previews\ Sep 16, 2007 at 8:00 pm

NBA 08 Featuring Block Party - PSP - Preview

Sony’s NBA franchise was among the first sports games to hit the PSP when the system launched a few years ago. Last year’s entry was fairly lackluster, and left a lot of PSP sports gamers disappointed with weak basketball mechanics. However, the game did offer some amusement in the way of some quirky and fun mini-games that worked to the benefit of handheld play. This year’s entry won’t shake up the formula too much, but the PSP version will offer more mini-games than its predecessor to keep your attention. NBA 08 will up the ante with more mini-game features and some much-needed pacing adjustments, hopefully keeping the game fresh for fans of the series.

The on-court play in NBA 08 has been slowed down a bit in order to keep the pace from becoming way too frantic as it was in last year’s game. Additionally, there are a few new things to help out players, like a new rebound assist that will pop up an icon that gives players a guesstimate as to where the ball will land, and icons that will display who your passes will go to.

The biggest factor in the PSP version will be the mini-games. Returning are the pinball mini-game (which will now let you download new tables via wi-fi when the game is released), Hot Shot!, Big Shooter, the All-Star Weekend, and the Conquest mode, albeit with some big changes to the interface and the opportunity to train your players and gain some extra medals.

The Carnival games have been put into a Block Party section, which allows them to be easily found and play if you can only do so in short bursts. While playing through the Block Party section, you’ll find a ton of goofy mini-games that touch on a variety of casual themes. You’ll be able to play the aforementioned Pinball, Hot Shot!, and Big Shooter modes, a new Arkanoid-style game called “Shootin’ Bricks”, and a whack-a-mole inspired game called “Block a Shot”. These games translate well to the portable nature of the game, letting players pick up and play them whenever they have a second without having to invest a serious amount of time to playing a game of basketball.

Graphically, the game could use some work, but it moves along pretty smoothly. The player models look a bit too glossy and mannequin-like and the animations are a little clunky, but the game never falters from its 60 frames per second clip, and the courts look pretty nice.

NBA 08 is looking to capitalize on the casual draw of a portable system with the new Block Party features and a pretty engaging collection of mini-games. Look for the game to release early next month.

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