The NBA has put a full-court press on the PSP this year, with no less than three full releases for the 2009-10 season. In case you’re scoring at home, that’s one more than any other console, as NBA 10 The Inside shows up only on Sony’s handheld. While that sounded to us like quite a curious choice, it didn’t take long to guess the reason. Instead of investing scads of resources in an inevitable third-place PS3 release, Sony went full-bore for their newly re-launched portable platform. The result? The most complete sports package the PSP has ever seen.
Before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s be clear that the basketball isn’t amazingly awesome. Yes, the on-court experience is an enjoyable, smooth and wide-open experience, but still feels a tad uneven. Players get clogged in the post more than we would like, and the ball doesn’t always bounce off the rim in realistic ways – problems we’ve had with the series for years now. However, these issues are less pronounced than ever, and it wasn’t long before we barely noticed them.
The reason NBA 10 is such a gem is that it runs the gamut of everything an on-the-go sports junkie/gamer could want. Got 5 minutes? Choose from a bevy of (mostly) fun minigames, including nifty pinball tables, NBA-flavored Arkanoid and Bejeweled knockoffs, whack-a-mole, and dozens (yes, dozens) more shockingly entertaining options. Want something meatier? Pick from a series of varying turn-based strategy-action games that have you playing hoops-heavy Risk variants, complete with resource management and base building. How about straight up NBA options? No sweat. Throw down in exhibition games, crank up a multi-year franchise, head straight to the playoffs, or spend the weekend at the All-Star Game festivities.
The best part of The Inside is its willingness to shake up the basketball formula every which way but loose. Variants on traditional hoops abound, offering up recipes we never would’ve thought of. The new Give & Go mode awards point multipliers for every extra pass thrown that leads to a bucket; Fastbreak pits you in a series of favorable and unfavorable odd-man matchups; Elimination charges you with whittling your team from five men to one through a combination of scoring and powerups. There are plenty of others, too, many available as both one-offs or as part of a larger ladder or quest chain. Impressive, deep, and undeniably great.
Therein lies NBA 10’s beauty. It packs so much good stuff into such a small package that we easily overlook its few faults in favor of its multitudes of success. While it may not be the best pure basketball game you’ll ever play, it’s definitely tons of fun on many different levels. It’s also our favorite PSP hoops game of the season, which, considering how good they all are, is really saying something.
Oct 13, 2009