Sony's latest basketball game on the PSP, NBA 10, is a curiosity. The long-running hoops series has been trailing behind the NBA Live and NBA 2K series on consoles for the better part of a decade, but with the PSP version, the developers behind the game continue to go essentially hog wild on a series of minigames that have only the slightest connection to the NBA, or even basketball in general. Playing NBA 10 for the PSP last night at a Sony event, we made an attempt to check out the five-on-five gameplay that makes this a hoops game, but in the end, we kept returning to the minigames, with the following question running through our head the entire time, "What does it say about a basketball game when the basketball portion is pretty much the last thing you want to play?"
As for the actual hoops, NBA 10 has many familiar features from previous years--the player models look decent enough on the small screen, the game moves at a quick, almost hectic pace, and the color-coded shot halo that surrounds the ball when you're shooting (which we maintain is still the best shooting mechanic in any basketball game) are all there. NBA 10 is still all about the arcade action--where defending a shot is more a matter of swatting the ball in your opponent's face than simply getting a hand in his face, and there's lots of fast-paced up-and-down action that puts more emphasis on stars making shots than setting up plays in the offensive zone.
In a nod toward more serious b-ball fans, NBA 10 has a franchise mode that will let you take control of your favorite team and guide it to the NBA Championship. You'll have control over your roster, you can sign or drop players, and you can make trades. You'll also be able to check out your upcoming draft picks several seasons out, which is handy for planning for your team needs in the future. In franchise mode, you'll have lots of options for how your team plays when you are simulating games--using sliders, you can adjust things like game pace, inside or outside shot focus, and the emphasis of play (defensive or offensive).
All of NBA 10's minigames are located in the Block Party menu selection, and there are tons to choose from. First up are several variations on the Conquest game, essentially a mixture of NBA action and the classic strategy board game Risk. There are also traditional hoops minigames that have been in the series for a while now, including HORSE and Own the Court. With the latter game, you try to control as much hardwood real estate as possible by making shots all over the floor in the timed rounds.
The Carnival games in NBA 10 take the most creative liberties with the NBA license. There's Block a Shot, which is just like Whack-a-Mole, except that basketballs pop out of the holes, requiring you to slam them back down by pressing the corresponding D pad or face button. There's a Brickbreaker-like game that has you firing a ball at a series of bricks to uncover an NBA team's logo. There's even a Puzzle Bobble clone that uses NBA logos instead of brightly colored bubbles. Add to that games like dodgeball, fast break, give and go, and many more, and you'll have plenty to do in NBA 10, even if basketball is the last thing on earth you want to play.
NBA 10 is set for release on the PSP on October 6.