"National Ballers of Audio"
With Kinect's third holiday season coming up, this year contains some of the most imaginative uses of the popular camera peripheral. Some offer the ability to sit down and play, while others are expanding what can be done with television, and then we have NBA Baller Beats, the first Kinect title that incorporates an object in gameplay. With the object being a basketball that has to be bounced to a rhythm, Baller Beats biggest obstacle is if the audience it's aimed at can create an adequate space to actually play the title.
NBA Baller Beats is a rhythm game that puts players up to the task of dribbling a basketball to the rhythm of a song. Aside from simply dribbling the ball to the beat, there are other techniques that must be executed in between dribbles, such as doing a crossover. The title offers three difficulties that increase the amount of dribbles and techniques that must be performed. Aside from solo play, there are modes that allow for round robin-style competition for up to 8 players. Players earn stars for completing songs with great performances that can be used in an in-game store to purchase trinkets that change the look of the environments or unlock full length versions of the songs on the soundtrack.
Playing Baller Beats initially is very strange; not only does the player need to keep their eyes on the screen, but also positioning with Kinect and the basketball is very important. Being someone who isn't too basketball fluent, the ball was flying all over the place while I was playing, and I was a bit embarrassed, even though I was mostly so because the song playing continued as I went to fetch it. However, when you overcome this, the game becomes fun, as trying to perfect every routine becomes the goal.
The game's OST ties into basketball directly for the most part, but there are some interesting song choices. I found the Hip-Hop songs worked better for NBA Baller Beats than the rock or dubstep songs, since the lyrics worked well with the moves from each routine. When I was pump-faking and executing perfect crossovers to "Don't sweat the Technique", I felt the game hit its stride.
With this new and different play style, I also felt NBA Baller Beats needs more practice modes and should look to its rhythm game contemporaries and implement a simple mode that only requires dribbling. A mode to break down the special dribbling moves would have worked too, or simply putting video of a player performing the move would have been great also. This was the one thing I was hoping there was, just so I could get dribbling down in the first place, especially considering the effort needed on my carpet to simply make the ball bounce. The tutorial mode available goes through everything, but it goes fast in the places that count.
NBA Baller Beats works on a technical level, but the game requires a lot of effort on the player's part to work properly. In addition to the space needed for the game (at least 6 feet), the ball included with the game has to be able to interact with a surface that will allow it to bounce. This may be a problem depending on your house, and I never thought about it until I heard a knock from my neighbors because the ball hit the wall. The basketball included does work on carpet, but it may require more effort to bounce, which again is something that depends on your house's situation.
Being one of the most interesting games in the past few years based on both concept and its use of Kinect, NBA Baller Beats is a solid title. While the title does demand quite a bit of space, for those who can make the effort, it is definitely one of the more unique gameplay experiences that have been released this year.
ted States of America and Canada.
GameDynamo's Score for NBA Baller Beats (X360)
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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