NBA 2K Playgrounds 2... Reviewed!

This is a super fun basketball game, giving NBA 2K vets and noobs alike... a new option... for over-the-top arcade basketball action. This is the second installment in the Playgrounds franchise... but this time around it is part of the 2K Games family. It doesn't have to worry about competing with NBA 2K either... it's like a nice alternative for the fanatics that live and breathe NBA 2K games and basketball in general. They do exist, you will find some lined up for the newest shoes as they drop.

I won't lie, the 2K branding alone... will give this game a boost over the initial version (in my opinion). Sounds crazy, but 2K has some die-hard fans, especially for NBA 2k. I was actually a day one supporter of NBA 2K & NFL 2K on the Sega Dreamcast... time is flying (make the most of it).

NBA 2K Playgrounds 2 is a 2-on-2 arcade basketball game... and I'm glad it's a pickup and play... type of game (I loved that about NBA Jam). Sometimes I don't have a lot of time. Hmm... (well) most of the time I don't have a lot of time, but I was able to jump in... aside from loading screens and either play an Exhibition Game or the Exhibition 3-Point Contest. You also get depth in the NBA Season option... which also serves up the NBA Playoffs & NBA Finals (Playgrounds-style), if you make it that far. I'm sure you can do it!

If you're new to the Playgrounds franchise, you may be wondering where are all the basketball players, but... you work your way up to unlocking them all (if you don't wish to pay and unlock the rosters that is). So while some of you may find this annoying, some of you may find it a great way to increase the replay value. I won't argue with either, but it can be annoying playing with the same players initially while building up your points to unlock new ones (sometimes).

You aren't just playing against the players you unlock... so don't worry about that, but you may be facing some serious legends with players you aren't that familiar with. Don't get scared, if you get the hang of the game... you can prove to be some serious competition regardless of who it is. Steph Curry and... David Robinson couldn't take down my guys in a recent match, so I'm sure you can do it.

No matter who you start with in NBA 2K Playgrounds 2... don't look at the player like it's the end of the road for them. For every game, you play using a specific player... their experience goes up. They can have worse stats than a dog, but give them game time and watch the stats improve. No offense to AirBud!

I say all that to say... don't get discouraged, game on! I'm building up a few disasters because I want everyone on my Lakers roster to be on their A game for the season. I go hard in the paint regardless... but having a solid team isn't the worst thing in the world when facing off against Epic players and full-blown Legends. I just went triple overtime with my disasters against two legends. I took an L, but that game had me on the edge of my dinosaur slippers! (Don't judge me, they're comfy!) I will be back for another season with the goal of winning the NBA Finals and unlocking a Lakers legend. I'll leave that a mystery so you can find out for yourself when you play.

NBA 2K Playgrounds 2 has a nice feel to it... once you spend some time with it. You really start to flow more and more after utilizing your passing, crossover, etc. I know some gamers that give up on a game within 30 minutes... and I have to explain why a game is worth more time. Give it a chance and embrace the spirit of competition with these cartoon'ish versions of some of our favorite NBA players, and challenge yourself to learn some of the more technical moves. Initially, the fast pace may be a bit much to try and get technical, but... if you think you've got it in you, get to it.

How do you obtain these NBA players? By getting packs of bronze, silver or gold cards... or going into the Cards Collection and unlocking players that way. Players range from around 10,000 points like Josh Hart, 15k for Epic ranked players like... Lonzo Ball, 20k for Legends like Jerry West or 25k for those obvious super legends like... Shaq, Kobe Bryant, and King James!

My advice is to grind out and get those baller points because you can unlock packs with fewer points that get you those players (i.e. I just unlocked Michael Jordan... BABY!!!!) versus building and buying them one character at a time. You don't know who you will get in the packs... but you can start building the options of players you can actually choose from. I also got Golden Bucks with the purchase of the card packs, unlocked Alonzo Mourning, Anthony Davis, Robert Parish, World B. Free, and Shawn Kemp.

By the way... I unlocked a duplicate character as well.

Some of you may be wondering what happens when... that happens, but if you have a duplicate player card inside a pack, that player will receive extra XP.

Oh and before I forget... there is a really cool feature in this game known as "Challenges". This gives each player their own set of challenges to unlock. I'm talking every... single... player. These range from a Bronze challenge up to a gold challenge, and you have one for Speed, 2 Pointers, 3 Pointers, Dunks, Stamina, Steals, Blocks, and... Rebounds. This further increase the replay value (which is pretty much limitless based on how the gameplay can shift in so many unpredictable ways... especially online).

I'm looking at Kobe Bryant right now, and his challenges for his 2 Pointers:

Bronze Challenge
Description: Score 6 jumpers from inside the arc in an Exhibition Game
Reward: +1 point in 2-Pointers stat

Silver Challenge
Description: Score 8 finger rolls in a Season Game
Reward: +3 points in 2-Pointers stat

Gold Challenge
Description: Score 8 jumpers from inside the arc in an Exhibition Game
Reward: +4 points in 2-Pointers stat

Now that I've pointed out one cool plus... I have to issue a con that I'm not crazy about. It's the cursed lottery pick. I know it's arcade, but... the cursed lottery pick sucks and I don't want my competition to have that applied to them either because it affects the game in a way that has nothing to do with their skill. I know the other lottery picks can amplify your match, but I don't want the skills... downed.

