|Publisher(s)||Infogrames Entertainment SA|
Backyard Basketball is an entry into the Backyard Sports franchise of video games. Originally developed by Humongous Entertainment and published by Infogrames Entertainment SA, the game was released for Microsoft Windows and Macintosh platforms in 2001. Since its original release, the game has been ported to a variety of consoles, each sporting different characters and slightly altered gameplay mechanics. As with the other entries into the Backyard Sports franchise, Backyard Basketball has received notoriety for its inclusion of pro basketball players as playable characters. The first incarnation of the game included Kevin Garnett and Lisa Leslie. The most recent release includes Stephen Curry as its mascot.
Backyard Basketball offers two primary modes of gameplay: Single Game, which allows the player to select a team to compete against a computer-controlled team, and Season Play, which allows the player to select a team to compete against a series of computer-controlled teams over an 18-game season, including two best-of-three playoff series and a best-of-five championship series should the player achieve a large number of victories. The Single Game mode also allows the player to compete against a second player or to practice using a single character.
Before games can occur, the player has the option to modify a variety of settings. These include court selection, A.I. difficulty (easy, medium, or hard), the presence of certain rules (fouls, fatigue, violations, shot control, and power-ups), sound options (game music, background sounds, and in-game dialogue), controls, and team names. Team modification also involves the customization of jerseys.
The game’s controls are set to mouse usage by default, capitalizing on a point & click style of gameplay to move characters around. The game is also compatible with keyboards and game pads.
The selection of team members follows one of two settings: First Five Picks, which allows each player to select their team members freely, or Full Draft, which forces each player to select their team members one at a time in an alternating fashion. Each potential team member, including younger versions of Kevin Garnett and Lisa Leslie, is ranked according to five statistics operating on a 1 to 10 scale. These include Inside Shooting (the relative accuracy of the character’s shot from inside the three-point line), Outside Shooting (the relative accuracy of the character’s shot from beyond the three-point line), Ballhandling (the relative likelihood that the character will not have the ball stolen or blocked on offense), Defense (the relative likelihood that the character will be able to steal or block the ball on defense), and Quickness (the relative speed at which the character moves along the court). Players also have the option to customize rookie characters with either manually chosen or randomly allocated statistics, as well as heights, skin tones, shooting hands, birthdays, and names. Although rookie characters generally have lower overall statistics compared to pre-rendered players, they have the additional ability to increase all of their statistics by three levels should the player’s team make the playoffs in Season Play.
Gameplay in Backyard Basketball is set to a point & click control scheme by default. With three characters on the court at one time, the player clicks at various locations on the court to guide the character with the ball to that location. Clicking on a teammate causes the character to pass the ball to that teammate while clicking the basket (indicated by a basketball icon) causes the character to attempt a shot. If shot control is on, then players have the option to make the shooting character pump fake by clicking rapidly, finally shooting the ball when the click is held down. If shot control is off, then the character will automatically release the shot once the basketball icon is clicked. On defense, the player can switch between characters to control by clicking on them as they run about, guiding the chosen character by clicking the location on the court where he or she should go. If an opposing character is clicked when an ‘X’ symbol hovers by them, the character nearest him or her will attempt to steal the ball. If a pair of hands appears near the basket when an opposing character goes to shoot the ball, the nearest character will attempt to block the shot or rebound the ball.
Each quarter of a game lasts approximately three minutes while each overtime period (if necessary) lasts approximately one minute. The longer characters play without rest, the more tired and prone to mistakes (poor shooting and ball-handling) they will be; as such, substitutions can be made after any completed play or during a time-out. Characters will recover their energy while on the bench (only two players can stay on the bench at a time). Granted, a character’s energy will never decrease if the fatigue option is turned off.
Over the course of a game, power-ups may occasionally be rewarded to teams. The majority of these power-ups are useful, such as the flaming ball (which guarantees that the next attempted shot will go in), the tornado (which increases the speed of all characters on the court), the doughnut (which causes the next character who attempts a shot to automatically attempt a slam dunk), and 110% Juice (which provides energy to otherwise tired players if the fatigue option is turned on). However, some power-ups provide detrimental effects, such as the icy ball (which makes shots more likely to miss), the stick of butter (which reduces the team’s ball-handling abilities), and the ice cream truck (which prevents the entire team from moving for a brief period of time).
Backyard Basketball has been released numerous times to a variety of platforms. In 2004, the game was released for the Game Boy Advance, Playstation 2, and PC, featuring Tim Duncan as its primary mascot. The game was released once more in 2007, this time for the Nintendo Gamecube and Nintendo DS as well as the aforementioned systems, featuring Paul Pierce as its primary mascot. The game has most recently been released as a mobile app featuring Stephen Curry as its primary mascot.
Backyard Basketball has received low to mixed reviews throughout its multiple releases. Boxes World gave the game a 69.77 saying, "The game does looks beautiful, but sadly it plays like a point and click game." Ivan Sulic of IGN awarded the original version a score of 6.5 out of 10, complimenting the simplistic gameplay and colorful graphics while lamenting the amount of crashes that the game is susceptible to encountering. Chris Adams of IGN awarded the 2007 Nintendo DS version the same score, commenting that the addition of new gameplay modes offered more variety.
- Backyard Sports. Web. <https://www.backyardsports.com/>.
- Sulic, Ivan. "Backyard Basketball." IGN. IGN, 10 Jan. 2002. Web. 16 Apr. 2015. <http://www.ign.com/articles/2002/01/11/backyard-basketball-2>
- Adams, Chris. "Backyard Basketball 2007 Review - IGN." IGN. IGN, 18 Oct. 2007. Web. 16 Apr. 2015. <http://www.ign.com/articles/2007/10/18/backyard-basketball-2007-review>.