If you ever wanted to play ball in your house, here’s your chance! This new exclusive first of its kind title arrives and it’s quite good actually. There’s been lots of hype about it already but just in case you haven’t heard anything, here you go:

Master the art of ball control with help from Kinect motion control in this game where it’s you, the ball, and 30 tracks of high-intensity beats. This innovative take on motion-sports adds a new twist – a game ball. Use an actual basketball and bounce it to the beat as you learn 20 incredible feats of game-breaking, jaw-dropping ball handling. Choose hits from Common, Cee-Lo Green, Wiz Khalifa, and other top artists. Practice with your favorite NBA franchise as you master moves like pump fakes, crossovers, flow dribble, and other ankle-breakers. Compete in multiplayer showdowns for up to eight, learn from TNT’s Kenny “The Jet” Smith, share action photos on Facebook, and more.

Overview

This is one of the first titles that I have played that I truly feel it will actually help you with better ball handling in the game of basketball. I had no clue what to expect to be honest, but when I picked the game apart, it’s fantastic. What’s even better is you don’t even need the ball it comes with, however you DO need a ball, air gestures do not work since it tracks the ball more than you. I used both a black and orange ball and it detected both fine so if you really want this game, you can probably pick it up used without a ball. It could have a couple of other things but I’ll get into that later, so for now, onto the review.

The Menu

The menu is fairly simple, it has both the hover and lock method as well as voice navigation. Both work exceptionally well. The menu is kind of all over the place so I’ll just go in order, the first option is How To Play, Locker Room, Play Now, Versus and Options. When you do first start-up, you are given the option to choose your favorite team, and it does have all 30 NBA teams. Another note, these devs are the first smart ones that used albums to select a song, but you have the option to go both slow and fast so you can pick exactly what you want, it’s about time!

How To Play

I’ll start with this section since it probably makes the most sense. Your first option in here is an interactive tutorial. It takes you through the gameplay basics and what you are supposed to do. How I picked it apart was that I compared it to Rock Band, created by the well known team at Harmonix. I recall when the drum option first came along, I was all about it but had no idea what I was doing. 3 releases later, I’m now pretty decent at the drums and this game is set up the exact same way. Basically, they call it a runway and balls come down on the left or right side. You have to dribble to the beat when the ball comes down on either side. Yes the game does object tracking so well that it knows where the ball is at all times, even behind you.

Anyhow, once you get the dribbling part down, you then have to do some moves like a crossover, a fake pump, side passes, etc. This gets mixed in while you are dribbling. Scoring has multipliers based on skills you complete successfully and your objective is to get 5 stars on the song. I know it sounds confusing so I made a video of it, and just a forewarning, I am not good at basketball if you haven’t noticed from my other basketball videos, but anyway here is the video:

Move School

Now, I’ll be honest…if you don’t have dribbling skills you are going to have some trouble with this game, but then again, when I compared the learning curve to Rock Band, it is the same ordeal. With practice you will get good at this game, it just takes time. It has you learn simple moves from a crossover which is just switching the ball from one hand to the other to much more crazy moves which I am not good at all so I didn’t even attempt some of them. Some of the other moves are like “air moves” I’ll call them, such as performing the gesture like passing the ball to the side or doing a pump fake, but the thing is, don’t let go of the ball! I did jot down the entire list of moves this game teaches you, here they are:

  • Around The World
  • Jump Pump Fake
  • Crossover
  • Forward Legs Crossover
  • Backward Legs Crossover
  • Behind The Back
  • Forward Hopkins
  • Backward Hopkins
  • Pump Fake
  • Pull Dribble
  • Flow Dribble
  • Side Pass

The school does a really good at teaching you on what to do and then all you can do is practice, practice, practice. You can also adjust the tempo of the beat (it’s just a standard beat, not an actual song) so you can slow it down a lot if you are just learning. It’s a really good learning tool and was designed well in my opinion.

Hints and Tips

This section basically covers everything in detail in a text format. It lists all of the game functions such as scoring and what things are as well as the text descriptions of all of the moves.

