Noted sports scholar Charles Barkley recently opined during coverage of NCAA March Madness that basketball is the simplest of sports. Compared to football or baseball, Chuck felt many people made hoops way too complicated. Barkley is probably completely unaware of Miniclip’s Basketball Stars, but the game takes his philosophy to heart by turning the sport into a very simple exercise that still manages to be plenty of fun.
When we say simple, we mean turning basketball into something you can do with just one finger. The first play mode Basketball Stars introduces is called Shooting Race, a timed competition to see who can make more buckets. Shooting requires a swipe of just the right length for your current distance from the hoop, as judged by a meter on the left side of the screen. Swipe too hard and you’ll shoot hard off the backboard, too soft and the shot will fall short.
The wrinkles to Shooting Race come from various additions that make a given shot worth more points: a lucky ball, bonus points for banking in some shots (a little harder than it sounds at times) and an “on fire” streak bonus familiar to anyone who dates back to NBA Jam. What really keeps things hectic, though, is live PvP against another human player, something you wouldn’t expect in a game this basic.
That competition gets even fiercer in the other mode, Attacker-Defender. While the object is still to shoot and make baskets, it’s now a game of one-on-one with a defender in your face. An array of taps and swipes allows you to avoid steals and blocked shots to find room to launch your shot, while perfect timing permits you to play some D when your opponent has the ball. It all adds up to a fairly frantic game of fake-outs and second-guessing, and it’s entertaining even if it only slightly resembles “real” basketball. Weekly competitions award both kinds of in-game currency for your place on the leaderboards too.
Basketball Stars lets you spend cash (the soft currency) and gold (the hard currency, naturally) to upgrade your baller in a number of cosmetic ways with headgear, different hairstyles, clothes, kicks (I think the kids still use that word for sneakers) and more. One important upgrade is to the basketball itself, as balls can be purchased that increase accuracy or the speed with which you can shoot again, both obviously helpful factors in either game mode.
The only slightly off-putting part of the gameplay is that you are required to put up half of the (virtual) cash for every game, almost like you were gambling on a game of one-on-one on the playground — not something Gamezebo endorses in real life, unless your name rhymes with “Heff Flurry.” That makes it possible, maybe even likely you’d run out of cash at some point, though the game mitigates that issue by handing out small amounts of free cash hourly.
So to keep playing, you just need to log into Basketball Stars fairly often. That’s probably not going to be an issue if you start playing it and find yourself having fun, because there’s something that can easily hook you right from the start. The Round Mound of Rebound was right: Basketball doesn’t have to be complicated, and this is one game that proves it.