Posted on October 9, 2012 AT 09:12am
Since the release of the Kinect for the Xbox 360 there have been very few killer apps that showcase the strengths of the peripheral while being addicting enough to be endlessly replayable. Although they are primarily solo experiences, exercise games offer the replayability that gamers desire. Party games fill the multiplayer niche but are usually too shallow to warrant extended play sessions. With the release of NBA Baller Beats, the Kinect finally has a game that is as fulfilling to play solo as it is with a group of friends.
The premise of NBA Baller Beats is simple. Bounce the included basketball in time to one of the 30 included music tracks to score while performing increasingly difficult skill moves to build up the score multiplier. On the easiest difficulty level a player is only asked to perform simple crossover dribbles, fake side passes, or pump fakes. As players move up in difficulty they will have to focus more on their ball handling skills by dribbling between their legs, behind their back, or even performing flow dribbles by bouncing the ball from one side of their body to the other using a single hand. Reward stars are awarded based on a players performance and can be used to unlock full tracks and various customization options.
The reward system is where I found my largest frustration with the game. Even though all 30 tracks are available at they start of the game, they are limited to only a two and a half minute portion of the full song. Earning 5 stars on a song is enough to unlock the full version of the song, but other rewards are simply less enticing. Players can unlock on screen basketballs, score runways, and mascots for every NBA team as well as trading cards and posters for their favorite NBA superstar. I was able to unlock every customization option for my Miami Heat (I was a fan before LeBron signed, don’t judge me), but found no real reason to unlock the same options for any other team. Trading cards are unusually expensive at 60 stars each but do not have any effect on overall gameplay. With over 90 cards to unlock, it would take the average player weeks if not months to unlock everything.
The rewards system for NBA Baller Beats my leave a bit to be desired, but the gameplay is more than satisfying enough to keep players interested. I have very little experience when it comes to sports, so my first few songs were extremely rough. A few sloppy crossovers on my part sent the basketball flying across my living room and one particularly embarrassing fumble on my part ended with the basketball slamming into the ceiling fan above my head. My ball handling sloppiness was mostly cured after a few more songs but I still have the occasional fumble. After a couple of hours I was earning 5 star rewards for most of the songs on the easiest difficulty without too much trouble. Completing any song feeling like an accomplishment. Completing a song a higher difficulty while hitting all the skill moves perfectly is downright hypnotic.
For a game with only 30 tracks, the game’s playlist is incredibly diverse with songs from artists such as Queen, LMFAO, Skrillex, and Cee-Lo Green. There is the possibility for extending the song list through DLC, but no plans have been officially announced as of this time. Regardless of the short playlist I still found myself coming back again and again.
NBA Baller Beats is truly a unique experience. The diverse playlist and satisfying gameplay are enjoyable for beginners and advanced players either solo or in a multiplayer setting. I would have loved to see the unlockables add more to the game and a metronome would have been especially appreciated but these gripes do not take away from my overall experience. For Kienct owners and future NBA starts looking for great time, look no further than NBA Baller Beats.
The Good: Unique Game play. Diverse Playlist
The Bad: Only 30 tracks. Unlockables do not add to game play
The Ugly: High possibility of breaking things while learning.
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