NBA All-Star 3-Point Shootout
THQ Wireless brings the NBA three-point shootout to your cell phone, and we have to tell you... it's awesome.
I'm a firm believer that it's easier to review a bad game than a good one, and, case in point; I've written and subsequently deleted the first paragraph to this article about eight times. I don't know. Sometimes it's writer's block. Sometimes it's because I'm moody. Other times it's simply because I lack inspiration.
Thankfully, while fearing for my life at 32,000 feet, I experienced a moment of clarity. I was on a flight, about 150 miles away from the take off position when the pilot announced that something was wrong with the aircraft, and that we'd be returning back to the airport. The flight attendants advised those sitting near emergency exits on what to do, and then informed the rest of us how to appropriately brace for impact.
The good news is we made it back okay and I lived to finish this review (obviously). The even better news is I used videogames to calm my nerves, in particular THQ and Lavastorm Engineering's NBA All Star 3-Point Shootout. So for the 35 odd minutes that I waited for the airline to prep another plane, one that actually worked, I spent that time draining three pointers.
Using videogames as a form of therapy is a new concept. I recently came across an article about a doctor that gives children Game Boy systems while he preps them for surgery, and the games that are used aren't complex pieces of technology or graphically intense. No one's playing Final Fantasy before waiting to be cut open. It's in fact the most simplistic of games that are truly the best medicine, 3-Point Shootout being the one I prescribe to. It's a marriage of two of my greatest loves: basketball and videogames.
I know that was a long intro, but it was in my opinion certainly apropos, because there's a reason why I went for THQ's b-ball game over the PSP in my bag. I'm a firm believer that the greatest videogames are the ones that involve only a button or two, and none of that complex nonsense we have to endure on a console or PC. Three-Point Shootout is one of these, but it's more than just some cell phone game. Beyond the fact that it's an extraordinarily great one, it's also a benchmark by which I will judge future sports games on the platform. It's not just a fantastic game in its genre. Rather, it defines it.
The concept is deceptively simple. Much like the thrilling NBA competition that takes place during All Star Weekend every year, the goal is to make more three point shots than the other players. There are five racks and 25 balls, and you have to move around the court firing away, but it's not an easy game. Each of its 60 NBA players (40 current superstars and 20 legends) are limited in skill by their career numbers, so trying to attain a perfect score with Shaq versus Larry Bird is a totally different experience, but not just because both of these phenomenal athletes are tethered to a wall by their numbers.
That's part of it, but as I played I realized that they both feel different. Now that could be purely psychological. I don't think any basketball fan would confuse Shaq's three point shooting skills with Bird's. But as I explored the game with other players it became apparent that do they in fact shoot differently, and maybe this is a mental thing, but even if it is, it only serves to make the game even more spectacular.
Shootout's gameplay is clearly its best feature. It provides you with the freedom to choose while at the same time keeping you within certain boundaries. For example, if you don't have time for advanced thinking you can just hop into a quick game where the computer will select two participants and you can decide whether you want to play against the AI or control both players (which I recommend). I prefer to go the distance and engage in a full eight man tournament. I hand pick all of the players as well as control them, and then it's just a matter of tuning out the background noise, and trust me when I say that it's not easy.
Just like actual shooting, this game requires a certain level of concentration. You'll make a fair amount of shots with your eyes closed or while talking to a friend of yours, but you won't win tournaments, especially since some of the match ups can get pretty nasty. In my several hours of play I've tied in the final round at least nine times, and at that point, after an entire tournament, and even though I'm playing by myself things become personal. I wind up attaching myself to one of the players, and all I can think about is outscoring the chump I'm competing against (who is in fact, myself), and if I lose I get pretty pissed. That's why this game's so amazing, because I'm doing something I previously thought to be impossible. I'm experiencing a full range of emotions from playing a cell phone game that only uses two buttons. That's it. I press OK to pick a ball from the rack and then OK again to fire it. Simple, yet rhythmically complex. You don't need a college degree to understand it, but you will need to understand the concept of a jump shot.
Much like a good friend, I would've loved 3-Point Shootout even if it were the ugliest game in the world, so the fact that it's gorgeous only enhances its inner beauty. It is without question one of the finest looking cell phone games that I have ever seen, so graphically intense that it's borderline Game Boy Advance quality. Lavastorm's managed to cram some firsts into it including a shot clock, numbers on the back of jerseys, and enough character models that many of the game's players sort of look like their real-life counterparts, even if that only means from the back.
But then there are the multicolored stars that rotate around the court when you drill a money ball, the electronic billboards that are set ablaze when you're on fire, and the unbelievably good ball physics. Oh, and the guy who screams out catch phrases isn't too bad either. Hearing "Air ball" and "On fire" as I drain threes or clang bricks off back iron adds to the game's charm.
I'm really not sure where the plane is now. The captain doesn't tell us and I don't want to know. I'm just going to relax and put the events of a few hours ago behind me, because in truth I have nothing more to worry about. There's that phrase that goes, "the calm before the storm" but in my case it was the other way around. Perhaps if we all carried games in our back packs like NBA All Star 3-Point Shootout, the rest of the world wouldn't be so stressed out.
What's Hot: The NBA Three Point Shootout competition has somehow been crammed onto a mobile phone.
What's Not: Not as much fun as actually playing basketball.