Can You Ball with the Beats? (E3 2012)
NBA Baller Beats has to be the strangest Kinect exclusive game yet. With gameplay consisting of bouncing a basketball on beat to songs of various genres, the game is definitely left field.
Gameplay consists of bouncing a basketball on beat to various songs spanning Hip-Hop and even Rock. I was eager to play NBA Baller Beats when I saw Janelle Monae's Tightrope was part of the set list and was taken aback by how everything worked. Unlike other music titles, the rhythm is pretty basic due to the game relying on an object other than the player in front of Kinect as a major component of its gameplay. However, the game requires a lot of other movement during gameplay. Players dribble the ball with their left or right hand and occasionally have to execute other dribbling moves, such as a cross over or a pump fake. Lower difficulties simply have the player dribble the ball, but higher difficulties have the player constantly executing harder dribbling moves.
NBA Baller Beats comes with a basketball, although any basketball on the market will work with Baller Beats. This game is actually the first title that tracks objects as part of gameplay, with the game always noting where the basketball is during a song. The screen distinguishes the player and the basketball, and it works well. Not once did the game make a mistake determining where the basketball was when I was playing; it almost felt like there was a sensor in the basketball provided. The game's interface could be described as "Guitar Hero meets Dance Central", with a view that resembled a free throw game at an arcade. Basketballs constantly flow towards the bottom of the screen, and occasionally the other actions will flow down too.
When it's released, NBA Baller Beats will feature a huge set list of songs playable across three levels of difficulty. Easy songs ranged from Kanye West to Queen (go figure), while harder songs were more hip-hop styled. Every song I played felt very basic; dribbling is done to a simple beat in the song, so when you mess up it's not hard to get back. The challenge doesn't seem to be there yet. Sadly, unlike other rhythm games, there is no "simple" mode if you would like to simply practice dribbling without the other moves. A training mode will also be available that goes into the deeper workings of the gameplay, albeit at a slow pace and the player being forced to listen to voice overs. It may be useful to start, however.
There will be a single-player mode that allows players to choose a single NBA franchise to practice alongside and purchase items such as posters, environment accessories, and other inventory. Multiplayer mode will support up to 8 players going head-to-head to see who earns the highest score. This mode will only support one player at a time, but with the basketball required to play, it might be a blessing in disguise for living rooms across the nation. Also, for those wondering... no, you cannot go to the playoffs at all in NBA Baller Beats.
With unique gameplay and a concept that pulls the player in out of utter curiosity, keeping them playing thanks to its "just one more song" factor, NBA Baller Beats is definitely something to look out for. It's certainly the strangest basketball game to come out in well over a decade. The game will release for Xbox 360, in a world where LeBron James is hopefully still ring less, on September 11th.
Akil is a big fan of video games and music, specifically fighting games and R&B. Other interests include game design, and comedy. His background in game design combined with his unique worldview and sense of humor makes him someone to follow.
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