NBA 2K Playgrounds 2 does a solid job of making 2v2 arcade basketball fun for the long haul. Expanding on its predecessor, the sequel, now under the NBA 2K umbrella, includes two new major modes that enhance both the solo and multiplayer experiences.
While the core gameplay feels very similar to NBA Playgrounds, that’s mostly a good thing.
Playgrounds 2 still lacks the depth of the defunct NBA Street series and the pure chaos of NBA Jam, but it has found its footing as a nique take on arcade basketball in its own right. For solo players, Playgrounds 2 features a season mode. This isn’t a full-fledged 82-game tilt. Instead, each season consists of 14 regular-season contests and a best-of-three playoff format for the top 18 from each onference.
The truncated schedule works here. You can finish an entire season in under a couple hours, which is refreshing chance of pace from the long slog of sports sims season modes. It also gives you the option to play the season cooperatively with a friend online. The season mode directly ties into the card-collecting progression system, which makes its return from the original. Winning the championship with each team unlocks a legend.For instance, hoisting the trophy with the Lakers gives you access to Magic Johnson,or prevailing with the Cavs gives you Mark Price.
Legends often have unique animations to add flair to an already stylish experience. Season mode also presents a good and fun way
to level up cards that increase player stats. Like the original, you have to open card packs to acquire new players. This means that many teams will be inaccessible simply due to the fact you won’t have any of their players. Thankfully, you earn enough in-game currency
to buy new packs at a fairly fast clip. It also helps that opening duplicate cards doesn’t seem to happen nearly as often in Playgrounds 2.
After opening about 20 packs, I’ve only come across two duplicates. You can spend real money to unlock all the cards upfront, but unlike the original, it doesn’t feel necessary. Depending on how active the player base is post-launch, the beefed-up online mode could give Playgrounds 2 some competitive legs.
Dubbed Playgrounds Championship, it’s ranked play, complete with multiple modes, leaderships, and advanced stats.You can play competitive matches with CPU or online teammates, or squad up and take on the CPU in cooperative contests. It’s a more expansive online mode than the original and the ranking system could keep you online longer. You can also play the three-point contest in Playgrounds Championship. This still feels like a throwaway mode but it does at least help you work on shot timing. On the court, Playgrounds 2 cleans up the arcade gameplay a tad, but it plays incredibly similar to the original. It’s still a challenge to make three-pointers on a consistent basis with low-level players, even for those known for their sharpshooting. If you land outside of the green on the shooting meter, it’s an automatic miss. Though this is somewhat unforgiving for an arcade basketball game, it’s also what makes Playgrounds 2 unique. Yes, it’s easy to grab a controller and score some buckets, but if you want to win on a consistent basis,
you have to have skills.
Crossover moves are elaborate and over the top and sometimes vary based on player. Dunk and lay-up animations, the stars of the original, are still ridiculously cool. Once the power-up meter fills, you’ll receive a temporary boost. The boosts include multipliers for dunks
and three-point shots, unlimited sprint, and super strength. You can even inflict a curse on them that hurts their shooting percentage,
or a sheet of ice that covers the basket so they can’t score.
There’s also a change to the lightning power-up. This time, in a nod to NBA Jam, the ball catches on fire,and yes, you will automatically make a full-court shot with the fireball.
NBA 2K Playgrounds 2 adds depth to both the solo and multiplayer modes. Season mode improves the card-collecting loot and Playgrounds Championship introduces ranked play for competitive users. The 2v2 basketball gameplay perhaps feels a bit too familiar, but it’s modestly refined in welcome ways. Pick-up-and-play arcade basketball even in a Jam- and Street-free world is alive and well.
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