NBA PlayGrounds Review: A Different Jam

Real Talk By: KJ

Arcade Fun returns! It’s been a few years since NBA Jam: On Fire Edition Released.  Even longer since EA has given us any kind of NBA Street.  Saber Interactive is stepping-in with NBA Playgrounds.  The house of Shaq-Fu 2 brings us a 2v2 sports game available for PS4, Xbox One, PC, and Switch.

Characters are limited at the start.  Open Card Bundles, and reveal new players.  Progression through Playgrounds unlocks Gold Tiered Packs.  The results are always random.  Repeat cards will garner experience points.  Playgrounds doesn’t force fans to pick team-specific lineups, freely pick whoever.  As of this writing 150 athletes can be unlocked.  Not all marquee players (Michael Jordan/Kobe Bryant), but there’s still a solid amount of throwback and new school participants.  Shaq and Allen Iverson lead the charge.


Getting Gold Trophies, Completing required challenges earns players different colored basketball options in Exhibition mode.  The only other choice is Tournament mode in-which Gamers are taken around the world.  Standard Games are played in 3 minute sessions.  Forcing Overtime will instantly throw 30 secs on the scoreboard out-of-nowhere, without even a play stoppage.

NBA Playgrounds gets crazy with its scoring methods.  First to score receives an extra point.  Nailing a shot perfectly in-game works the same way.  Expect Computer controlled opponents to capitalize on this feature.  It seems like they never miss later-on.  If you can spank the AI in tougher stages, consider yourself a Legend.

Court designs are well thought-out and lively with observers either dialed into the action, or participating in other activities.  At this time two courts are blacked-out, Hopefully even more locations are planned later on.  While locals are scarce, thought was definitely put into each area.


Shots and Dunks are controlled with more precise timing than one would expect from a game of this branding.  Hold in the button a bit longer for more success.  It’s pivotal to learn the timing or you will miss pretty much every time.  Believe me, i zoned out during the forced guide.  Cut me some slack, the playoffs were on! I missed that important part of the tutorial.  Dunks pretty much require locking in the button for 1 sec then quickly releasing.  Even top-tiered slammers will regularly miss if this isn’t taken into account.  Another factor is stamina.  Have at least 50 percent stored or expect to miss a lot.  It doesn’t matter who is being used it seems. You would think “Epic” and especially “Legend” labeled players would have a much higher success rate.  Defensive plays use energy also.  Shoving guys will make them drop the ball, but it drains juice as well.  An annoyance is that stamina depletes insanely fast.  For a game intended to be played at zipping speeds, it’s a momentum killer.

In Single Player modes, The game is in your hands entirely.  Don’t rely on Team A.I. Hitting the Alley-opp command either goes unnoticed or too late entirely.  A fat issue is the lack of rebounding.  A teammate will literally Stand right under the hoop as the ball drops in-front of them.  Quickly select the other character, do it yourself.  That’s usually the get-around.


Lottery Pick is an add-on that makes NBA Playground feel more unique.  When the power meter is filled (from getting blocks, steals, and other street-y maneuvers), a random power-up will spawn.  Some will benefit more.  Successfully performing Dunks gives players more points for example.  Progressing unlocks even more.  An enjoyable feature that Saber developed.

This is a lot of fun playing with friends, and it’s where we recommend placing most of your time.   Take the playground with you on Switch.  This version comes with some sad compromises.  The graphics have taken a noticeable downgrade.  While the gameplay remains similar, you’ll notice the animation smoothness takes a hit.  Environments and players can get a bit muddy.  This is noticeable in Handheld mode.  A Mega Patch is planned to address the screen blurriness and other AI inquires.  Thankfully most of my grievances can be addressed in a timely matter.  When Online is patched-in, I’ll return to give my thoughts.

A Dunk contest and 3-Point shoot out is scheduled, along with more players being added regularly.  Let’s not forget about the price-tag.  At 20 Dollars you’re getting a modern-day jam experience.  Something to quickly pass the time with Buds.  Though Playgrounds certainly feels like its own series, the lack of essential launch features pulls it from the starting lineup.

NBA PlayGrounds Gets


3 out of 5

What’s Legit?

+Fun With Friends

+Lottery Picks

What’s Perpetrating?

-Odd AI Behavior on Both Sides of The Ball

-Bare-boned launch content



2 thoughts on “NBA PlayGrounds Review: A Different Jam

  1. Nice overview! Not sure how I feel about the “Trading card” shtick though. I feel like they should have just had secret codes for hidden players, and celebrities instead like the original Jam games.

    Liked by 1 person

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