No Balls in the House
I have followed the NBA for over fifteen years. I first got into the league back in '95-96, inspired by the Upper Deck basketball cards that suddenly appeared in our local newsagent and encouraged by a magazine show that was starting to gain popularity on terrestrial TV. I latched onto the Phoenix Suns at the very end of the Barkley and Johnson era, and have followed them ever since. I’ve also played a bit of basketball over the years, until my night time pick-up games were brought to an abrupt end by a nasty twist and an ankle the size of a baseball. Healed-up and back in the UK, an absence of local facilities, general laziness, a lack of fitness and the fact that I have forgotten how to jump have served to stifle my comeback attempts (don't worry, I'll get to video games soon).
It's always been a challenge being a basketball fan in England. Coverage is better than it used to be but basketball has still failed to register with a sports loving public. In the past, with a lack of consistent coverage, I expressed my love for the league through video games, spending an ungodly amount of time on NBA Live '97 and any other basketball game I could get my hands on.
These days, I very rarely play sports games. However, I'm still open to a fresh take on the basketball genre, which has long been confined to simulations, arcade and Shaq-fu. My interest was piqued earlier this week by an announcement trailer for the Kinect exclusive, NBA Baller Beats, a game all about ball handling and rhythm. It rewards the ability to pull off tricks with a real basketball......in your living room! The trailer shows our able baller dribbling in his front room like a man possessed, orange ball in hand, shuffling across the hardwood laid out on his otherwise carpeted floor. Fortunately, he appears to be a professional, not once sending his ball crashing through the TV, shattering family heirlooms or breaking his mother's nose.
|Fact: Tim Hardaway picked up his killer crossover and homophobic slurs from Xbox Live|
I’m sure you don’t need me to point this out, but there are so many reasons why this concept is flawed. In no particular order:
1. Most people have carpeted living rooms. If you've ever tried bouncing a ball on carpet then you'll know why basketball games aren’t usually held on soft fabric. Unless you are going to bring a sheet of hardwood into your lounge, then you are going to struggle.
2. Most people don't have a sheet of hardboard in their living room.
3. Unless you have a rather spacious lounge, then you will be quite literally bouncing off the walls.
4. Most people want to preserve their expensive HDTV and console. Unless you are Chris Paul, something will eventually get broken.
5. Unless you want to be murdered by the person living below, anyone in an apartment or shared house is going to want to avoid this floor rattler.
Basically, if you are a normal person who doesn't happen to have a cavernous, hard floored living room, then you will probably be giving this game a wide berth.
I have read that NBA Baller Beats will be the first Kinect title to track an object, as opposed to the player's body. The idea of using real world items within a video game is an interesting one and there is certainly scope for it to be explored further. I encourage innovation, something that Kinect is in desperate need of, but this is teetering on the ridiculous. I don't want to rip this game to shreds at such an early stage - it may well be sound, featuring other excellent features and untold depth - but the concept is so spectacularly flawed that I can't help but take the piss. What's next, House of the Dead playable with a real shotgun?!
If you have a basketball, why would you want to bounce it indoors? This isn’t Time Crisis or Rock Band where people are drawn to the opportunity to wield a tool, such as an automatic weapon or a drum set, which they probably don’t own in real life. A basketball is a run-of-the-mill, everyday object that is best enjoyed in the great outdoors or on a basketball court, not within the confines of a video game and a living room. Besides, as any parent will tell you, balls belong outside, which is something Majesco seems to have forgotten.