NBA Baller Beats Review (Xbox 360)
Submitted on: Oct 01, 2012 by Caley Roark
Is it possible for a game to be enjoyable, innovative and completely functional, yet nearly unplayable all at the same time? I wouldn’t have thought so, until I played NBA Baller Beats.
I’ll back up a bit before talking about its conditional playability, specifically to mention the fun and unique gameplay Baller Beats offers. It’s basically Dance Dance Revolution, Dance Central or any other rhythm game. But this time, instead of flailing limbs, you're bouncing a basketball.
The Kinect tracks the ball’s movement as you dribble to the beat and perform a number of stylistic basketball moves. A variety of meters and indicators help you tweak your performance to gain the best score. Thankfully, I had no issues with the Kinect reading my body, the ball or the specific moves the game asks for. All told, this is a functional and creative rhythm game.
Unfortunately, the nature of such a unique game makes the ideal gaming conditions hard to find. My carpet made dribbling a little tough. I had to limit play to times when my family wasn’t home, since the dribbling echoes throughout the house. And, though I cleared furniture, my TV was almost a victim of a bunch of "loose ball fouls."
I suppose there are people who have a decent set-up for such a game, and they will find it easier to enjoy Baller Beats than I did. Still, no one can play this without a TV, which from my experience, can be the easiest thing to hit.
The game features a lengthy -- and surprisingly diverse -- list of songs. You’ll find everything from Queen to LMFAO, and most cuts work really well for rhythmic dribbling.
Graphically, the game looks as good as it needs to. The screen interface is a little intimidating (and too colorful) at first, but after a few sessions things clicked for me. I’m not sure it could be any more efficient than it is, especially for the amount of information it needs to convey (what move comes next, how close you are to the beat, etc).
Additionally, NBA Baller Beats features a lot of NBA licensed material, most of it found in unlockable rewards.
Like most early versions of rhythm games, its a bit light in terms of content and modes. Basically, you’ll play one-off songs in order to earn stars. Stars can be used to unlock things, from longer song cuts to decorative team items.
You can also play a competitive local multiplayer mode, which makes Baller Beats a really unique party game ... though perhaps deadly if enjoyed with adult beverages.
But beyond those main modes, your incentive to continue playing will be to increase your actual basketball skill. I’m not saying that it will gain you a position on your school’s team, but it certainly will increase your ball-handling skills. The ability to improve a real-world skill is something that not many games can boast.
And, you’ll need to get better to advance through the difficulty levels. If you are a pure basketball dribbling novice (I prefer to pass), this game will start out tough and remain there. On the other hand, I’m fairly confident that the hardest mode will still prove to be a challenge for the best amateur ballers out there. Even Brooklyn Nets point guard Deron Williams struggled at times during an E3 demo.
This game is unique, not only in its design but also in its ability to challenge your actual court skills. It’s a functional and enjoyable title, especially for being a Kinect game. The licensed music is varied and enjoyable, and the amount of unlockable items should keep you coming back.
However, the biggest flaw for this game is simply its impracticality. You really need to decide whether you have the set-up to bring this one home. From breaking furniture and TVs to annoying the people who live with you, NBA Baller Beats has the potential to really wreck a home.
That’s a big negative, but just about the only one. Yes, it’s a bit shallow, and a “free” ball doesn’t quite make it worth $60; but overall, this is one of the better Kinect sports titles out there.
Learning Curve: A nice interactive tutorial sets things up, but practice (we're talking practice?!) is required to truly get better. I found this game pleasantly tough.
Controls: For a Kinect game, it just works. I’ve read reports mentioning lag, but that wasn’t my experience.
Visuals: A little over-the-top colorful for my taste, but adequate in its functionality.
Audio: A great selection of music, most of which really seems to fit.
Score: 6.5 (Above Average)