App Reviewed on: iPhone 4, iPad 2
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Basketball games have had a fairly checkered history on the iOS. With the notable exception of the stellar NBA Jam, very few games have managed to live up to the expectations of the gaming masses. 2K Sports look to put these issues in the past with their newest portable hardwood companion, NBA 2K12. Luckily for them, when the bar is low enough to trip over, a game should have no problem standing tall - right?
When there is no competition from other publishers, it is hard for a developer to find the motivation to go above and beyond when it comes to game design. NBA 2K12 is the personification of this statement to the nth degree. The gameplay is just what you would expect from a basketball game on iOS. Utilizing a virtual joypad and on-screen buttons, the game runs fluidly, albeit with lag when the action gets hot and heavy. As the intensity picks up, these performance hitches continue to express themselves, further hampering the experience. Does it work as a functional basketball simulation? Yes, but it lacks the smooth performance that the sport emphasizes.
Visually, the game also isn't going to turn any heads. While it does work as a reasonable facsimile for the sport, it lacks the detail to be able to distinguish players from a distance. Further compounding matters, the framerate dips into the single digits in order to animate dunks, signature dribbles, or fancy moves with any sense of grace. It is almost as if the game were built to utilize hardware that doesn't exist in the iPhone 4, or even the iPad 2, which I used to check my first impressions - the same issues are prevalent, even on the newer, faster device.
Even more disturbing is the frequent visual glitches that plague the game. It is not out of the question to come out of a time-out only to find the audience completely missing, players lacking faces, or even having the entire basketball court completely missing. The title reeks of being rushed to market without the proper opportunity to completely Q/A the end product.
If looked at from a distance NBA 2K12 seems like a competent vehicle for playing basketball on the go. Sadly, upon closer inspection, the luster of an incomplete development cycle and poor overall execution of the sport's fundamental gameplay make it nearly impossible to recommend.