The backyard gang banks in a winner with Paul Pierce, Dwayne Wade, Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming as kids — an important element of this appealing game series — which finally makes its way to the Nintendo DS. Everyone should be able to find players they like, including four unlockable players. The DS touch interface and full court game play work well here as players young and old get plenty of love for the game. Regular kids are stars too. Accessing the player cards in the extras mode can make player choice easier. Who knew Vicki Kawaguchi plays better than Vince Carter?
The main game is 3-on-3 basketball, played on dinky, kid-sized courts. Once you’re ready to sink that shot, each player can get more accurate shots by following the shot meter at the bottom of the screen. When the bar at bottom is full, then the chances of a sure shot rise. This bar doesn’t always correspond with results, but can provide ideal opportunities most of the time.
The plentiful power-ups and player choices provide some nice unpredictable play. Once you memorize each power-up icon on the scoreboard, you can take great advantage against your opponents. The ideal frequency keeps games tight, as players never really get a chance to rest unless they have a 20-plus point lead.
Players also get in-depth statistics. There’s no ‘over and back’ or goaltending and the environments are colorful and textured enough to hold interest. The apple orchard setting seems to be lifted from the Backyard Baseball 2007 (PS2 version) setting.
Movements include pump fakes, spins, steals and sprints. The touch play takes some finesse. Some orientation/guidance would’ve been nice, but most players can figure out these simple semantics except maybe shooting (use the stylus to touch the shot meter at the bottom of the screen). You can also touch the player with the ball for spins, freeing yourself up for a shot or pass.
The “play now” and “pick up game” modes don’t have many differences except for the team/character selection and jump ball toss in the pick up mode. The season play ranges from five to 29 games. Some role-playing elements or a storyline would work if young gamers knew the stars below the surface. Overall, this title has a nice perfect balance with plenty of options. The “around the world” and “hot shot” mini games provide some basic fun (make sure you’ve practiced the sprint movements), though they’re pretty similar (hot shot has a time limit). The options, including two-player multiplayer, expand game play well enough for a good recommendation.
Backyard Basketball is rated E (Everyone) by the ESRB. This game can also be found on: GBA, GameCube, PS2 and PC.