Score: 8/10 | SPORT | ARCADE | CASUAL | COMPETITIVE
“ NBA 2K Playgrounds 2 is everything the original should have been. The high energy gameplay and addition to new modes has kept me playing for hours ”
Last years NBA Playgrounds took us downtown for two-on-two arcade basketball similar to both NBA Jam and NBA Street. Regardless of Playgrounds failing to be a slam dunk with critics, fans loved it enough that indie developer Saber Interactive planned to hit the streets again for one more round. But not after a shock delay and an even bigger announcement. 2K Sports replaced Mad Cow Games and became more than just a new publisher, assisting Saber with development. The joint effort resulted in a much more improved successor to Playgrounds, keeping its arcade vibe while giving it a big game feel.
NBA 2K Playgrounds 2 is the second game this year by Saber Interactive, releasing Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn back in June. It also marks 9 years since 2K Sports published their last arcade game, The Bigs 2. Playgrounds 2 still offers the usual Exhibition and PVP modes, including 3-Point Contest, but the game execution as a whole has been given quite the overhaul and can be noticed right from the main menu screen. Menu’s are now more visually appealing with the addition of animation and a layout that’s easier on the eye. Playgrounds 2 also includes a much needed tutorial which the first Playgrounds lacked. Even though it doesn’t play out the same as a traditional tutorial, controls are now explained in greater detail rather than just showing which button does what. A part from NBA Players and the addition of vanity items, content is no longer locked away with everything from ball skins to PVP mode readily available from the start.
The progression system is a notable change in contrast to its predecessor. Card Packs are still a large part of the game but are no longer rewarded when leveling up. To grow your player roster you now have to buy the Card Packs or purchase players individually using Baller Bucks rewarded from matches and level ups. And you’re going to be grinding for a lot of them with over 300 unlockable players so far with even more to come in the future. This massive extension to the player roster is another addition by 2K Sports who own licensing rights to many players already used in their NBA2K franchise. If you don’t like the idea of farming Baller Bucks, you can spend 5000 Gold Bucks (or roughly $10 AUD) to unlock all current and future players. Gold Bucks can also be used to purchase Swag Packs containing new vanity items to dress up players.
Unlocked NBA Players no longer have to level up from bronze through to gold to learn specific moves. Your only rewards are stat improvements towards players Offense and Defense as well as Stamina and Speed. Progression doesn’t stop at Gold level either, a new Diamond rank has been introduced which adds on an additional grind if you want your team to be the best of the best. Each NBA Player has a list of challenges to complete before earning the top rank. Although the lack of access to challenge lists mid-game was a little inconvenient, especially when trying to keep track of the challenges of two players at once.
Improvements to game modes involved a complete revamp to Online mode and Tournaments mode being completely removed. Replacing Tournaments is NBA Season, offering a much longer and more rewarding game mode. Winning seasons rewards you with exclusive Legendary player cards. Online mode, now renamed as Playgrounds Championship, serves more of a reason to play PVP. Teaming it with new division ranking system, it offers competitive matches in both two-on-two and 3-Point Contest modes. On top of Baller Buck rewards, Championship also hands out a small amount of Gold Bucks.
Amongst all this chopping and changing they’ve kept the fun visual aesthetic the same as the original. Player models still look more like caricatures compared to the realistic detail seen in NBA2K. Each of the 10 courts you can launch a ball from also have a fun audio and visual theme to match their vibrant location. In saying this, the beats do kind of blend all together and become a little repetitive.
It’s uncertain what the game could have been before 2K Sports came on board but NBA 2K Playgrounds 2 is everything the original should have been. The high energy gameplay and addition to new game modes has kept me playing for hours, without even giving a second thought to the grind ahead of me.
NBA 2K Playgrounds 2 is available now on Playstation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch (digital only) and Steam with a later physical release date of November 6 for Nintendo Switch. I give it a score of 8/10