Hoops fanatics everywhere have been feeling a bit salty these days. The beautiful game of basketball was being hijacked by a financial conflict between millionaires and billionaires. We found it hard to empathize with either group, but we are happy they ultimately found compromise to deliver us NBA action on Christmas Day. One silver lining about the labor lockout is that NBA licensed sports titles have arrived on schedule. We were curious to review an augmented spin on basketball action with NBA: King of the Court.
Ogmento is a relatively new developer to the iOS universe. Their focus is on bringing location based services and “augmented reality” (AR) to mobile gaming. AR is a technology that imposes virtual graphics on your real world environments using your device’s camera and screen. Most worthwhile AR showpieces are done on computers with webcams or promotional displays, but the technology is being extended to mobile phones and dedicated gaming handhelds in exciting ways.
NBA: King of the Court is the first licensed NBA game to use AR. Instead of doing a 5-on-5 kind of experience you would typically see, this game is the virtual equivalent of shooting basketball with timers at your local Chuck-E-Cheese. Using your iOS device’s rear camera, you rotate and turn the device until you see a basketball hoop. Upon double-tapping the hoop, the action begins. Mechanically, shooting the ball is timing-based. There’s a sweet spot you need to land the ball in to make shots. Depending on your score at the end of the timer, you can stake claim to the court or register your best effort. Initially, the timing will seem a bit off, but NBA: King of the Court does that on purpose based on the systems in the game.
Let’s go shoot some hoops.
The premise of the game is to own as many virtual courts as possible. Using location services, new courts will appear anytime you are in a new geographical location. Depending on proximity to the virtual courts, you will shoot easy free throws where it’s virtually impossible to miss or shoot long range 3s that are tricky to connect on. Using the game’s coin currency, you can purchase power-ups to make shooting shots easier or add defensive gimmicks to any opponents looking to steal your courts. You can either earn currency through playing or you can opt to purchase coins using real money, not unlike Hanging with Friends. We love that the social media angle is accounted for with Facebook integration.
While the core gameplay experience is fun, the user interface strikes us as a bit rough. There is a ton of content and unlockables in the game, but the current scheme makes it easy to get lost at times. While fast load times are great, you’ll run into several instances where you’re trying to read a tip on gameplay only to have it disappear in milliseconds. Another consequence with most free-to-play games is the reality of no distinction between people that grind out all of their progress vs. people paying for coins to expedite upgrades. In other words, this game’s revenue model will ensure that competition is skewed.
NBA: King of the Court will only flourish as its community grows, but we like the groundwork laid here. This is a free-to-play game with the usual staples of banner ads and frequent invitations to purchase perks. But with AR becoming a legitimate technology for practical and entertainment-based engagements, Ogmento is definitely onto something here. While we wait for the real NBA to resume, there’s no reason not to check out this original game.