NBA Baller Beats Review for Xbox 360

NBA Baller Beats Review for Xbox 360

Take Your Dance Moves to The Court

Working on this review has taught me three things about myself:
1. I suck a basketball.
2. I have no rhythm.
3. Most likely Cheat Code Central assigned me and my pudgy, out-of-shape body this review just to embarrass me.

Despite all this (and a bunch of broken houseware, which I will get to later), I enjoyed NBA Baller Beats. It’s a truly innovative game that delivers on promises the Kinect made in its early days, specifically the ability to scan real-world objects and use them as controllers in a game. I suppose you can say I really had a “ball” with this game. (I promise I’ll never make a pun that bad again.)

NBA Baller Beats is a fusion of Basketball and a rhythm game that teaches you real basketball skills. You play it—get this—with a real basketball (which thankfully comes included in the game.) The game has you dribble along to the beat of a song in either your on-hand or off-hand. At points, you’ll be asked to switch between your hands or perform some sort of nifty basketball maneuver. You may need to dribble between your legs, behind your back, or go for a pump fake. The game even asks you to mimic the action of passing and shooting at points.

NBA Baller Beats Screenshot

The song selection is pretty good, mostly focused on pop hits. And dribbling to LMFAO will make you feel far cooler than you actually are. At higher levels of difficulty, executing a trick-filled basketball dribbling routine makes you feel like a real Harlem Globetrotter. (Not that I ever managed to complete anything over the rookie level.)

There is something to be said for this game’s difficulty. Since it requires you to use actual basketball skills, couch potatoes and Sunday warriors need not apply. You’ll have to dribble in your off-hand in pretty much every song in the game. Many people will find it difficult to simply dribble in their on-hand to a beat. The beats don’t remain constant either. Like any good rhythm game, you’ll find yourself having to bounce the ball to weird time signatures, off beats, and more. It really does feel like DDR more than Dance Central in this regard.

You have to have basketball skills and rhythm to succeed at this game; unfortunately, I have neither.

Luckily, there is a tutorial designed for basketball scrubs like me. Narrated by NBA champ Kenny Smith, The tutorial walks you through the basic skills you will need in order to play. This mode is a godsend, as it allows you to work through individual maneuvers at many different speeds. It’s a bit like a personal basketball coach running you through drills, though it doesn’t feel like work because you’re essentially just learning a game.

NBA Baller Beats Screenshot

Now, I know a lot of you are worried about the Kinect’s accuracy. The Kinect has had problems simply tracking your body’s movement at points, how can it possibly track a basketball? Well, rest assured this is one of the most accurate Kinect games out there right now. It keeps track of the basketball and your body position quite accurately.

In fact, the only tracking issues the Kinect seemed to have for me involved figuring out exactly what side I was dribbling on. The ball would jitter back and forth at times, but never far enough to make the game misread my movements. This pretty much proves that Kinect tracking all comes down to software, not hardware.

NBA Baller Beats Screenshot

You can play the game multiplayer, but not simultaneously. Instead, the game tasks 1-8 players with playing through sections of a song one after another, comparing their scores at the end. It’s not the best multiplayer mode in the world, but it works in the context of NBA Baller Beats. You can play short versions of songs or eventually unlock longer versions to increase replay value, which essentially doubles the track list for anyone who is into hardcore marathon sessions.

Outside of that, the game is a cut-and-dried affair. It’s a rhythm game with a basketball. It’s the biggest step we have taken toward actual virtual reality. I can easily see this very same motion capture system being implemented into an actual basketball game sometime in the future, and unlike Rock Band or DDR, this will actually improve your ball handling skills on the court.

Now that’s not to say that the game doesn’t have its problems. While the execution of the game is top-notch and the concept behind the game is innovative, it’s only accessible to a very small amount of people. First of all, you need an incredibly large space just to play it. You need tons of space to dribble and move your legs, and you need adequate space in front of the Kinect for it to detect all of your movements. This is actually further away than a lot of other Kinect games that have hit the market. Because of this, you also need a much bigger TV than usual. The dribble stream is a bit smaller than I’d like it to be, and doing this on a tiny 19″ monitor is a recipe for disaster.

NBA Baller Beats Screenshot

Speaking of disasters, you essentially need a basketball court-like setting in order to make this game work. That means you need a hard and very unbreakable floor. Second floor apartment? Better hope your neighbors don’t mind the incessant thumping they will inevitably hear. I tried this game in a variety of locations, and none of them proved to be optimal. My basement’s ceilings are too low to do the “shoot” movement, and my bedroom and living room are carpeted so I couldn’t dribble. Eventually, I gave up and literally moved my Xbox and TV outside to my driveway. Unfortunately, I probably won’t be up to doing this much in the future, which is a serious blow to the game’s replayability.

Oh, and make sure that there is absolutely nothing breakable around when you play this game. You are actually actively dribbling a ball, and a small screw up is enough to make the ball go flying off in some unexpected direction. I more than once managed to knock over my TV with the basketball, and I’m lucky I’m not out of a TV because of it.

That being said, NBA Baller Beats is an amazing game, although somewhat hard to pick up and play on the fly. If you have an environment suited for it, definitely pick it up. Even if you aren’t a hardcore basketball fan, it’s a fun diversion that will be an absolute hit at parties.

However, there is one sort of person who absolutely should pick this game up: high school basketball coaches. Setting this up in a gym where you know the TV can be protected would make for one of the coolest gym classes I could possibly think of. Letting your team dribble to LMFAO or Skrillex would officially make you the coolest basketball coach ever.

The graphics are admittedly barebones and the note stream is smaller than I would like. 4.6 Control
How they got the Kinect to accurately track a basketball, I have no idea. 4.6 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Guilty pleasures all around from LMFAO to Skrillex to Lady Gaga. 3.9 Play Value
If you have a big enough area to play the game, it’s one heck of a good time. 3.9 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.

Review Rating Legend
0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid 2.5 – 2.9 = Average 3.5 – 3.9 = Good 4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
2.0 – 2.4 = Poor 3.0 – 3.4 = Fair 4.0 – 4.4 = Great 5.0 = The Best

Game Features:

  • NBA Baller Beats is a fun, high-energy, first-of-its kind basketball video game for Kinect that is unlike any sports video game on the market.
  • The game is extremely innovative; it requires you to actively play using a real basketball (which is included free with the game)!
  • Aspire to perform like a pro as you master ball-handling skills.
  • The music acts as your guide as you bounce the ball to the beats of a slamming soundtrack.
  • Features an eclectic mix of music across decades and genres, from hip-hop to rock to old school classics.

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