You have to hand it to Majesco, it takes balls to come up with a rhythm game that incorporates a real basketball. Think Rock Band/Dance Central meets NBA and you'll have a pretty good understanding of how NBA Baller Beats actually works. Did Majesco reinvent the rhythm genre, or should it have stuck to plastic instruments?
Baller Beats is actually a pretty interesting concept, and one that actually tries to tie in the NBA license quite a bit. Not only will you choose your favorite team right from the get go, you eventually unlock various basketball cards filled with NBA knowledge. Obviously though, the big draw here is how the game is played.
Once you choose a song and difficulty level, you'll be dribbling the ball to the beat, all while performing various gestures such as a crossover, and a pump fake. The gestures get increasingly hard as you go up in difficulty level and will truly challenge even seasoned basketball players. The aim of the game however is to consistently keep dribbling the ball, while keeping an eye on your TV screen to see if the beat changes up anywhere, or what gestures are coming up.
It's actually pretty complicated, even on the easiest difficulty level, especially if you're not used to dribbling a ball. If I ever previously had to dribble a basketball, I always had to look at it to make sure it doesn't bounce away. Baller Beats however doesn't allow me to do that, which means the ball would end up going in various directions, until I could recover. However after a good amount of time spent on playing through the included songs, I found that my ball control was far better than when I started. I was able to consistently dribble the ball in place, even without looking at it. If there's one thing for sure, Baller Beats will undoubtedly help you with ball control.
The included soundtrack is not too shabby either. It's not as big as I would have hoped, but it does offer a good mix of music that makes bouncing that basketball just feel great. From Queen, to Skrillex, you're bound to find a lot to like here.
You'll also be keeping the beat in various venues, that actually do a good job of pumping you up. Each venue, be it the basketball court, beach, or amusement park just to name a few, starts off being very dimly lighted, but as you keep the beat, the background will bounce to the beat with you, and progressively get livelier as you progress through the song.
Going into Baller Beats, I was initially wary of Kinect recognition. My last few Kinect experiences weren't the best, especially after the disaster that was Steel Battalion. To my surprise, Baller Beats detected everything absolutely perfect. From every single bounce to every gesture I had to perform, the Kinect picked it up flawlessly, so I have to give a big Kudos to Majesco for that.
While there is no traditional multiplayer mode, there is a Versus mode where up to eight people can play a single song, but switching out at certain segments, much like the first Dance Central handled multiplayer.
The biggest problem with Baller Beats however is the basketball itself. If you thought a Wii Remote was dangerous to your big screen TV, just think about a basketball running amok in your living room. This actually happened many times during our review process. The ball would fly across the room, thanks to it slipping out of my hands during a pump fake, or even during a bad dribble. This can spell disaster to anyone with a cluttered living room.
Another problem is playing Baller Beats in an apartment. I don't have to tell you that bouncing a ball to a steady beat can be overly annoying to someone not playing the game, especially if you live on the second floor or higher. The beauty of Rock Band is that you can lower the volume, and you can still jam out on your plastic instruments and not make a lot of noise. This just isn't an option with Baller Beats, as the sound of a bouncing basketball will resonate through your entire house/apartment.
While the game is nothing short of innovative, and the Kinect functionality works great, it just seems to be built for gyms, or high schools. I can't honestly think of a household that would allow a basketball to be dribbled in front of a TV screen, surround sound, flower vases, coffee table, pets, expensive china, or pretty much anything that can be broken or hurt in your living room.