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Developer Mindscape Options
Distributer Mindscape 1-8 Player
Game Type Sports Sim Memory Card
Review Date February 1998 Joypad
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Setting the Scene
We usually see basketball games released on the Playstation from companies who have a track record in this genre. Konami laid claim to the 'in the zone' series, Acclaim prefer their bouncing balls to 'jam', while EA Sports continuously improve on past efforts with their annual offering of 'live' games.

Mindscape on the other hand seem desperate to cover all genres as they have already been involved with the 'toony' Supersonic Racers, wargames Panzer and Allied General, a futuristic racer Cyber Speed, the shooter Steel Harbinger, the brain bursting Chessmaster 3D and a strategic Warhammer.

Now they are preparing to slam-dunk the opposition with their new release World League Basketball, a sports sim that will hopefully satisfy the craving of three-point hoop-junkies everywhere. Is this a case of Jack of all trades, master of none? Let's see.

World League Basketball combines arcade gameplay with fast playing detailed 3D graphics using motion capture and real basketball physics to create a detailed simulation that deliver maximum gameplay for sports fans everywhere

A below average intro showing a few hazy aerial shots of famous world landmarks hardly gets the adrenaline flowing for what effectively is an action packed sport.

Thankfully the in-game graphics are a hell of a lot better. The players strut out onto a highly polished court - we're talking turtle wax and lots of elbow grease here. In fact the reflections are almost as detailed as the players themselves. The court surface is accurately marked out with solid white lines and the playing area seems all in proportion. The vellum flooring has a rather nice two-tone to it with the darker shade giving a distinct grain effect.

As usual in these types of games the home team has their name and nationality firmly etched into the playing surface, but what makes World League Basketball stand out from the crowd is the color scheme used within the centre circle, 2 point shooting zone, the key and out of bounds. They are the exact shades of the home teams national flag. Now all this is very pleasant when nations such as Australia and USA have home advantage - rich red key zone, soothing blue boundaries and brilliant white court markings. However when playing at the green, yellow and blue venue of the Brazilian national team, the bright yellow and ruby red Chinese court or the blue and yellow Colombian arena....... WOW, get those shades on, man. I must admit that the sickly green, white and red with black borders of Italy made me want to puke (that's not a nationality swipe, just a dig at the color coordination).

The motion captured players look rather smart and although it proved difficult to pick out individuals by their body shapes (all over six foot and slim) each team member does have different color hair or skin color which sometimes helped when identifying your best three-pointer. All of the teams have their own custom kits but with so many countries sporting red and white, kit clashing can sometimes pose a problem.

The play may be viewed from any of four contrasting angles and three different heights. I personally found that the Medium Sliding Sideline offered the best perspective.

Sounds and Effects
All the crowd noises are present, although their lack of movement loses that element of realism. Every touch and bounce of the ball is captured clearly and accurately along with the squeaky sounds of sneakers as the players pace up and down the court.

The commentary is presented in a typical arcade style so expect to be subjected to repetitive one liners such as 'Five second violation', 'Canada... Two points' and 'Italy. Time out' over and over again. It's okay, but don't expect the TV style grandeur that basketball games such as NBA Live provides.

I wonder what would happen if someone released a sports sim with completely different gameplay options. Would it prove successful? Probably not.

World League Basketball includes the now standard Exhibition mode where the player may take part in a one-off game between any of the 32 world teams on offer. In this mode up to eight players may take part if a multi-tap is inserted.

Why not try a full blown Season. To help select your team there is a full range of stats on hand. Each team is rated on skills and endurance while a full run down of their performance during the 96/97 season is included. A similar set of facts and figures for individual players should help with your final team selection. To play out an entire season you will require six empty blocks on your memory card for what effectively is a series of home and away games against the best the world can offer.

Tournament mode allows you to place your selected country into any one of four divisions of eight teams. This is a straight knockout competition where the four survivors of each group meet in the semi-finals. The overall winner is crowned as the Basketball World Champions.

There are four difficulty modes which are teasingly put as Junior, Men 22 and Under, Men, and Championship Men. Now this struck me as being a little weird. Junior I could understand, but why Men 22 and Under? Each game is split into two halves that can last between 2 and 20 minutes, while individual rules may be switched off or left on.

There are three specific styles of play which are Custom, Simulation and Arcade. The difference? Well choose Simulation if you want to play the game properly, whereas Arcade allows you to go anywhere and virtually do anything without fear of retribution, and if you can't make up your mind between these two then go for Custom.

The control layout is simplistically set out. The face buttons allow you to jump/shoot, pass/switch, steal and turbo while the shoulder buttons call four separate plays.

That's enough about the rules and regulations because what you really want to know is how does it play? Surprisingly it plays rather well. I say 'surprisingly', not because I expected Mindscapes first Playstation basketball outing to be inferior to other sims such as NBA Live, but because I feared some kickback due to the high quality graphics. There is no evidence of any slow down or sluggish gameplay, in fact it is quite the opposite. Play cracks on at a fair old rate and if there is any niggles to remark on it would only be that you cannot switch the player in control while you are moving at pace, you must release the turbo button first. Arcade mode is a bit of a joke because you can hang around your opponents half and steal the ball time after time, but simulation mode will offer the better players among us a fair and rewarding challenge.

Value for Money
I have to say that World League Basketball does lack the glitz and glamorous showbiz presentation of rivals but underneath there lies a very playable basketball game.

GRAPHICS: Good I suppose it all depends what you want out of a basketball game. There are no star players, excitable commentators, half time shows, transfers, zooming cameras, heck there ain't even any replays. What you do have is a playable game of basketball for up to eight players. I am sure many of you out there switch off the replays, turn down the commentary, skip the half time entertainment and concentrate on gameplay. Do you want to play the game or watch the game? You decide.
SOUND: Average

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