Athletes versus aliens

You would think that the life of an NBA player is stressful enough trying to figure out how to dethrone LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and the Miami Heat. But no, we’re asking them to fend off alien invasions too. If you think I’m just babbling incoherently, you need to check out NBA Rush, a competent but unspectacular endless runner made notable mostly by the unusual premise I just laid out.

Granted, RenRen Games could have made this just another sports-themed runner, so the devs get props for coming up with something different. Yet it’s never really explained why NBA stars would be the proper people to help fight off the aliens, except, I guess, that they look more like super heroes than mere athletes thanks to the game’s angular, stylized art.

No matter. The game gets you right into the action with controls very familiar to anyone who’s ever played anything in this genre: swipe to either side to switch lanes, swipe up to jump, and swipe down to slide under certain obstacles. Notice how your player keeps his dribble going at all times? You wouldn’t want to be called for traveling or double dribbling, even under these dire circumstances.

Along the way, you’ll be looking to pick up coins, but also to defeat the aliens whenever possible. The ones on the ground can be defeated by jumping on them, which also gives you a boost to get on top of otherwise unreachable places. Flying aliens are a little trickier, as you have to wait until you find a “DUNK” icon to be able to smash their flying saucers with some seriously aggressive jams.

NBA Rush

Every defeated alien helps fill a meter on the left side of the screen, and when it’s complete, you can double-tap to tag in the next member of your three-man squad. All players have specific traits that come in handy – some earn bonus coins, others turn up power-ups more often, etc. – and can be leveled up with diamonds, the game’s premium currency (and a girl’s best friend, or so I’m told).

New players can be drafted by earning enough coins to spin a basketball-shaped wheel which mostly gives you bronze level players but at least gives you a chance at King James and other real superstars. Coins can also be spent to enhance the duration or effectiveness of power-ups, and diamonds can be used to simply buy specific players you may want to add to your team.

NBA Rush

The other things worth mentioning are the over-the-top icons that keep things from getting too monotonous. A flaming basketball enters you into “Game On” mode, where you’ll be able to pull off multiple dunks in succession like something out of an NBA Jam fever dream and send several aliens back to whence they came. There’s also a rocket which propels you into space where your player simply weaves among the aliens’ capital ships and racks up coins until a timer runs out. Needless to say, these are the two power-ups you want to boost as soon as possible.

It’s all pretty silly if you stop to think about it, but that’s not to say NBA Rush is without its appeal. My five and seven-year old kids saw it and immediately asked for it to be downloaded onto their iPad 2, which is probably being pushed to its visual limits. There’s a lot worse stuff on the App Store than this, and even though it’s not really pushing endless runners forward or anything, it’s not a bad way to kill some idle time – and maybe the only way to pit athletes versus aliens, for what it’s worth.