Those who have read any of my reviews before know that I’m a huge basketball fan and I'll play any and every basketball game I can get my hands on. That said, I’ve played a few text based basketball games in my day. I’ve been pretty unhappy with most of the professional text-based games that I’ve played. Either the game was under-developed, bug-filled or had a clunky interface. Last year, .400 Software released “Total Pro Basketball” and it was a good first attempt, even though the game had some bugs. This year, “Total Pro Basketball 2005” is back under a new developer, Grey Dog Software and with a few improvements. Let's take a look.
GRAPHICS & AUDIO
Since this is a text-based game, there isn’t really much to the graphics and sound of this game. However, the court view on the in-game scene and the interface graphics are nicely done. The game also features in-game sounds that correspond with what’s happening on court. This does add to the realism and all-around atmosphere.
One of this year's biggest additions is the new in-game court interface. In most text-based games you only have the text available to describe the action. In some of the better ones, you might have a picture of the court showing where shots are taken from. In “Total Pro Basketball 2005”, you're able to see the players on the court, who has the ball, watch players move on the court and who makes or misses a shot. Don’t get me wrong; this isn’t the same as watching a game of EA’s “NBA Live 2005”. All you'll see on the court are jerseys with the player’s numbers, a ball and an animation showing if the shot was made. It doesn’t seem like much, and it's not - but it’s a step toward adding full graphics to a text-based game.
The ability to work the referees in order to get foul calls for your team is a welcome addition. Be careful, because working the referees can also lead to more fouls against your team if you annoy them. The game is fully customizable and it’s easy to find fan-made add-ons like real rosters, courts, player portraits and team logos.
I had a big issue with the schedule logic last year. There were months where my team would not have a game scheduled for a week and a half, or my team would have to play three games on three consecutive nights. This would never occur in an NBA schedule and hurt the realism of the game. This year, the schedule logic has been greatly improved. While there still seem to be too many back-to-back games scheduled, the schedule bugs themselves seem to have been fixed.
Grey Dog has also fixed the way the CPU handled players in foul trouble. One thing that greatly frustrated me last year was that the CPU never substituted players out who got into foul trouble. In one game I played last year, Stephon Marbury fouled out in the second quarter because the CPU refused to sub him out. Thankfully, this problem has been fixed and the CPU makes the same decisions that NBA coaches make.
Here are some of the small things that I love about this game: The off-season interface is organized and well designed. It’s streamlined, easy to navigate and aesthetically pleasing. The off-season is also a basketball junkie’s dream. The game provides full stats on every available draftee from high school, college or overseas. You are also provided with fifteen invites to give out to potential draftees in order to scout them and your scouts provide you with enough information to make your draft pick. The draft is run exactly how the NBA does with the same time limits on picks and with an analyst giving his opinion on the pick. This is the first text-based game and the first basketball game since “NBA Shootout 2003” to integrate summer league games into a franchise mode. While you can’t play the games, the games do have an effect (sometimes positive, sometimes negative) on your young players. Summer league ball is a place where many teams find key players and I love that this small addition is in “Total Pro Basketball 2005”. I’m a little unsure whether I like or dislike the free agent process in the game. It’s very easy to find potential free agents and to see how much the players signed for - however, the interface is a little confusing when making an offer to a player. I would also like to see a little feedback from the player or his agent when making an offer because you have no idea whether you need to increase your offer in order to get a player.
There does appear to be a problem with the draft logic. In one of my drafts, Charlotte used the number 1 pick to draft a player that my scouts graded low and who wasn’t picked until the 21st pick in the mock draft. Now this may have been a one-time occurrence, but situations like this never happen in the NBA and should never show up in a game based on the league.
“Total Pro Basketball 2005” is another good step in the quest to create a complete text-based basketball game. The game does a great job of fixing the bugs from last year’s game and making many additions. Let's hope Grey Dog Software keeps up the good work and continues to improve the game like they did this year.