Play Now

This is probably the main section you’ll work with. Your first decision is to choose a venue. What’s actually cool is the venue’s are themed and somewhat interactive from your earlier decision on choosing your favorite team. As of right now there are only 4 venues, which are Rooftop, Beach, NBA Court and Theme Park, with an option to have it randomly choose for you. I don’t see why the devs couldn’t release additional venues for you to play in. Anyhow, after choosing the venue, you then have to choose your difficulty level. The major difference I noticed is the Rookie level has you only doing 6 of the skill moves, Pro adds 4 more for a total of 10 and Baller has you doing all 12. The minor difference, just like Rock Band, is the dribbling becomes more intense and more “on-beat” as the difficulty increases. It works really well as a learning experience.

I did make a video of Wiz Khalifa’s song “Roll Up” since I do like it, but again, I am not good at all and this is like the 3rd time I played it. Yes the ball bounces around if you don’t have control. Fortunately, my environment has my xbox, kinect and TV way out of range and I did also dribble on carpet which I think it made it a little more difficult but it still works. Lastly, I am from the D which is why my favorite are the Pistons NBA Baller Beats kinect news kinect game reviews special Anyhow, check it out below:

Locker Room

The locker room is a cool area as well. The 2 main options are snapshots and the NBA Store. Snapshots are just pictures that are taken during your gameplay, but the NBA Store is what impressed me. It has a ton of stuff for you to unlock. You get credits by basically playing the game and getting better and better at it. The list of things to unlock, which I’ll try to give a brief description, are as follows:

  • Ball (You can have different balls within the game)
  • Player Poster (This has various posters of players that you can throw into the venues)
  • Runway Texture (Change the look of the runway)
  • Wavy Davey (These are those blow up things that look like they wave…yes you can upgrade them)
  • Tracks (Unlock the full tracks of all of the songs, most are shortened until you unlock them here)
  • Giant Wavy Davey (Yes they added a big one…)
  • Card (Player cards, I’m not sure if these get thrown into the venues or not)
  • Unlock Code (if you have a code to unlock some stuff, enter it here)

So there should be enough there to keep you playing so you can unlock more things. I can definitely see a lot of stuff being added here as DLC as well.

Versus

The versus mode allows you to compete against 2-8 of your friends. Unfortunately it is a take turn deal but I don’t know too many people who would want 2 out of control balls going at the same time around their electronics.

Options

The options are pretty standard which include your music/sfx volume, the credits and settings which allow you to turn everything on or off. A quick note, all of the tracks are masters which is always nice and the soundtrack itself is quite good, it has a mixture of everything. The other noticeable icon in here is the calibration one. The devs were smart to add this in as people always blame their inconsistency with their TV/sound not matching the game. Calibrate it here with adding delays of milliseconds to get that perfect match.

Conclusion

As I mentioned earlier, this game will really help you handle a ball better. There is a warning when you load the game up stating to be careful although don’t expect them to pay for something if you break it. Realistically in my opinion, the chance of you breaking something is slim to none unless you literally pound the ball down like you were playing horse or something, it does roll around but not enough to cause serious damage. It bounced off my glass coffee table and did nothing.

Anyhow, this game is great, I don’t even know if I could call it game since it really is a learning tool, but my two gripes about it is to make it more of a game than a learning tool so we can have fun with it as well is some hint of DLC for it, such as new tracks which are always needed for a music type game, new venues, etc. and a multiplayer option. Even if we could just compete online that would be cool, that’s how Harmonix did it with the first Rock Band and it worked great.

My last realization while playing this, I know we all want realistic sports titles already for Kinect but this would take it the extreme. For it being a learning tool, it’s fantastic, but to imagine a game like NBA2K14 for example, to be able to dribble a real ball and what not, it just wouldn’t work especially with shooting so unfortunately we may have to stick with the air gestures for games and leave the real stuff to the learning tools.


This review is based on a retail copy of the Xbox 360 version of NBA Baller Beats
Scoring policy: What do these game review scores actually mean?