NBA ’09: The Inside
Taking the Hardwood Everwhere You Go.
Posted 4 years ago By - Marko Djordjevic
The group that brought the popular ‘MLB: The Show’ series is back again with NBA ’09: The Inside for the PlayStation Portable. Their idea is to give gamers a basketball game that is not only fun but filled with plenty of other options to enjoy. How well they did depends on which aspects of the game you spend your time with.
For The Inside, there are two main focuses that will or will not appeal to gamers. The first is your typical array of sports options. You have your All Star Weekend, Practice and of course Franchise mode. Die-hard basketball fans will spend most of their time playing these modes, especially the Franchise mode as they see their favourite team hopefully reach the NBA Finals.
Those new to the series will want to spend some time in the practice court or in quick play to get used to the game’s mechanics before approaching a season in franchise. In The Inside, every time a player takes a shot, a halo goes around the ball that changes colors to denote the likelihood of the shot connecting for points. A red halo means a miss, a yellowish halo means a decent shot with a 50/50 chance of success while a Green halo, which also comes with a ‘cha-ching’ money sound, is always great shot. The colors change depending on where you shoot from and how long you hold before release, so timing is really important. It’s an interesting mechanic that isn’t done in other games and is great for beginners, but veteran players will want to turn this option off for added realism.
Thanks to a simple control scheme, there aren’t any complicated mechanics you need to learn to be a threat on the court. Passing can be done either by simply pressing the X button or with the L Trigger for direct passing. The shooting mechanics are good but one of the biggest flaws in the game is that if you attempt a pump fake twice in succession you will almost always be called for a travel. Any basketball player will know that your feet are not moving when you attempt a pump fake, so the fact that the game calls you on a travel is really weird. Play-calling is also hit or miss as you will not always have a player properly set-up a pick or post up for the rebound.
The game’s AI is questionable at times. Computer controlled players on your team will make simple mistakes and at the same time, the opposition will be able to do things that will have you scratching your head. The computer will be able to score from awkward shots, in triple coverage or at times not use proper clock management near the end of the game. The frustration you get from this may or may not determine how much time you’ll want to actually spend playing basketball.
While the NBA portion of the game is mixed-bag, the second play option is where The Inside gets it right with Block Party. Block Party is a collection of more than 15 different mini games all of which are extremely different and outside of one or two are all great to play. The mini-games include various Basketball inspired Carnival games, including ‘Hot Shot’ and ‘Skeet ball’ games that we’ve all played when we were younger. There are both Solo and Team games that include versions of Horse, Own the Court, Elimination and Dodgeball. My favourite game in Block Party has to be Pinball. There are seven different Pinball tables to play on, each one of them are extremely fun and offer plenty of play time. The mini games also offer you tokens depending on how well you play which can then be used to unlock bonus content in both the PSP and PS3 versions of the game. If you’re looking to have fun off the court, you will definitely not be disappointed with the mini-games that are available here.
Graphics and Sound
Players look quite similar to their real-life counterparts and even the shadows of the players and the scoreboard against the hardwood are pretty well done. As for player animations, they are some what limited as it seems the developers wanted to keep the motions of the character simple and easy to work with. There were times in a game where players would get stuck between opposing players and begin to spin in circles. Collision detection problems also occurred, where players would go through one another in a very noticeable fashion. Overall, the graphics, while flawed, don’t ruin your experience and credit must be given at what they did manage to do for a portable game.
The sound is good but not spectacular. The commentary team of Kenny Smith and Ian Eagle is actually well done as the two complement each other really well. They do have a pretty good commentary-set but there are some problems that you encounter as you play. They don’t repeat themselves too often, but the biggest problem with quick sports games is that their comments come too late at times. You will steal the ball, make a quick pass which leads to a great basket, but the way in which they deliver their lines is significantly behind the action. This is actually quite a common problem in most basketball games, and something that should have been addressed a long time ago. Crowd sounds are fair but don’t really mimic the atmosphere of a true NBA game. The reactions are pretty bland and I would have loved to heard the fans react more to specific plays, especially in closer games or questionable calls.
While the on-the court game-play won’t win any accolades, the game focus is clearly on the mini-games. Outside of the Quest mini-games that turns the NBA into a game of domination, there wasn’t a mini-game that I didn’t find enjoyable. It is without question the best part of the game and gives it a lot of replay value. You will want to pass these off to a friend to see how well they do and try to out-do each others high-scores.
NBA ’09: The Inside is a decent basketball title with an extremely fun mini-games collection. Block Party alone makes this game a worthy pick up and will satisfy your portable playing this season. There is still a functional, if not a little bit disappointing, regular basketball option, but you can see that SCE did not put enough focus into appealing to gamers who just want to play. I will be eager to see if more effort is placed into turning next year’s edition into a more solid experience top-to-bottom.
+ Pinball is worth the cost of admission alone
+ Easy to learn and simple controls
- Awkward momentum shift
- Won’t appeal to the Hardcore Basketball Fan
- Pump-fake = Travelling (?)
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Release Date : 2008/10/05
System : PSP
Publisher : Sony Computer Entertainment America
Developer : SCEA San Diego
Category : Sports
ESRB : E
7.0 / 10
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