Streetball Review

The sport of basketball might have started in a Massachusetts gym with a couple of peach baskets and a soccer ball, but its spiritual home is the urban playground, where swaggering athletes talk trash and perform superhuman feats of agility.

From hip-hop to high fashion, everyone wants a piece of street basketball–including Battery Acid Games, who recently put Streetball on the App Store for $1.99. While we’re happy to see the iPhone get more hoops games, this one should stay benched, as you’ll be done with it in minutes.

The USA picks… this guy!

Streetball is a fast-moving game of 2-on-2 hoops, much like the arcade classic NBA Jam. You take your pick from one of six players–two of them are the Baller-in-Chief himself, President Obama, and his First Lady Michelle–get partnered up, and hit the blacktop. You can choose to play to 21 by 1s and 2s, or set up a 5-minute game instead. There’s also a one-on-one H.O.R.S.E. game that involves drawing shapes on the touchscreen to match shots, but it’s not really worth playing at the moment.

A virtual d-pad controls player movement, and there are buttons for shoot/block and pass/steal, depending on whether you’re on offense and defense. When shooting, an accuracy meter pops up as you hold the shot button down; releasing it at the right time improves your jumper’s swishitude.

So, you can chug up and down the court, evading the defense and going up for your shot. The camera scrolls smoothly, and the players animate fairly well, with some nice effects thrown in for steals and dunks.

Unfortunately, be that as it may, Streetball’s gameplay is ultimately like a Dwight Howard free-throw: flat, unbalanced, and about 60% effective.

This is how you play H.O.R.S.E.

The computer players have no idea how to play defense, so you can usually run right around them for a close-in shot, even when the game’s set to hard mode. Your teammate is fairly brainless in the same way; you have little control over what they do.

Playing defense is a mess because the hit detection is off. So is rebounding the ball and blocking shots, due to depth perception issues. And offense is no fun either. The shot meter doesn’t feel natural, there’s no real reason to pass, and you can never tell whether you’re going to dunk a close-in ball or shoot a short jumper instead.

Plus, there’s only one boring dunk, and no other special shots or moves. You can forget about lighting the net on fire from outside–this is Naismith’s plain-jane basketball, not the highly entertaining slamfest you probably came to see. One game is basically identical to the next, no matter which players you choose or how you set it up.

Don’t get us wrong. We’re sympathetic to what Streetball is trying to accomplish, and we think that it could eventually become a good game with a lot of additional work. For now, though, it’s basically 10 minutes of content for $1.99, and that’s not a good deal in our book. Take a full-court pass on this one.

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