Last month, we ventured into a downtown San Francisco hotel as rhythm-challenged videogame journalists to play NBA Baller Beats, a Kinect-enabled rhythm game that uses an actual basketball, and emerged much the same, only exhausted and filled with the knowledge that this is something you haven’t quite played before.
In this preview, we’re going to take a look at the 5 things you need to know about NBA Baller Beats.
NBA Baller Beats is a music game you HAVEN’T played before
While the music genre burned itself a few years ago with a deluge of similar-playing titles, NBA Baller Beats is a breath of fresh air that will also leave you gasping for air. The game cleverly mixes relatively intense physical action with gameplay that, though evocative of past games like Guitar Hero, ends up feeling like something all its own.
So the core of the game is built around dribbling a basketball in time to the music in the form of “beats” that run-down a familiar looking “note highway,” like in Guitar Hero. The closer together the beats, the faster you need to dribble the ball. And beyond that, you’ll have to watch which side of the “highway” the beats are on, as that dictates which hand you’ll have to dribble with in order to score the point.
But it’s not just beats you’ll have contend with, as stunts also roll down the highway, which require you to perform some kind of unique action with the ball, such as performing a crossover or flow dribble, or a number of other things. For the basketball disinclined (like yours truly), this will be the park that will likely trip you up the most.
It makes great use of Kinect
The unfortunate truth is that the Kinect is often as aggravating as it is impressive with its uncanny ability to mis-interpret cues or not feeling responsive, which is a giant no-no for music games. Fortunately, NBA Baller Beats makes great use of the technology with extremely accurate motion-detection that only got confused when we stepped too far away from the camera.
Now although the Kinect is inherently laggy, the game was designed in such a way that this is almost a non-factor. Beyond the initial TV calibration process, the way the games works is that every time you go for a beat (dribble the ball), a fireball-looking projectile is fired from the on-screen basketball at the base of the note-highway that intercepts the “beat.” This lead-time allows you to easily adjust your timing to compensate for the Kinect's inherent lag and master the timing required for high scores.
It’s a workout!
I have never worked up a sweat playing a videogame as quickly as I have during NBA Baller Beats. And it’s not just because I’m terribly unfit and as coordinated as a tap-dancing monkey, but because the game requires you move around...a lot. Hell, even the professional NBA basketball player who was on-hand to showcase the game worked up a sweat in no time. Even though NBA Baller Beats isn’t being marketed as a fitness game, you’ll probably get a better workout here than in Wii Fit or other similar games.
The Music is Good!
And of course, what would a music game be without a compelling soundtrack? And while everyone’s taste is different, NBA Baller Beats features a fairly wide variety of songs across its 30 tracks that most people should find some appeal in. Among the songs featured here are Queen’s "Another One Bites the Dust," Kayne West’s “Amazing,” and “Chillin” by Lady Gaga.
...and your neighbors will hate you.
Seriously. And it’s not hard to see why when you consider you’re dribbling a basketball for the entire time you’re playing. Even playing on the carpeted floor of our hotel room couldn’t muffle the sound, as evidenced by a noise complaint we received from the room below. Basically, if you don’t live in a house, you’ll probably have to make sure you play only when your neighbors aren’t home. Unless you don’t like them, then have at it!
NBA Baller Beats is a fun and exciting title that really shows there still might be some life left in the music genre. It’s due for release on September 11th for the Xbox 360 and even comes with its very own basketball packed-in.
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