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Review #057: NBA 2K Playgrounds 2 (Nintendo Switch)

Reviewer: Chad M.

Developer: Saber Interactive

Publisher: 2K Games

Category: Sports

Release Date: 10.15.2018

Download NBA 2K Playgrounds 2 from the Nintendo eShop here.

Purchase NBA 2K Playgrounds 2 (physically) from Amazon here.

Days Of Jam To Playgrounds

In the early 90’s, NBA Jam came out, and I played it all the time with my friends on the SNES. We would sit around playing for hours! When I got older, I would go to retro arcades hoping they’d have one, and when they did, I’d jump on and get lost listening to the announcers screaming “Boomshakalaka” & “He’s on Fire”! I’d fly all over the screen, stealing the ball and then dunking it in some crazy acrobatic dunk. Little did I know it was a critical darling, but it would become one of my favorite multiplayer games.

So, obviously I was waiting for years for the series to be either resurrected, or rehashed in another form. Since Acclaim went bankrupt back in 2004, I was getting worried that day would never come. Then Saber Interactive put out NBA Playgrounds, which looked like it was the closest thing to Jam I’d seen, so I was initially excited. Then, when I got the game, there were issues out of the gate. There were clunky controls and a precision shooting gauge that felt off—among other things—that made it a lackluster experience. I knew that if the game could be tweaked in areas and brought back, it had a chance to be a solid contender to Jam. Well, now Saber Interactive is back with its sophomore effort, NBA 2K Playgrounds 2. They have a new publisher this time in 2K Games, hence the addition of the 2K in the title.

Go Hard In The Paint

Before talking about the game modes and all the different aspects of the game, I’ll just rip the band-aid off and get down to the one issue that seems to be polarizing, and will have most people split. Just like the first game, most of the players are locked, and can be purchased using in-game currency. The same logic is applied in the sequel, where the characters are locked in packs of cards that you buy.

When the game starts, you are given a few packs of cards that give you a handful of average players, one epic, and one legend. That may be random, but it was the exact same as the first game. Now, if the main reason you dropped your hard earned cash was to play with Lebron and Jordan, or a number of other big name characters, you’ll be let down at first, but you can get them all in one of two ways. The first is to grind it out, game after game, leveling up until you’re given enough in-game currency to buy packs. I played for about an hour and had enough to buy a pack, but it was a bronze pack—the weakest of the bunch.

It takes quite a bit more currency to buy the better two packs. This could be either a deal breaker or quite a grind, as I feel it would take a long time to unlock all the characters I wanted, especially a full set. The second way is to outright buy the full cast of players for an extra $10. This will again rub some wrong, as they’ll wonder why it wasn’t just part of the package from the start. On top of player packs, there are also Swag packs, where you can unlock clothes to deck out your players and make them look how you’d like.

Controls & Gameplay

From the start I was quite worried, as the first Playgrounds had some major issues with the shot meter, pacing issues, and glitches here and there. When my first match started, I could tell immediately the game controls felt better. It’s almost felt night and day in certain regards. The meter didn’t drain as quickly when I would try to steal or run, the shot meter was a 100% better than before. and the game didn’t glitch a single time. This looked similar with the original in many ways, but I can tell the team at Saber really worked to tweak things to make the game run much smoother. Both handheld and docked ran fine with controls, though with this game I preferred docked mode. The overall gameplay and control layout was the same as before. Though the shot meter had been replaced by an improved version, I still wouldn’t recommend trying to hit 3’s with Shaq.

The buttons are identical to before, with the normal offensive and defensive moves that you’d come to expect, available with the extreme over-the-top juking and show boating during dribbling and dunking. Even when I performed the alley-oop, it felt more cohesive and ran perfectly. As before, every single shot or dunk runs off of percentages, where you use the shot meter to better work the odds in your favor. You can help boost yourself by getting into a hot streak, by either making multiple shots or steals. This will then enable you with a random advantage, like not being able to kiss a shot, or all dunks are double points. You can even put a voodoo hex on the other team where they get bad luck constantly. All these elements add to the overall gameplay that’s already been improved.

Fun Factor & Modes

When starting to play, you have a few modes to choose from. Exhibition allows you to jump right into a game and mix and match your players. Then there is the NBA season mode, where you choose a team and run through a normal season. Finally, there is a 3-point shootout challenge. All of these modes can be enjoyed with friends in multiplayer mode, which makes the game even better. The online mode is also a way to enjoy exhibition and 3-point mode with an online competitor. All the match ups in-game never felt lopsided or unfair until I went online. I went on and used some fairly normal players, 1 epic, and 1 normal. They used Kobe Bryant and Steph Curry. This immediately felt like a cheat, since this person just paid to unlock everything, but this is a game of skill, and even with the unlocks and swag clothes, I still beat them handily. Luckily in NBA season the game never over picked my choices.

Audio & Visuals

The game looks great, with the comical, cartoony-looking versions of all the players we know and love—or hate. The game looked great in both handheld and docked. The audio is pretty decent, with the soundtrack being a little mediocre compared to the roster. I expected some pretty high quality tracks like in a top tier basketball game, but the audio that stuck out was commentators. It felt very close to the old school Jam days, with funny and witty comments and one liners.

Final Thoughts

When I first got my hands on NBA 2K Playgrounds 2 I was immediately worried that it not only wouldn’t live up to filling the shoes of NBA Jam, but it would just rehash what it had already done and not improve. Well, Saber Interactive did everything but that! This game is extremely fun, and runs smooth in the graphics and tight in the controls, so you really couldn’t ask for more. Though the pay wall for characters will be a turn off for some, I didn’t see it being a problem unless all I wanted to do was play online. But I played more with fiends in couch co-op or versus, which is where the game shines brightest. I’d recommend picking up NBA 2K Playgrounds 2 as long as the grind doesn’t turn you off.

Final Score: 7.5/10

Download NBA 2K Playgrounds 2 from the Nintendo eShop here.

Purchase NBA 2K Playgrounds 2 (physically) from Amazon here.

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*Review Code Provided By Sandbox Strategies for 2K

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