In the Portable Paint
Sony's NBA franchise has gone exclusively handheld. We take a peek at the latest PSP outing.
Published: August 16, 2009
Our build is unquestionably early (all the references are to it being NBA 09, actually, which is a little amusing), and we really only played a few games before succumbing to our curiosity about what's in store for this year's mini-game collection.
We were not disappointed.
Well, that's not entirely true. NBA 09 on the PS3 included a mode called Blacktop Golf, that was incredibly addictive, and with no PS3 iteration this year, we were bummed to see it hadn't gone portable. Luckily, there was more than enough to make up for it.
Broken down into a series of sub-menus under the heading Block Party, the mini-games this year are a smattering of returning faves mixed with some interesting new offerings. Broken down into Team Games (Dodgeball, Fast Break, Elimination, Give & Go and a street ball Pickup Game), Solo Games (Horse, the awesome Own The Court and the new Bang the Boards), Quests (the amazing Conquest, Elimiquest, Give&Goquest, Dodgequest and Miniquest), Carnival (Block A Shot, Shootin' Bricks, Hot Shot!, Big Shooter and Alley Oop) plus a stand-alone Pinball Mode, there's a ridiculous number of seriously novel takes on "normal" basketball.
A fair amount of the stuff will be familiar to returning players; Horse is the classic game of matching shots, Block A Shot is essentially Whack A Mole, Hot Shot! is the classic game of Pop-A-Shot with a constantly moving hoop, Big Shooter is Skeeball with baskets instead of holes and Own the Court has you taking shots from various places on the court to bank points which you can steal from the other player if you sink a shot from where they've done it previously. Conquest, the now-classic game of controlling territory by defeating teams in a roundball version of Risk-meets-street-ball-to-21 where defending teams that repel a challenge can steal a player (and challenge/win gets you the whole team), was awesome as always. All of these are great modes with proven fun, but what really piqued our interest was the new stuff.
We started with Give&Go, which is essentially a normal game of basketball except that passing to teammates near the hoop would increase a score multiplier. Interestingly, if a shot was taken, but doesn't go and the board is picked up, the multipliers continue to build, and the first team to 100 points wins. Next, we tried Fast Break, a 3-on-2 game where offense has a one man advantage. We simply had to score as many points within time limit as possible, but interceptions actually earn the defensive team points, and it dings the offense with a three second inbound penalty, burning precious time. The team with the highest score after three rounds wins.
Elimination followed, and ended up being one of the most addictive of the team-based modes. What begins as a normal game quickly turns strategic as every player on the team has a specific power-up (weaker players actually have better power-ups), and they range from getting infinite turbo to boosting the range of a defender, all of which make up nicely for having fewer players. From there we moved to a Pickup Game, which had a kind of schoolyard one-at-a-time pick from a pool of players which could then be assigned to typical point guard, shooting guard, small forward, power forward and center positions in a game to 21, though obviously you're free to mix and match players. Dodgeball played exactly like you'd imagine with options to throw, jump pass and catch incoming balls, and followed the usual rules.