Written by  :  Mr. Eight-Three-One (1638)
Written on  :  Jan 15, 2014
Platform  :  Windows
Rating  :  3.4 Stars3.4 Stars3.4 Stars3.4 Stars3.4 Stars
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It should have been great, but it isn't

The Good

Now with the entry for this game fixed, I can continue my Backyard Sports series of reviews. Unfortunately, I was really not looking forward to reviewing this one. Not because it's bad, but it does so many things right and so many things wrong at the exact same time.

The typical formula continues onward. You can play a single game or an entire season, pick your court, and construct your five-player team. The game itself is very fast paced, probably the fastest of all the Backyard Sports, which would make this very enjoyable if you like that kind of gameplay. The AI poses more of a threat in this game than it did in the previous games, so you actually do have a legitimate challenge if you play on Hard.

The controls are still the simplistic kind that kids would understand. You click to do everything; to shoot baskets, pass the ball, run, jump, it's all there. One nice feature for me is that you can change it to two-button control. Normally I don't enable this mode, but the reason I do it for this game is that, if it's on, you only need to right click to shoot a basket as opposed to hovering the mouse over the basket and then clicking. As usual, you can also use a controller or a keyboard and play with two players.

Since the game lacks the NBA license, there are no NBA teams to pick from, and instead there is now a selection of cartoon type teams that are fully customizable in terms of colors and the adjective. I really like how instead of recycling team names from the past installments, we have an entirely brand new set of teams (the Melonheads are the only ones to return). This is a very welcome and refreshing throwback to the golden age of the series, and although some people may be turned off by it, I was glad to see the cartoon styled team names making a comeback.

One thing I should mention is that the characters all had their theme music remixed into a techno style in this game, probably to "modernize" it. While I do personally prefer the classic originals, the remixes don't sound bad in their own right, though I think it's a missed opportunity that you can't hear them in the middle of the actual game unlike all the previous games (scoring touchdowns or goals and getting a home run, for example).

The Bad

One thing that makes this game notable is that, despite being smack dab in the middle of an era where the series was milking the professional sports licenses for all they were worth, this game does not have the NBA license. Unfortunately, they just couldn't keep away from it entirely; Kevin Garnett and Lisa Lesile are featured in the game, with Kevin hogging the box art. It's really frustrating, because earlier box shots (see the one on Amazon, for instance) seem to hint that they were only tacked on at the last minute for marketing. I guess I sort of understand the reason it was done, as it would have gotten rid of what was probably the biggest selling point of the series at the time, but I truly would have preferred it if they just left them out for once.

The five-player team limit also really takes a lot of strategy out of picking your team. You will usually have it filled up before you make it to the lower-tier players, and you'll quickly find yourself picking the same team every single game.

In terms of the gameplay, there is one control mishap that unfortunately gets in the way too often. Running horizontally is way out of proportion with running vertically, meaning if you run diagonally, you slow way down. This really makes playing the game a lot more irritating than it should be.

One thing that really frustrates me about this game, though, and what stops me from loving it is that it's so glitchy. I'm not kidding; the ball very often stumbles when going out of bounds, and sometimes when you pass it in from the boundary line, the physics screw up and it just falls straight down, giving you a false out-of-bounds call for no reason. I would have loved to say I enjoyed the season mode -- and I did while it lasted, as the games were an appropriate length and 18 games for the regular season didn't feel too long -- but my save completely corrupted when I made it to the playoffs and the hall of fame was totally glitched. I also didn't unlock any of the extra courts I was supposed to unlock. I have been scared for my life to try and take on the season again for fear that I'm going to have my game break like that. If the glitches are that problematic, it's enough to kill the game.

The Bottom Line

While it's not a total sell-out and it could have been a lot worse, Backyard Basketball is a mixed bag. I want to say it was a fantastic game, but the glitches and screwy controls really make me question if this game is worth trying. To be really honest though, if I had to choose between recommending it or not, I'd say skip it. The glitches get in the way very often and should have been ironed out before the game was shipped. Nostalgia can't tell me this game was wonderful, because really, it wasn't.