Touting a focus on improved online gameplay, the much-anticipated sequel to NBA Playgrounds from Saber Interactive, NBA Playgrounds 2, arrives this summer to an app store near you.
For those that are unfamiliar with the series, NBA Playgrounds was an over-the-top basketball game that combined the simplistic gameplay expected in an app with the quarter-munching gameplay found in the classic game NBA Jam.
If you recall, NBA Jam was the arcade blockbuster from Midway that hit arcades in the mid-1990s like a tsunami, catapulting the NBA into the cultural consciousness on a whole new level and spawning a raft of zany sports-themed games. NBA Jam had characters with exaggerated proportions who routinely pulled off crazy stunts. It was a hit with gamers and its spiritual successor NBA Playgrounds proved the formula still works all these years later.
In addition to improved online gameplay, Saber Interactive has also detailed new gameplay modes. The first is the new Playgrounds Championship Mode, an online league with multiple tiers and global rankings. There will also be a new season mode. In a season mode players will guide one NBA team through an entire season from start to finish – a popular mode often featured in simulations. There will also be other gameplay modes such as a 3-point contest.
The addition of online leagues and play is a huge leap forward for the series which previously only had local one on one play. Now four-person online play with any combination of human or AI-controlled players is being implemented. To keep things running smoothly, NBA Playgrounds will have dedicated servers backing them up to insure smooth gameplay. Lag was a persistent problem in the original NBA Playgrounds so the team hopes to head off this problem at the start.
The NBA Playgrounds 2 roster will feature 200 veteran and current NBA players including superstars like Shaquille O’Neal and Larry Bird. As in the previous game, new players are unlocked via packs of cards.
Though the original NBA Playgrounds was relative success with gamers – a July 2017 report pegging the total downloads at over half a million two and half months after its release – video game critics, a notoriously difficult crowd to please, found little to like with the game, often savaging it in subsequent reviews.
Among their gripes included an incompetent AI, a broken stamina function, a wonky shot interface, and really spartan features.
Initially launched on all of the major consoles, the Switch version lacked any online functionality in the beginning – a problem Saber apologized for and vowed to make sure they didn’t repeat in the sequel. As consolation, the team offered anyone who had downloaded the Switch version before it had online functionality was given the chance to download Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn for free. When asked why the team was focusing on a new game rather than updating on the established first game, the team at Saber said they reached a point where they knew they would need a new engine to add the features at the level of robust functionality they desired. Of course, for those players that don’t want to grind away attempting to unlock all of the players, there will be a flat fee of $9.99 to unlock the entire planned roster of 400 players.