Who says you have to grow up? Here at SI.com's Game Room, our staffers review the latest sports video game titles to hit the market and welcome your feedback.
11/08/2006 12:21:00 PM
The Bus Ride
Blocking shots gets you respect on the playground. It's also the key to victory in Conquest mode.
Photo courtesy of Sony
By Jake Luft
My commute is ruined.
My day job, when I'm not reviewing video games, is editing and writing for SI.com's baseball section. Keeping up with the sport is a full-time endeavour in itself, which means I don't spend a lot of time keeping up with the "real" news of the day, to say nothing of more intellectual pursuits; there isn't much Victorian literature on my bookshelf. This is why my commute into Manhattan from nearby Hoboken is so important: I use that hour (30 minutes each way) every day to read up on non-baseball topics, be it a newspaper that takes more than one bathroom sitting to read (sorry, USA Today) or a book (mostly American history). This one hour a day is what keeps me from becoming a complete troglodyte who can't speak on any subject that doesn't involve a ball and a bat.
Unfortunately, that hour has been taken away from me, and I have only this accursedly addictive NBA '07 game for the PSP to blame. Unlike the PS2 version, which did not get high reviews (see below), the portable NBA '07 sucks you in and doesn't let go.
NBA '07 for the PSP has the normal stuff you would expect in an NBA video game -- regular season, playoffs, exhibition, etc. Those modes are OK. In truth, the sim gameplay is just OK, too. It's simple yet fun at the same time. Nothing groundbreaking.
Frankly, I'm not much of an NBA fan so it's hard for me to be into anything that makes me feel like I'm watching a real NBA game. Which leads me to what makes this game so damn good -- pickup hoops. If you are like me and always preferred playground ball to the indoor, organized league games, then you'll want this game for no other reason than to play its blacktop mode. The game starts just like it does on the playground, with you and your opponent (the CPU or a networked human) taking turns picking a player; the computer picks a batch of stars and scrubs at random. The games are played outdoors with the chain-link net that used to make you call out "Gimme my change."
Shuffle players around to create imaginative starting fives.
Photo courtesy of Sony
Once you get used to the pickup mode, which unlike the regulation games allow for reaching in and more aggressive play, then you have to take it to the next level by firing up the Conquest mode. Conquest is like playing the board game RISK but instead of rolling dice for a territory you play a pickup game for control of an NBA city. You start out with one team and challenge the CPU city by city until you have conquered the entire league. Once you take over a city, you can shuttle players around to your different teams to fortify your most vulnerable positions. Once you take over an entire region -- i.e. Southeast or West -- you unlock a Hall of Famer ('Nique, Clyde Drexler, Larry Bird, Wes Unseld and Pistol Pete Maravich, to name a few).
The setup is genius and it's complemented by some wacky gameplay. When a player gets his shot blocked, for example, he'll walk around like a duck and be useless until his team scores a basket. The same thing happens when a player hits a 3-pointer -- whoever is guarding him is rendered incompetent until his team scores. There's also a Rock-N-Jock element that allows you to hit 4- and 5-point baskets from anywhere on the floor. It all sounds silly but, believe me, once you start playing, you can't stop.
There are other kooky minigames, such as skee-ball, pinball, dodgeball and H-O-R-S-E. There's also the whole All-Star Weekend spectrum of activities -- dunk contest, 3-point shootout, skills competition. There's even a pregame shootaround mode in case you're having trouble figuring out how to time your jump shot. Put it all together and it's more fun than you should be allowed to have on a bus ride into New York City.