NBA Baller Beats
- Street Date:
- September 11th, 2012
- Reviewed by:
- Daniel Hirshleifer
- Review Date:1
- December 31st, 2012
- Game Release Year:
- Xbox 360
- ESRB Rating:
- E (Everyone)
I am the last person to enjoy a sports game. Other than the Olympics and boxing, I don't enjoy real life sports, let alone virtual sports. And yet, there was something intriguing about NBA Baller Beats. Instead of being a basketball simulation game, it's a rhythm game intended to teach you basketball fundamentals. Never one to shy from a challenge, I picked it up, plugged in my long unused Kinect, and took it for a spin.
The Game Itself: Our Reviewer's Take
NBA Baller Beats comes with one of the most unique accessories I've ever seen in a video game: A Spalding basketball. Yes, you have to play this game with a real life basketball in your hands. Starting the game up, you choose your favorite NBA team. Not being a basketball fan, I chose my hometown team, which just happened to be the Lakers. Once you do this, you get taken to a base menu awash in the colors of your chosen team. From there, you can start playing. If you're more of a novice as I am, you can also do some training.
The training section gives you the chance to try out basic skills, set to a generic beat. You probably won't be here for too long, as this is literally basketball practice. It is a good way to get a feel for the ball on your floor. Mine was carpeted and required a little extra oomph to get the dribble right.
Once you feel you're on solid footing, you can start the game proper. You choose a song and difficulty and you're off to the races. The game tells you which moves it wants you to make, and the more accurately you make them, the higher your score is. The moves go from something as simple as basic dribbling to behind the back dribbles, crossovers, quick pass fakes, and many more. Anything other than the lowest difficulty level was already beyond my meager abilities.
And that's really all there is to it. Pretty simple. Maybe too simple. You see, the game doesn't offer much beyond this basic premise. Being a rhythm game, you wouldn't expect it to, but NBA Baller Beats is missing some really basic gaming elements. Want leaderboards? Too bad! Even though they're advertised on the box, they don't exist in the game. Multiplayer isn't online, but instead you switch off the ball with a partner and the game scores your individual performance. And the title commits the cardinal sin of rhythm games: It doesn't allow you to download additional songs. Sure, any or all of these could be fixed down the line, but that really hampers the attractiveness of the game at this moment in time.
The other issue with the game is probably pretty obvious. How do you play with a basketball in a normal living room? The answer is, unless your living room is the size of a half-court, you probably can't. I couldn't. I had to rearrange the furniture to give myself enough room to play, and even then it was a tight squeeze. I also live in an apartment complex, and I can promise you that if I played this when my neighbors were home, I'd be tarred and feathered. So this isn't a game you can just pop on at any time, or perhaps at all depending on your situation.
If you are able to play, and you can accept the limitations, you'll find a game that is often rewarding. As I said, I'm as anti-sport as you can get, but just by playing through a few songs, I felt like I was getting genuine basketball practice and learning fundamentals that I could translate to real life should hell ever freeze over and find me playing a pick-up game. It's also a decent workout, and more entertaining than 'Sweating to the Oldies'.
The Video: Sizing Up the Picture
Like many rhythm games, the field of play in NBA Baller Beats is a series of colored blocks without too many extraneous graphics to distract you from the core gameplay. You do get a few basketball-related images and score multipliers, current move and the like, but for the most part it's a sparse affair. Decorating the game with your chosen team's colors and graphics is a nice touch. The Kinect will also take photos of you as you play, capturing you at your worst (or best if you're really good at basketball). Bizarrely, there's no option to share these snapshots. You can save them to the console or delete them, but you can't send them off to anyone. One of the many puzzling design deficiencies that plague the title.
The Audio: Rating the Sound
NBA Baller Beats sports a diverse soundtrack that should satisfy all but the pickiest players. You get hip-hop, rock, pop, and electronic tracks, with names like Onyx, Queen, Wiz Khalifa, and many more. There are thirty tracks in total, and the songs begin truncated, but you can unlock the full versions through gameplay. Thirty songs seems pretty pitiful compared to any given 'Guitar Hero' title, which has fifty to sixty songs, and certainly does not hold up to 'Rock Band' with its unbelievable library of DLC. Given that no DLC songs exist for this game yet, and may never come if it doesn't sell well, make sure you give the tracklist a careful once over to ensure you like enough of the songs that you won't mind hearing them over and over as you play.
There's very little to unlock here, other than the full versions of songs. You can play at higher difficulties, but the difficulty ramps up quick. The game doesn't seem to have a good sense of gradual progression, so instead of learning one new move per song, you may have to learn several, and the learning curve is steep. Again, multiplayer exists but requires both players be in the same room. You switch off for different sections of the song and the game then scores who was more accurate. Could be fun once or twice but doesn't seem like the kind of thing that you'll want to pick up over and over.
NBA Baller Beats is certainly an interesting idea. If a sports hater like me can get into it, then perhaps a game like this could do for sports what 'Rock Band' did for musical instruments: Make it accessible to anyone. However, there are a lot of poor design decisions and limitations that prevent NBA Baller Beats from being a true success. If you do get the game, make sure you have plenty of space to play and no neighbors who will be annoyed by the endless bouncing. Best bet is to give this a rent, and use your own basketball or borrow a friend's. Chances are once you get good enough, you'll want to go out and try your new skills in the real world instead of endlessly playing in front of your TV anyway.
- Kinect Required
- Dolby Digital
- Spalding Basketball
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