NBA Live has been around for a while now, but like the Oklahoma City Thunder a new home makes for a totally different ball game.
The series’s App Store arrival comes with easy-going gameplay and straightforward touch controls tailored for accessibility. It’s a solid foundation for what amounts to a young game, though one that lacks the sophistication to be an all-star.
All 30 NBA teams are here and warmed up for play across three modes: Exhibition, Season, and Playoffs. Right off the bat, the game fouls by not including any sort of multiplayer. Online play would have been our wish, though at the very least local wi-fi and peer-to-peer Bluetooth games ought to have been supported.
The omission of multiplayer puts a lot of pressure on Season mode to deliver the goods. Unfortunately, too many features are lacking on the management side of things for it to feel like anything more than a string of Exhibition match ups.
Incorporating elements from the PSP version’s Dynasty mode, such as skill training mini-games and team goal-setting, would bring depth to Season mode off the court. You can thankfully adjust your rosters, editing starters and initiating trades for a baseline level of team management.
You have far more control of things on the court. Players are moved using a context-sensitive analogue stick that appears wherever you press your thumb on the left-half of the screen. A pair of red and blue buttons on the right correspond to offensive shooting and passing, respectively. On defence, these change to steals and swipes via the blue button and jump blocks and rebounds with the red.
Offence plays like a charm as a result of such a simple control scheme. You’re able to easily drive to the net and nail shots, making accurate passes and pump fakes with nuanced presses and flicks of the blue button. Along with tapping, you can flick the blue button to initiate a pump fake and circumvent a defender.
Additionally, you can specify passes by holding down on the button to coordinate a pass in slow motion. Coloured icons above each player relay the probability of executing a solid pass.
A similar option for selecting players is available on defence. It’s the game’s best feature and one that demonstrates the effort taken to make the series more accessible on iPhone and iPod touch.
Shots are layered in a similar way. Basic shots are taken with a tap of the red button, whereas more difficult dunks can be triggered with a hold of the button while underneath the basket. It’s not just about tapping the red button and moving on – timing is essential since lifting your thumb from the screen at the height of your player’s jump improves the likelihood of the shot.
This same level of depth is absent from the defensive game. Jamming on the blue button in hopes of a steal is about all you can do on defence, save for the occasional rebound. You’re able to alter zone cover from the clipboard in the upper-right corner, yet it’s nowhere near the sophistication of offensive play calling.
As a starting point on iPhone and iPod touch, NBA Live delivers a decent decent ball game. The controls are right and offence is a blast. Improving the defensive game, adding multiplayer, and fleshing out the single player modes with more features need to be on the to-do list for next year’s inevitable instalment if it’s to be a real baller.