Failing to create a unique identity, Hoopworld is placed in an awkward middle ground between a full blown arcadey basketball experience and a pick-up-and-play casual audience. But for a budget WiiWare price, Hoopworld isn’t all that bad and should hold gamers over until NBA Jam is released.
Hoopworld has borrowed almost all of its gameplay mechanics from other games. It tries to replicate the NBA Jam arcade-style of play but with the power-ups from Mario Kart (or Mario Basketball in this case). Unlike NBA Jam, this WiiWare title is strictly a 3-on-3 affair. Strangely enough, the game only supports a max of two players (local play only) and each playable team is composed of nothing but typical stereotypes. The game never takes itself seriously but more strategy and gameplay variety would have been generated if each team had strengths and weaknesses; each team is virtually the same sans the cosmetic differences.
Unlike every other basketball game, Hoopworld uses Wii-motion waggle controls for just about everything. Want to shoot to the ball? Then flick both the nunchuk and Wii remote in the air as if shooting a real ball. Want to pass? Then flick your wrist. Want to block a shot? Then bend the Wii remote upward. Thoughtfully, the game manages to explain the control scheme via the menu with simple animations but there is no question that getting used to this control scheme will take time.
But even after time is spent with the unusual control scheme, it will never be as accurate and detailed as it could be. Because every move requires a waggle of some kind, character movement and animations are never completely fluid or responsive. If there was an option to use a classic or GC controller, perhaps the delayed response time could have been avoided, but this unfortunately is not an option. Further, the control scheme actually causes the game to suffer from lack of detail. There are no fakes, jukes, or alley-oops whatsoever let alone out-of-bound penalties, fouls and free throws.
Waggle controls are not only for offense. When playing defense, waggling will attack your opponent with hopes of popping the ball loose. Blocking shots is also a complete mess because of the delayed response time and there is no way to stop a dunk animation once it starts. Also, you can only dunk from the highlighted spot in front of the basket. The options failed to mention this fact as it took me a couple games to realize that you simply cannot dunk from the top or bottom of the basket. Making matters even more awkward, my character missed many open dunks which leads the player to believe that game requires a missed dunk every so often. This randomness is frustrating to say the least. And on occasion, the player will see a horizontally fluctuating meter when putting up a shot. The game never explains what this meter is, how to find its sweet spot, and why it even appears in the first place. Every time this random shot meter appeared, I put up a giant air-ball. Again, frustrating.
Power-ups, although they bring some excitement to the game, are also handled in an awkward way. Item use is mapped to the “A” button instead of using this standard button to shoot, pass, or even change your character. There are times when the opponent AI seems to get the right power-up at just the right time, but for the most part, actually retains a nice balance that doesn’t feel as cheap as it does challenging. And this game will definitely get more challenging when the higher difficulties are selected. It is just too bad that the game lacks any extra options or modes. The player is basically limited to a single exhibition match or tournament play where several matches are played in succession. Sure, some teams and new courts become unlocked when you complete tournaments on higher difficulties but they don’t offer anything new to the player as these are only cosmetic changes.
Hoopworld’s mechanics are not the only thing on the dull side; the animations are choppy although the environments are bright and colorful. It is hard to be too critical of this game because it can easy fall in line with most other Wii and/or WiiWare titles – “it doesn’t look too bad for a Wii game.” Of course you cannot achieve true high res with the Wii hardware but the game definitely would have benefitted from the higher frame rate to help eliminate some the choppy and unresponsive controls and animations. The game’s limited soundtrack will also start to grow stale pretty quick as well.
Although there are many “this could have been better” elements in Hoopworld, it contains short bursts of entertainment once the goofy control scheme is learned. The game’s July 2010 release was absolutely intentional due to the revival of NBA Jam coming soon. But for a $10 WiiWare downloadable title, you can’t be too harsh on it.
Not As Good As: NBA Jam Tournament Edition (SNES)
Also Try: Sega Soccer Slam
Wait For It: NBA Jam (Wii)
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