XXL Takes A Look At NBA Baller Beats

At E3, Majesco Entertainment demoed a new game exclusively for the Xbox Kinect titled NBA Baller Beats and promised that it would be “a game changer,” allowing players to dribble a physical basketball and recreate fundamental to advanced basketball movements.

NBA Baller Beats is “the first ever motion-based sports video game that requires you to actively play using a real basketball in an interactive beats-driven experience.”  Is NBA Baller Beats comparable to the NBA 2K series? Or is it something else entirely that requires it’s own category?

Let’s get into the premise of this game. NBA Baller Beats requires that you “time your dribble to the beat and perform a variety of skill moves displayed on-screen, to score points.” The game plays much like a basketball version of DJ Hero. You basically watch a moving indicator that gives you a variety of moves to perform along to a pre-selected song.

There are three different game modes: Move School allows you to practice the different skills required to play the game. Single Player mode is aimed at mastering the different skills and unlocking new levels, songs, player posters and trading cards. Finally, Battle Mode is a multiplayer head-to-head competition where up to eight players can compete for bragging rights.

The presentation of the game is very simplistic, due to the fact that the game is movement based. You can choose from all 30 NBA teams as locations to perform but many of the locations are similar except for minor differences in color. Kenny Smith serves as the M.C. for the game and his honest commentary adds a level of authenticity. The game doesn’t wow you visually but the song selection is perfect for this type of platform. Classic hip-hop joints like “Don’t Sweat The Technique” and “Bust A Move” perfectly set the tone.

The technology involved with tracking the player’s movement and the trajectory of the ball is remarkable but for those of us over 6″ the camera has difficulty keeping up. At times I wasn’t even completing the moves completely but I was still gaining points. The Single Player Mode can get tiring after awhile as you’re asked to perform the same moves as you progress with little to no variety. The “pump fake” and “pass” moves seem a bit out of place but add a dimension of difficulty.

NBA Baller Beats is at it’s best when there are multiple players. It’s a great community game because even if you aren’t adept at dribbling a ball, the fun of being with a group of friends and playing makes up for many of the game’s deficiencies. You won’t mind that sometimes the Kinect won’t catch your movements completely while you’re boy is talking trash about your handles.

Overall, it doesn’t compete with NBA 2K13 however, Baller Beats does deserve it’s own category.  I hope Majesco takes the framework they’ve created and improve what really has the potential to be “a game changer.” Although it deserves some self-space next to the NBA 2K series, Baller Beats serves as a perfect point of entry for causal NBA fans and gamers.—Eric Montgomery (@E_MONT_3)