When Majesco first announced NBA Baller Beats, the game was
received with a lot of doubt and negativity. Selling a game with a real
basketball was argued to be a potential disaster as broken glass, injuries and
other hijinks that we saw with the interactivity of the Wii seemed like a
foregone conclusion. How could dribbling a basketball indoors be any fun? I was
also a bit apprehensive, but my concerns had to do with noise. Bouncing a
basketball inside of your house isn't exactly a quiet activity.
After spending some hands-on time with NBA Baller Beats, though, I can
honestly say that it's more fun than we thought a few weeks ago.
If you're looking for a comparison, think about playing drums in Rock Band or
Guitar Hero... but instead of using drums and sticks, the instrument is a
basketball that must be dribbled is various ways according to commands on the
screen. The dribble rhythms fall towards the player similar to Rock Band, and
accuracy is detected by how closely the bounces of the ball are to the beat of
the song the player picks. In addition, special tricks or variations are added
to the rhythm line. Crossing over to the other hand for dribbling, pump fakes,
and side pass motions create more challenge for each song.
It's interesting to note that this game is the first Kinect game that I've
seen which gets the camera to only focus on the player at hand. If other people
walk or interact behind the player, the camera does not identify the other
NBA Baller Beats has multiple venues to choose from and promises to reward
players with unlockable items for good or improved play. There will be local
multiplayer, but it's an alternating format instead of simultaneous play. There
is a social media element to the game, as the Kinect camera will shoot pictures
of players at random and give the option to publish those pictures to Facebook.
No other online features, such as multiplayer, were confirmed by Majesco.
My hands-on time was fun, which was despite my lack of basketball skill. I
nearly lost the ball a few times and blew a couple of the special pose moves,
but NBA Baller Beats was a fun little workout and I can see why this game could
be appealing. It teaches basic basketball skills in a fun setting and players
from any skill level can get some enjoyment out of it. I do think that concerns
about noise and potential damage with out-of-control dribbles are valid, though
Majesco has confirmed that a lighter ball can be substituted for the Spalding
basketball that will be included with the game when purchased. This substitution
could ease some of these potential problems, but the possibility of these issues
occurring will still exist.
NBA Baller Beats will hit stores on September 11th,
exclusively for the Xbox 360, and the Kinect camera will be required to play it.