NBA Playgrounds (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Shane Jury 26.06.2017

Review for NBA Playgrounds on Nintendo Switch

With the first reveal of the Nintendo Switch last year came a number of hinted games, widely utilised to demonstrate the versatility of the device in its portable and console functions. A particular mention was towards a basketball title that looked to be from 2K Games, a developer that had been hesitant to support Nintendo machines in the past. That game is NBA 2K18, still set to release this year, but one developer has beaten 2K to the hoop with its own basketball game. Coming from Mad Dog Games, NBA Playgrounds has arrived on the eShop, and Cubed3 takes to the court for the results.

NBA Playgrounds takes on a more arcade-like approach to basketball games, forgoing narrative and progression in favour of player versus player sessions and a basic tournament setup. The deformed character art style works well to this end, ensuring there's rarely a serious tone to a match, even with a good commentary backing and varied locales that would otherwise add to immersion. Matches consist of two basketball players versus two others, and the pace of passes, shots, and tricks ensures speedy play. A large number of teams and famous players are represented, both current and retired stars like, including big names like the Chicago Bulls and Atlanta Hawks.

Exhibition mode is the first and will likely be the most selected mode of the game, where up to four players can take to the court in teams of two. Selectable options include the match time or score limits to decide a game, the difficulty level for a solo or duo team, and even the type of basketball to use. This mode is ideal for quick plays on the go and with two Joy-Con halves when the desire arises, and even with conventional Television gaming since the game also supports the Switch Pro Controller. Aside from slightly lengthy loading periods, NBA Playgrounds performs visually and responds well to control input in matches, with a handy tutorial upon first booting up the game and permanently in the options menu, and a useful if somewhat obstructive button guide displayed at the bottom of the screen during play.

Screenshot for NBA Playgrounds on Nintendo Switch

Tournament Mode is where the true challenge of NBA Playgrounds comes, and unfortunately not for the better. This mode consists of a challenge ladder of sorts, where teams of two can take on opponents to reach the top and win the cup, and each of these is based in a court locale that is unlocked after beating it; like New York, London and Tokyo. The issue is that the computer opponents are simply too punishing for beginner players, even in the first cup, and there is no way to alter that in this mode. Different stars have varying stats, so choosing two that correspond well may give an advantage, but even so the CPU is far too good for this early in the game.

The Profile menu allows for insight into game statistics, and more importantly, the experience and levelling-up systems, which are increased after match wins. Gaining levels allows for points to be spent on trading cards, which unlock new stars both modern and retro, all usable in game. This system provides a strong incentive to keep playing, which is fortunate since at the time of review, the patch required for the online play functionality has not yet released. Having this feature, provided it runs and works well, will do wonders for NBA Playgrounds' replayability and value, but as it stands now, this title is a fun multiplayer distraction that can infuriate with solo gamer complications.

Screenshot for NBA Playgrounds on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 6 out of 10


NBA Playgrounds plays well to the strengths of the Nintendo Switch, providing a fun multiplayer basketball game, with authentic players and commentary. Difficulty spikes in solo play are too steep to ignore, though, and the current absence of online play greatly diminishes long-term viability. A great game is here, but not yet at the surface.

Cubed3 was provided a copy of NBA Playgrounds by Saber Interactive for coverage purposes.


Saber Interactive


Saber Interactive





C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  6/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   


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