Beware the Kids of March!
Kidz Sports Basketball brings neighborhood 3-on-3 hoops to the Nintendo Wii. This is a budget title that uses the motion controls of both the Wii remote and the Nunchuk attachment. The game is rated E for Everyone, but don’t let the rating fool you. This game was designed exclusively for young children. Adults and teenagers alike will find it to be painfully boring and frustratingly inaccurate. However, youngsters will probably love the cute presentation and mindless gameplay.
The emphasis on simplicity is apparent throughout the title. This makes menu navigation and gameplay easy for anyone. I just wish that the menu selections weren’t so close together. The item proximity mixed with the jittery IR of the Wii remote complicates things a bit. Other than that, the straightforward layout and game design is a plus for children. There are only a few modes of undemanding play so there is no need for kids to worry about trades, rosters, substitutions, bling, and salary caps. This is more or less driveway basketball that’s set on a full court. It’s wholesome entertainment about which parents won’t have to worry.
The Exhibition Match is a quick play mode where you can take on either the computer or a friend and set specific parameters. The Knockout Cup is a traditional, single elimination, playoff -style tourney. The Tournament Cup has you take on seven other teams in a round robin format. You’ll accrue points for draws and wins against the competition. The top two teams then advance to the final. Finally, there is a Mini-games mode where mini-game content will be unlocked as you progress through the tournaments.
The Exhibition Match will probably get the most use for the majority of young gamers due to the multiplayer aspect and the ability to modify the game parameters. Sadly, playing against the computer really isn’t any fun, and having to slog through six minute quarters is truly painful. You’ll have to devote nearly a half an hour to complete one game of kiddy basketball. To top it all off, the A.I. is atrocious. The competition will constantly heave up half court shots only to have them drop three feet short. You can select the level of difficulty, but all this really modifies is shot accuracy. The A.I. will still make bonehead plays, but somehow they’ll be able to pull it off at higher levels.
The Knockout and Tournament Cups are good for a single play through, but again you’ll be forced into playing 24 minute games. This makes winning tournaments challenging indeed. If you’re eight years old or a freelance videogame writer, upon completing the tournaments you’ll receive points that you can then use to open up new teams. This is a nice idea, but the game loses all of its novelty long before the vast majority of gamers can build up enough points to unlock their second squad. Maybe a child could bang his head against the wall long enough to open up more of them, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. Speaking of knocking your head against the wall, the mini-games are an abomination that literally can’t pass for fun. Passing, not throwing, a set of basketballs weakly into a pyramid of bottles, stacked boxes, and TV sets is no one’s idea of a good time no matter what the age.
The controls are simple to use, but they don’t work well at all. The Nunchuk attachment will move your players with the analog stick, the A button will switch from player to player defensively, and the Z and B buttons held down together will activate special moves. These special moves can be performed if you’ve built up enough skill points to activate the move. Everything else is controlled via extremely inaccurate motion-sensitive controls by flicking and waiving the remotes around. In theory, the gamer holds both controllers in either hand parallel to the floor and then brings them up to their chest, and then back down to the starting position in one fluid motion to make a shot. In order to perform a steal, the gamer is to wave the controllers inward. This control scheme seems fun, but it’s actually broken. In fact, shooting is so imprecise that the developers actually had to do away with the travel violation. More than half of all my shot attempts failed to leave the avatar’s fingertips, and I had to retry it a second and even a third time. This is inexcusable even for a $20 game.
The graphics and music are again simple. The graphics are a grainy collection of cute cartoons. I actually really enjoyed the venues and thought the developers did a good job with the environments. However, the visuals are pixelated and blurry. The music is upbeat, but strikingly similar to a rhythm you’d find on a low-end keyboard. “What is that…Latin, Jazz, or Techno?” The commentary is also poor, but acceptable for this kind of title. It’s repetitive and not particularly insightful, and it’s painfully obvious that the game was made in the UK as the commentator calls for a throw-in every time the ball goes out of bounds.
When Bold Games publishes a budget title, they’re not joking. Kidz Sports: Basketball doesn’t cut the mustard. It’s not even mediocre. I can only hope the other titles in the Popcorn Arcade series are better. If you are anyone over the age of 11, you will be very sorry you purchased this title. If you’re buying it for your child, then it’s not a complete waste. The characters and environments are cute, and the simple menu navigation means that youngsters should have no problem setting up their own game without having to bother you. All in all, this is a poor game that probably should have been released as Wii ware rather than a published media release. You’ve got to avoid this one unless you’re a little guy thrilled just to be holding a Wii remote.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 2.8 Graphics
A grainy collection of cute cartoons. 0.8 Control
Abysmal. Passing is easy, everything else is broken. 2.5 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Acceptable for a budget title. 2.5
This high rating assumes that only children under the age of 11 will be playing.
2.0 Overall Rating – Poor
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.