most basketball games, a nuanced shooting system that requires the player to release the ball at a "sweet spot" during their release. Only here it's never really explained, and the outcomes are overly dramatic. Shots deemed "perfect" by the game earn an extra point, while those too early or late miss. I can understand that being an effective means for sorting out long-range jumpers, but the number of layups and even dunks you miss in this game as a result are a joke.
  • The entire experience feels cheap. This is a $US20 ($27) title with very limited presentation, poor commentary, and basic oversights such as the lack of an overlaid scoreboard (there are in-world scoreboards, but they're a hassle to read in the middle of the action). It also has a limited roster, which you're forced to expand not just by playing, but by opening packs of random cards. Were this a mobile game, I'd get it, but people buying a game like this on a dedicated home platform deserved something a bit more substantial.

Get the fuck out of here with that weak shit, Klove, this is George Mikan's house

On PC, PS4 and Xbox One, how much you'll be into this depends on how badly you want to play an arcade basketball game with a current roster. With 2011's NBA Jam: On Fire edition still available on digital stores, EA's game is still clearly the better casual sports experience, even with an outdated crop of players.

NBA Playgrounds is also available on Switch, though, and playable using a single Joy-Con, so if you're done with Zelda and are looking for something a bit more social, this might be an easier sell on Nintendo's system.


    I've read a lot of reviewers and users claiming the switch graphics are so blurry and bad on handheld mode you can't even read scores/players stats/height and stuff. I wonder if that's something fixable in a patch? The dev's have also said they are patching the switch versions load times which are apparently very long. I was really looking forward to this on switch, i would have loved a portable quick easy nba game like this but the switch port sounds like it's in a bad place while the ps4 version sounds just average.

      I have it on the Switch. It's not nearly as bad as that. The biggest issues so far that I have seen are some lag in texture loading pre-game, the inbound after the other team scores as per above, the cheap ai getting perfect shots frequently and the sweet spot for your shooting is ridiculously small as also mentioned above. Other than that it's a good bit of fun.

    While I agree with the review on the most part, at least this game provides a framework for something better. For 20 odd dollars I feel it's a pretty solid game.

    Can we just get an updated roster and graphics of NBA Hangtime. FFS it was perfect.

    Just like my wife's panty draw, nothing buy nylon.

    Fair comments on the game. Though I find having to earn player packs of cards etc is good to make me return to the game.

    On higher difficulty the opposition is impossible to run past without them stealing it. Every. God. Damn. Time.

    I feel this will get better as it is patched.

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