The first publishing project from Netmarble’s Los Angeles based subsidiaries Netmarble US and Kung Fu Factory, NBA Ball Stars is an all-new (free to play) puzzle-based mobile basketball game that will soon be available to iOS and Android users. I have had a chance to toy around with this free-to-play NBA mobile game, so I thought I would give some early thoughts before the launch.
NBA Ball Stars Preview
First, here is the pitch from the developers:
Combining star NBA players, fast-paced action, amazing skills with strategic team-based, collectible, and gem-bursting puzzle gameplay on mobile devices. Players will take charge of their favorite NBA team, collect and create customized lineups from the NBA’s ongoing roster of athletes, and train their favorite players as they make a run for the championship.
By successfully bursting series of matching gems, players control their team on offense and defense and can quickly power-up their athletes to execute special shots, steals, and slam dunks. NBA Ball Stars is perfect for NBA fans and gamers of all levels, offering quick play sessions and matchups while featuring a broad assortment of NBA players available in gameplay.
With that in mind, let’s get to the preview.
Candy Crush, Pro Basketball Manager, and FIFA Ultimate Team all come to mind with this sleek and intuitive mobile game. NBA Ball Stars takes a page from each game and combines them into an addictive mobile game that’s simple enough to pick up quickly yet deep enough to keep you locked in if you’re a fan of the sport. At its core, NBA Ball Stars gameplay is similar to Candy Crush, the wildly popular mobile game from 2012 that focuses on matching up gems. Whether you’re on offense or defense, matching up two or more gems builds up your percentages to either score or force a turnover/miss on defense.
From the start, NBA Ball Stars takes the approach from FIFA Ultimate Team where you can build a squad of real players, leveling them up through game progress, objectives (both daily and in-game), and various other objectives explained concisely through a nice tutorial. There’s even “Player Packs” that unlock random NBA stars that you can add to your roster. Dig a little deeper and you’ll recognize some elements from Pro Basketball Manager as you try to get the best out of your team with different playbooks and a full 82 game season to grind through.
Once you’re on the court, the game starts in the fourth quarter with the score determined by which team has the higher overall. Once you’re thrust into the action, a series of four “turns” where you match up gems determines the percentage for a chance to either score on offense or force a turnover/missed shot on defense. Knowing your player’s strengths and paying attention to the on-screen prompts will help your success rate as you activate player skills that perform dunks, step-backs, and various other moves.
With three different modes to play through, NBA Ball Stars has a little something for everyone. Each mode offers a new experience with varying rewards.
After choosing your favorite team, you’re able to play through a full NBA season, all the while earning money (Player Funds), Player Shards, in-game equipment (you can equip your players with various accessories), and more. Before each game, you’re able to choose your lineup (five-on-five with no subs) and strategy (big man offense, five out, etc.) to try and get the win.
Showdown is essentially what the NBA would be like if you played a series of back-to-back games. Just like season mode, you still use your preferred starting five and match up against the AI with Player Funds, equipment, and Player Shards as your reward.
Showdown mode does require a “Showdowns Ticket” to participate, which players can earn in-game through daily missions or by purchasing through the in-game shop.
Straight up head-to-head versus other players, versus mode lets you rank-up and earn prizes at the end of each season. Each match does require 1 “Versus Ticket” that can either be purchased through the store or earned over time playing other modes.
While the core elements are firmly entrenched, NetMarble US and Kung Fu Studios are dedicated to post-release support with a new “Clubs” mode (think FIFA Pro Clubs) coming soon, as well as a Arena Builder that will allow you build and customize your own arena (as of right now they are generic NBA courts with the home team’s logo pasted on various sections of the court). New Weekly Challenges, a “hard” mode, new animations, and updated NBA rosters are also coming soon as NBA Ball Stars both looks and feels like a solid option for fans of puzzle-based sports games.
NBA Ball Stars will launch in 2021 for free (with in-app purchases) on the App Store and Google Play. For more information, please visit the official website (https://nbaballstars.netmarble.com/), and follow NBA Ball Stars on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.