We may not see a single NBA game being played this year, but gamers won't be left out with the release of NBA 2K12 on iOS devices for the first time.
The NBA 2K series has been the top-rated basketball simulation 11 years running, and it makes perfect sense to bring the high-flying action to the iPad ($9.99), and to the iPhone and iPod Touch ($4.99). The games will be released October 4.
The game's maker, 2K Sports, takes a unique approach to the touch-screen interface by offering two ways to control the game. Classic Control is set up like your standard directional pad controller, with buttons for passing, shooting, and the all-important alley-oop button. On the flipside, you'll have buttons for stealing, blocking, and lock-down defense.
One Finger Control allows the game to be played with the computer moving the players around. It's your job to tap or swipe the screen to pass, shoot, steal, and block shots with your finger. I like to call this "office meeting" stealth mode, and controls are extremely simplified, but it also helps you see the action when playing on a smaller screen, like on the iPhone or iPod Touch.
Basketball fans familiar with the NBA 2K series on game consoles will notice that they've thrown in the Signature Style shooting animations in the iOS version of the game. Lebron shoots like Lebron, and The Black Mamba (hisss!) strikes with his lethal jumper.
The graphics are what you'd expect on an iOS device for a sports game. Player models are decent, but player faces mapped onto a generic shaped head can look pretty bad at times.
What's most important is the gameplay, and 2K12 plays smoothly; players on the floor are well spaced and the animations are great. Basketball is more than just dunking, and its not that easy get to the rim if you want to show off. The broadcast-TV-style presentation really separates it from other iOS sports games, with full commentary and replays that add extra polish.
There's so much content and different game modes in 2K12 that it's worth the price of admission. You have the standard Quick Game; there's a full 82-game Season Mode with player transactions; Playoff Mode, where you'll skip the regular season and jump right into the games that count; and Situation Mode, which allows you to create custom scenarios where you can try to comeback from 5 points down with a minute left.
Every basketball junkie is also going to love the "Jordan Challenge," where you'll relive 10 of Michael Jordan's most historic performances. This was a fan favorite feature from last year's console version, and it's nice to see that 2K Sports showed mobile gamers some love.
NBA 2K12 for iOS will have Game Center support, so you can see your progress on leader boards and compare achievements with your buddies. Plus, the 2K Sports team says it'll be supporting updated rosters throughout the season, if there is a season.
Basketball gamers have embraced NBA 2K12 on consoles and it's a great first entry on iOS, but there are still places to improve. The graphics are passable, but when you see what else is out there on iOS, 2K Sports can definitely step up its game. The development team also told me it'll be able to add more controls once the game releases, and throwing in a few more dribble moves or a post-up button would diversify the gameplay. They don't have to get too advanced with controls, just give me a killer crossover, or something!
This is still a fun experience for sports fans, and if you're looking for the best basketball simulation on iOS right now, this one is...wait for it...a slam dunk!