NBA 2K Playgrounds 2 Review: Thin Bench

If you’re expecting NBA Jam or NBA Street out of NBA 2K Playgrounds 2, you’re going to be vastly disappointed.

While NBA 2K Playground 2 pays homage to both NBA Street and NBA Jam, it doesn’t come close to the depth of NBA Street or the on-court madness that is NBA Jam. Instead, it’s very vanilla and safe take on 2-on-2 arcade style basketball.

The gameplay itself is pretty satisfying. You pick your team of two and play against another team of two, pulling off some insane dunks, crazy passes, and ankle-breaking crossovers all while utilizing crazy (albeit limited) powerups that can help your team or hurt your opponents. Unfortunately, that’s really it. If you’re looking for a game where you have to develop some skill to become better, you’re not going to find it here.

Some of the dunks are incredible to see. While playing with Al Horford, I pulled off a 720 dunk that brought a smile to my face. These dunks are where NBA 2K Playground 2 shines through. It brings back a wave of nostalgia that fans of this genre have been begging for.

The shooting feels pretty good and there is a shot meter to indicate what your chances are of hitting that shot or dunk or layup. It’s as  satisfying to pull off a dunk with only a 55% success rate as it is frustrating to miss an 80% success dunk.

The game offers a nice variety of courts to take to. While none of these courts offer any advantages, they’re a nice change of pace from the courts of the original NBA Playgrounds. Each team also has a home court in season mode and while they’re all the same type of court, the changes in color and electronic banner surrounding the courts are a nice touch.

One of my major annoyances? The “commentary”. No one expects NBA 2K Playgrounds 2 to have a deep, NBA 2K-like commentary but if I have to hear the play by play guy say “Oh the cookies” one more time on a steal, I’m going to lose it. When you have the potential to make 20 steals a game, it gets really old, really quickly. There was a point during my play session where I just muted the TV and listened to music. The menu music is also very bad and is pulled from the first game.

More Modes

NBA 2K Playgrounds 2 has added some modes for both single player and multiplayer which should please anyone who picks up the game. There’s a new season mode where you pick your team and play a fifteen-game schedule and three-game playoff against other NBA teams to win the Larry O’Brien trophy. Winning everything will unlock a legend card for your team. When I won as the Celtics, I unlocked Ray Allen. This little incentive makes you want to play with every team to see who their legend is going to be.

Three point contest returns from the original NBA Playgrounds and is a pretty fun mode to play, though if you didn’t pull any good three point shooters from your packs, you may not enjoy it as much. There are some cool additions like a golden ball that will extend your time five seconds which can make the play a little more frantic and chaotic in a good way.

Say Hello to Microtransactions

The gameplay loop is all about getting enough currency to purchase card packs. If you’ve been paying attention to other 2K published sports games, you know that VC is injected into their games and NBA 2K Playground 2 is no different.

VC is introduced as “Golden Bucks” in this year’s game

When starting the game, you’re introduced to Baller Bucks and Golden Bucks. Baller Bucks are obtained while playing the game and used to buy packs. Packs cost 1,500 for bronze, 3,000 baller bucks for silver, and 5,000 baller bucks for gold. Unlike packs in other games, there is no percentage of what types of players you can get in these packs. Your best bet is to go for the gold packs. It took me about two hours to earn enough baller bucks to open one golden pack.

Gold packs can contain legends making the silver and bronze packs useless

Golden Bucks are VC. While the game may call it something different, the Nintendo eS hop clearly says VC which means that it is VC. If I can be cynical for a moment, my guess is they called it Golden Bucks and not VC because of the major stigma VC has earned through NBA 2K the past few years. VC’s major appeal in this game is to unlock the entire roster for $9.99. Doing this will kill the gameplay loop of opening packs and pulling cards. It is worth noting that every card starts at bronze and has to be leveled up to gold or diamond status, but if you’re going to drop $30 on the game and then another $10 to immediately unlock everyone, why bother?

The other use of VC is to buy swag packs. Swag packs are purely cosmetic and have no change to stats for your player. Epic shirts and common level shoes are no different. They’re all there to outfit your player and to look different when playing online. 1,000 VC will get you a VIP Swag pack while 350 VC will net you a regular swag pack. VIP Swag packs will net your four different vanity items while a regular swag pack will net you three.

To be honest, it’s exhausting to see microtransactions in a game like NBA 2K Playgrounds 2. There isn’t a need for it outside of profit for 2K, but I already wrote about microtransactions not going away in the sports landscape.

The player cards and models themselves are good, for the most part. Ray Allen looks horrid which is a shame because he’s an iconic NBA player. Seeing the correct era jersey on players is a really nice touch as well. Dominique Wilkins wears an 80s era Atlanta Hawks jersey while Steve Smith wears the mid-90s flying bird jersey and Taurean Prince wears the current Hawks uniforms. Seeing these together on the court is a fun little nod to the icons of yesteryear.

Verdict

NBA 2K Playgrounds 2 has clean visuals and some admittedly fun gameplay, but with a long playthrough, I found it boring. There’s little skill needed to succeed as you can just run down the court, pass to your teammate to fill your stamina bar and throw down a huge dunk. Little things like the ball being on fire could fill a huge nostalgia bucket when the announcer yells “He’s on fire!”.

The simplistic nature of the controls is good for anyone looking to turn off their brain for a bit and throw down some dazzling dunks or to play with friends. But if you’re expecting anything other than that, you’ve purchased the wrong game.

  • Gameplay
  • Game Modes
  • Presentation
  • Longevity

Summary

The simplistic nature of the controls is good for anyone looking to turn off their brain for a bit and throw down some dazzling dunks or to play with friends. But if you’re expecting anything other than that, you’ve purchased the wrong game.

Overall
2.5