NBA Baller Beats is a refreshing if flawed take on the rhythm genre.
- Uses genuine basketball skills
- Fun challenges
- Can festoon virtual gameplay area with team paraphernalia.
- Requires lots of room to play
- May annoy neighbors and family members
- Lacks much in gameplay variety and depth.
In video games, as in any art form, it's rare to come across something genuinely new and fresh. When that happens, there's bound to be culture shock: you're not quite sure what to make of what you've got in front of you. With NBA Baller Beats, Majesco has given us a framework we've seen before--it's a rhythm game played with the Kinect--but has taken a completely new tack with the format. Rather than just moving your body as in Dance Central, in NBA Baller Beats you dribble and do various tricks with a basketball that comes with the game.
To begin, you pick your favorite NBA team, and you're dropped into a room themed with that team's logo and colors. You're then given a series of ballhandling tasks that scroll forward in sync with the music. You've got to reproduce the ballhandling tasks properly to advance, and the more correctly you reproduce them, and the more accurately you stay in time with the beat, the higher your score will be.
For those who've never held a basketball before, NBA Baller Beats is a surprisingly useful teaching tool, especially for learning how to dribble precisely with your off hand. As you get higher into the game's levels, you also learn tricks such as behind-the-back dribbles, quick pass fakes, and a variety of other, flashier stuff that's best left to those with more skill than most of us have. In case you're unfamiliar with the basics, there's a tutorial mode called Beat School that you (or, say, a reluctant family member) can use to familiarize yourself with proper form.
While the game is generally sharp in terms of tracking the ball's movements, the Kinect can frustratingly miss some correct dribbles, especially if you're in a small room, lowering your score. Indeed, playing in anything other than a big living room or garage is not recommended, since you're probably not going to have enough space to move around properly, and if the ball slips out of your hands, you're going to break grandma's prized china. You also probably don't want to play this when your neighbors are home if you live in an apartment building, unless you want them to hate you forever. That said, the game does work on carpeted floors--the ball just needs a little extra oomph when you dribble--and you can always play barefoot if you want to reduce sneaker squeal.
When you’re not listening to the ball bounce or to your shoes squeak, though, you get to enjoy NBA Baller Beats’ soundtrack. It’s a relatively diverse affair, featuring songs heavy on beat, but in a variety of genres from rock (Rise Against and Yeasayer) to hip hop (Kanye West and Wiz Khalifa) to electronic (Justice and Skrillex). Most of the songs are top 40 bubble-gum, and some are best forgotten as quickly as you complete a level, but a few are timeless classics, like Eric B. and Rakim’s "Don’t Sweat the Technique" and Chromeo’s "Night by Night."
It's all pretty good exercise. You work up a sweat after only three or four songs, and you feel like you've been practicing basketball, rather than simply pretending to practice basketball. This isn't just a simulation of dribbling skill tests; it's about as close as you can get in your living room to going to ball practice, and if you stick with the game diligently, you'll doubtless gain ball-handling techniques and ideas you can apply in real life.
Of course, there's only so much you can do with a basketball, even matching it to music, so some tedium can creep in once you've played long enough. Game sessions can start to feel like running drills after a while, which is great if you're trying to keep your handling sharp at home, but there's not enough variety to keep you invested in the long term. You can always invite a friend over to compete against, if you want, which helps spice it up, but there's no simultaneous gameplay (probably wise given space constraints). Instead, you switch out at key points in a song, and the game compares your abilities and precision after the song is over.
While the nod to multiplayer is welcome, it also highlights NBA Baller Beats' biggest shortcoming: its lack of content. There are only so many moves you can do with a basketball, and mixing up the background music and team decals doesn't do much to change up the experience. While scoring mode is nice, there's little in the way of a storyline or twists on the core gameplay to keep you interested beyond a certain point. The game just runs out of steam after a while. In that sense, perhaps it's best thought of as an exercise or practice assistant, and that should be first on potential purchasers' minds when considering where to spend their hard-earned cash.
So let me get this straight. Gamespot is going to take the time to review a basketball rhythm game that is going to sell like two copies, but they don't put the time into reviewing a multi-million selling franchise like NBA 2K13? An explanation of any kind would suffice at this point. Get it together Gamespot. No, really, get it together. Really. Seriously. GET IT TOGETHER. You are embarrassing yourselves. You guys are as bad as a place calling themselves Gamestop and not selling PC titles, whether they can be purchased online or not. If Walmart sells the game and you don't, there's a problem. They should change their names to CONSOLE STOP.
I don't get how they have reviewed this but still havent managed to get a review done for nba 2k13 yet...boggles the mind...
It's seriously embarrassing at this point. Someone should call them and remind them that they forgot to post the review. This shouldn't have to be done though. Sad. So sad.
How on earth can you mark a game down because of the potential to annoy family or neighbours?
I find Navi quite annoying, so let's start knocking points of Zelda reviews. I find it annoying when my brother is playing Battlefield online, so I can't play the games that I feel like playing at that particular moment. I'm halving the score on that one.
@Apastron Points weren't knocked down. GS review scores don't count down from ten. The Good and The Bad are mere summaries, and do not reflect a point-by-point analysis of a review score (which is essentially a generalization only).
@Apastron No one asked what you were doing
@Apastron that is a very legitimate gripe to the game, the fact that you have to bounce a ball in your living room...i dont see how you cannot mark a game down based on the inconvenience of playing it...
Requires lots of room to play... why don't people just go outside and play basketball. that's why I don't buy any sports games 'cause you can just go to the damn park and play basketball or football with your friends
@OreoPoptart a lost art LOL but definitely true...and god forbid you exercise and actually interact with real people lol
I never heard of the reviewer, but somebody had to play it. :P
Requires lots of room to play May annoy neighbors and family members Lacks much in gameplay variety and depth.
I was going to the park three times a week to polish my skillz, but I think I may buy this instead. :P
@xxxWigginsxxx for real, man. i've been waiting for that 2k13 review since ign put theirs out a week ago. review or no, 2k13 is amazing. buy it if you haven't already.
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@Gelugon_baat Lol no don't even know what we were talking about..just know you never have anything constructive to bring to the table :)..kinda like a annoying little brother..just not needed.
@Gelugon_baat what are you talking about? whats with the :/?