Sports games are a difficult genre for innovation. The sport stays the same, so what can be added or improved for the next year? Despite this conundrum, SCEA San Diego seems to have quite a knack for taking a sport that has been around for over 100 years and making it seem as new and exciting as the days of peach baskets.
This year’s installment of their basketball franchise, NBA 10: The Inside, provides the usual upgrades and improvements to gameplay and AI opponents, but the ’10 version brings with it a thundering herd of new quest modes and surprisingly addictive mini-games in addition to the solid core gameplay.
Conquest, a turn-based strategy game where players conquer the basketball world one city at a time, returns with some new modes. My favorite is DodgeQuest where players battle it out dodgeball style. There is also the option for Give and Go and ElimiQuest, or for the commitment-phobic, MiniQuest where players choose which mode to play to capture that city.
While the mini-games are not groundbreaking in terms of gameplay, they give a great NBA twist to some classic games. New mini-games include Open Lanes, a full 10 frame bowling mini-game, and the puzzle game Cherry Pickin’, essentially an NBA themed Bejeweled. All told, there are over 20 mini games available. That in and of itself is pretty amazing, considering each mini game is essentially an NBA-themed PSP Mini, or at least $100 worth of PSP mini-games all in one nice downloadable (or UMD) package.
The graphics aere surprisingly good for a portable game. The game runs at a smooth 60 fps, and while there aren’t HD visuals like the PS3 version, it is still a great experience for a portable game.
My only major complaints with the game were with the difficulty, and occasionally the AI. While there is usually a learning curve for sports games, I never really reached the top of the curve. The shooting mechanic could have been made more friendly for the “timing challenged” such as myself, or at least included a difficulty setting added that allows players to tune the amount of time to release the shoot button before the ball ends up in the crowd instead of the basket. I tried playing on Recruit, and it was still pretty difficult. I’m not sure that I can hold my failings against the game, but I’m sure I’m not the only one that will have a hard time adjusting.
All in all, this is a very solid game. It manages to provide an enjoyable basketball experience for the whole spectrum of basketball fans; deep enough for the hardcore NBA fan, yet still approachable for the novice. While even the Recruit difficulty is more difficult than I would like, it is still a very fun, playable experience. Even after players’ thirst for basketball has been exhausted, there is still a lot of fun to be had with the mini-games.
PlayStation LifeStyle’s Final Score
Frustrating shot mechanic
Great collection of mini-games will keep things fresh and interesteing