What is it about the NBA that makes it so conducive to fantastical premises in entertainment media? It's not like the NFL has their answer to the cult classic Space Jam. Nor has anyone in Major League Baseball attempted to emulate the absurdity of Shaq-Fu. The latest such effort is the iOS game NBA Rush, with its unassuming title that one could mistake as a modest collection of on-court practice drills with lots of sprinting. In actuality, NBA Rush does have running, but the game is more, much more than that: we're talking about an alien invasion.
When I heard that NBA Rush was an endless runner game, a part of me hoped it was a perpetual side-scroller like Konami's one-button Tomena Sanner. Instead, i joins the glut of 3D model running games that Temple Run helped spawn. The best of those games feature high production values, and NBA Rush does well in rendering pro players with reasonably exaggerated cartoony animations all against the backdrop of a fast-moving city. It very much retains the simplistic appeal of the running genre, but NBA Rush also feels like way more than just a Temple Run re-skin. Dribble movements like crossovers and spins go a long way in making this appealing to basketball fans, too.
NBA Rush delivers what one would expect from the gameplay of any decent endless runner. It's a non-stop stream of coins and collectables, and all the while you're tasked with avoiding all sorts of obstacles. In the urban jungles of NBA Rush, you'll have to avoid busses, walls, and robots. That said, it feels like a lost opportunity that there's very limited interactivity with the UFOs. You also have to stay mindful of all the incoming power-ups, such as the always helpful shield, a convenient coin magnet, and a game-changing high jump. The most gratifying power-up is a dunk, which sends your player into the air to obliterate a spaceship. Making the most of these temporary upgrades as well as optimizing the score multipliers will determine the difference between a great run and record-breaking one.
If you do fall short of success, it would be a stretch to blame the controls because NBA Rush handles great. Some of the most demanding movements require double taps, and those inputs respond very well. The only notable issue concerns the robots. They're spaced out in a way that hitting one often means missing the next one, thereby losing out on points. It's annoying trying to time those jump attacks, especially when you want to maximize your score.
At first glance, it seem curiously excessive that a game based on such a simplistic genre would have 90 real-life NBA players to choose from. But then I remembered that NBA Rush is on a platform that thrives on in-app purchases. Not to exclude even the most die hard fans of the lowly New Orleans Pelicans, all 30 NBA teams are represented. You start with three players and the coins you earn or buy can be spent on other pros. And getting your favorite player would be exciting if not for the amusingly lackluster attempts at making these athletes look like their real life counterparts (though you might recognize some signature dunks like the Derrick Rose windmill).
If there's any reason to get excited, it's that each player has his own strengths, like LeBron's talent for scoring more points or Kobe's ability to collect a greater percentage of coins. Even if the game didn't compel me to unlock every player, I was disappointed with the time it takes to earn enough coins to draft as few as a dozen pros. It takes about 15 runs to earn the 3000 coins to draft someone, so completionists should be expected to play at least 1200 times.
This kind of repetition might be appealing in other endless running games, but NBA Rush does reveal itself to be tiresome after far fewer plays. While the art direction is vibrant and rich in effects, the environments rotate through a limited series of backgrounds from the streets to a park to a tunnel, and ultimately, outer space. It also doesn't help that there aren't any leaderboards or achievements to incentivize you further. While fun, functional, and quirky, there's nothing especially remarkable about NBA Rush if you've already had your fill of endless running games. If you are an NBA fanatic or haven't played Temple Run in a while, NBA Rush is worth checking out, if only because the game is free.
- NBA Rush
- Developer: Other Ocean
- Publisher: Renren Games
- Platform: iOS
- Price: Free
- In-app Purchases? Yes