There's a fine line to walk when you're trying to make a midcore sports game. You need to make the game as accessible as possible but, especially if you're one of the big brand holders, you need to ensure that there's something there for more committed players as well.
The problem that NBA 2K Mobile Basketball has is that, when you stick it on auto, your players are just better than when you're actually controlling them. Sure when you're in automatic mode you can still go for shots and defensive moves, but when your team is throwing out moves you've got no idea how to pull off, you're going to get a little annoyed.
It's a shame, because there are some really nice ideas in NBA 2K Mobile Basketball, and when the game is flowing there's a slickness to it that we don't usually see on mobile. But that off-kilter balance means things aren't ever as good as they should be.
From downtownOne thing the game certainly has going for it is how good it looks. And for the most part the animations slip by smooth like silk. That said, on an iPhone 7 there was a little bit of chug here and there, but it didn't do too much to detract from the experience.
Once you've been shown the basics you're pretty much left on your own to start playing. There are a number of different game modes, from a single player campaign made up of different seasons, to multiplayer matches that see you taking on other players from around the world. There are drills you can run too.
Rather than having a roster of whatever players play for the team you decide to control, here your superstars come in card-form. You'll get a few players to begin with, then you'll need to build up your team by playing, unlocking new stars and upgrading your old ones as you do.
It's going to be a familiar system to anyone who's played the likes of FIFA Mobile before, and NBA 2K Mobile Basketball takes plenty of other leaves from out of that book. Matches here are cut up into different chunks, rather than following the more traditional stylings of the console version of the game.
And that's fine. It's one of the decisions made here to ensure that the game works well on mobile. It's the auto play where things start being a little less fine though. Tap it on and you'll still be able to play, but if you lift your fingers from the screen your team is going to get along alright without you.
In fact, it's going to do better than that. A team on auto will start running plays that you're not going to be able to perform with the limited control options. It isn't just easier to play on auto, your team somehow manages to get better when you choose to do it, and that feels a bit like a slap in the face to anyone still bimbling with the buttons.
Can't buy a bucketThere's enjoyment to be had in NBA 2K Mobile Basketball, but it always feels like it's the game that's having the most fun at your expense. That's going to lead to frustration among any players who are looking for a more meaty basketball experience.
And even casual players are likely to find the auto-mode a little bit too much. Sure, you don't have to turn it on, but when progression through the game's modes is easier when you do, there are times when it's going to be too tempting to resist.
This isn't the full AAA version of the game that some people might have been hoping for, but in trying to open the experience up to as many people as possible, NBA 2K Mobile Basketball only manages to ensure it's going to upset even more.