IGN Review of NBA 09 The Inside
For gamers seeking to bring NBA hoops action with them on the go, Sony's NBA 09: The Inside promises to provide hours of entertainment for everybody from the hardcore hoopster to the casual fan.
While the arcade-style on-court action is extremely enjoyable, what really sets this title apart is the inclusion of "Block Party" which offers a glut of NBA-themed mini-games and a pair of fun, even if somewhat silly, "Quest" modes. For example, NBA 09: The Inside offers seven unique pinball tables and five basketball-themed carnival games, each of which is good for hours of entertainment in its own right.
I found the "Away Game" pinball table to be the most enjoyable. As you work the table you'll trigger announcements like "Your flight is now boarding," and awesome sound effects that include a front desk bell, an elevator chime and somebody brushing their teeth.
I also really enjoyed the "Hot Shot!" carnival game, which, as you probably guessed, is a videogame version of the arcade and carnival classic Hot Shot! basketball game that pits you against a moving backboard, testing your range from three different distances as you try to score as many points as possible in the one-minute time limit.
But, enough about the mini-games, as much fun as they are, it's time to get on to the main attraction – the basketball.
Although the five-on-five action offers a pretty limited, basic assortment of controls, it plays very smoothly for the most part and is extremely enjoyable. The arcade-style action is fast-paced and easy to get wrapped up in despite the fact that you have very few dribble moves at your disposal and a thin crop of shot animations.
The pop-up screens with players' mug shots, vital info and statistics that appear after a player sinks a big shot do a nice job of making you feel like you're participating in a real NBA broadcast, although they do cause the action to feel disjointed at times. And, they also draw attention to the fact that there aren't many automatic replays throughout the action, which hurts the immersive experience of the game.
There are also plenty of gameplay issues with NBA 09: The Inside, the most annoying of which is that throwing a double pump-fake at your defender will result in traveling calls more often than not. However, that's not my only complaint: The AI does a poor job of assigning man-to-man defenders, often leaving shooters wide open for dunks and three-point shots, and most of the time, your point guard will run down court before the inbound pass, leaving your shooting guard alone in the back court to bring the ball up.
NBA 09: The Inside looks good – the player renderings are solid, the arenas look good, the menus are well done. But, that being said, it can be very difficult to keep track of who has possession of the ball when it ends up on the far side of the court or when it's flung down into the low post amidst a sea of bodies.
The game's franchise mode is thorough and should provide gamers with enough of on-the-go hoops excitement to keep them feeling engaged and satisfied throughout the entire 2008-2009 season and beyond. And, the availability of online roster updates and online games ensures that the action will never get dated.
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