NBA Ball Stars feels like one of those games that shouldn’t work – basketball is a fast-paced, showy experience after all, how can that possibly work with a match-stuff mechanic underlying the action? Well, it just sort of does, and it’s an awful lot of fun.
The game sees you building up a roster of NBA superstars, then taking them out in quick matches against a variety of AI and player controlled teams. The game breaks down into a series of quick-fire matching, with some extra special moves thrown in for good measure.
You get four chances to match in every little chunk. You’re trying to get your own shot percentage as high as you possibly can, or if you’re defending, you’re trying to get you opponent’s percentage down as low as you can. You get various bonuses for being in the right position as well that increase the efficacy of your matches.
This keeps up the speed of the game, and means that all of your matches feel like they’re super important. Bigger matches unlock special tiles that can clear massive parts of the board in one fell swoop.
Then there are the special moves that charge up when you’ve cleared a certain number of gems from the board. There’s a twist here too, because the matches you make can also power up your opponent’s special moves. It adds another layer of strategy to your matching.
At the same time, you’re building up your team, upgrading your players, equipping them with new gear and unlocking new formations. Those formations are important – there’s a rock-paper-scissors style system here that means some formations are stronger against others.
All in all it makes for an experience that you’re going to quickly lose yourself in. It thrums with the sort of excitement that few other match-stuff puzzlers can match, there’s always a game waiting for you, and the compulsion to build your team is pretty darn pressing.