The Cursed lottery pick is described as... opposing players' stats drop to the minimum for the duration of the lottery pick. Luckily... when you aren't playing during the season... Lottery Picks like the Cursed option can be turned off. Unfortunately, the season is where I'd really prefer that option. Trust me... you do NOT want that on you in the NBA Finals, that's how I took an L.

TIP: If you do end up with this lottery pick, and there is time to kill in the match... try to play hard D to prevent the other team from even nearing 3-point land. You're basically wasting time so that your Cursed time runs down without them having a scoring spree.

If you're in possession, try to run your shot clock down and cherry-pick so safe shots.

Other lottery picks include:

Face an opponent and perform a forward crossover to put him on the ground. If you score while the ball is glowing, the basket is worth double points.

Super Power:
Your players' stats increase to the maximum for the duration of the Lottery Pick.

Frozen Hoop:
The basket freezes up and points can't be scored until you break the ice. I don't like this one either. The opponent always seems to freeze my hoop in a way that requires 3 shots in order to break the freaking ice. I hate this... I think I hate this one even more than the Cursed lottery pick.

Threes X 2:
Doubles the points from 3-pointers.

Multiplier Stars:
Score from a star and the point value will be multiplied by the indicated number.

Shot Clock Speed Up:
The opposing team's shot clock time is cut in half.

Super Speed:
Your players don't lose stamina and they sprint for the duration of the Lottery Pick.

Dunks X 2:
Doubles the points for dunks.

Supercharged Ball:
A Supercharged Ball will score from any position, but it can be blocked.

Another thing I'd change about this game... is the tutorial. It's... not... exactly giving us a playable tutorial, it's more so just a guide telling you what to press in order to do a move (as seen below). That may not seem like a big deal (and really it's not), but... I just don't think it's as useful.

Here's a freebie for the developers... compliments of SDGT Studio:

NBA 2K Playgrounds 2... should have a practice court for the tutorial, and even just practicing in general. I know exhibition games can serve a similar purpose... but you can actually focus on learning on a practice court. Use the little referee character, he can blow the whistle upon the completion of each successful move. That could even add an additional accomplishment to the game... once the tutorial is complete.

As far as more technical moves go, you will have to be quick on the draw to pull them off. When it comes to playing the game in general. You can still enjoy the experience without knowing how to throw the ball against the backboard for a self-alley-oop. So regardless of your skill set, there's room for noobs and seasoned Playground vets to enjoy.

The audio quality is good, delivering upbeat tunes that get you in the mood for balling based on the basketball-themed lyrics. Perhaps 2K should consider hiring the Diplomats to do a game-related remix to Jim Jones... Ballin! Sound effects do a good job making those dunks, and ranged shots even more satisfying... especially the buzzer beaters that seal the victory. The commentary is also cool, although it can be a bit repetitious sometimes... but it hasn't gotten annoying (yet). What's even cooler, is that they employed known streamers to do commentary to liven up the gameplay. I'm all for gamers getting in on the action, and these streamers also have a character in the game. #Jealous!!!

Visually, I think they did a great job with the environment around the court. It's not just a court... and it's not just people standing around cheering. You have the depth that makes it feel like a location where a court is located... which makes it feel a bit more live and the look is perfect for an arcade basketball game. One thing I would love is the option to have these environments and even the balls changed at random, so you don't have to worry about switching them out yourself before a match. That option to select between them is fine, but I'd like a random option too because... I forget and then the various courts aren't enjoyed as much.

Visually you also get special effects that go beyond just a flashy dunk. Lottery picks will light up your player, and even light up the court based on the type. I thought that was a really smart move. Yeah... you see the icon for the lottery pick or that darn Cursed one, but they took it a step further to drive home that arcade feel.

Price wise... NBA 2K Playgrounds 2 comes in at $29.99, which makes sense to me. I don't think the game would have as much appeal at full retail, and fewer people would get to experience everything it has to offer at $59.99 because they'd be put in the position to decide between 2K & Playgrounds (if they don't have the money or desire to buy both). Luckily, this is priced just right and presents gamers with a lower-priced option to still enjoy NBA action from 2K Games.

Overall, NBA 2K Playgrounds 2, delivers well-rounded fast paced high flying arcade action that brings the boom at a sweet price... and the fun factor is just as high as the replay value. Can I give it NBA Jam's crown? If you take a good look, I think it has enough going for it to not even need that comparison. It has its own respectable differences that don't result in it feeling like a clone. NBA 2K Playgrounds 2 is available... now!

Fun factor: 5

Visuals: 5

Replay value: 5

Price: 5

"5 / 5 Cool Points"