The PSP is certainly no stranger to console ports, or “downsizing” as we like to call them around the office, so it should come as no surprise that Midway has opted to take its popular Ballers franchise into the handheld market. In a lot of ways Rebound is exactly like its console counterpart with only the hardware limitation weighing it down in the form of fewer features and graphics that lack the cleanliness of its big-brother version. Aside from those minor issues this is the same game you played on the PS2 and Xbox just in a smaller package which is certainly not a bad thing as Ballers is easily one of the more solid titles in the genre.
The core mechanics are very similar to the console version where you will be playing one on one games to 11 with the game throwing in a mixture of side objectives from time to time. For instance some games will require you to keep your opponent under a certain number of points to win the game while others will have you trying to achieve a certain number of steals or rebounds. Not quite the most innovative set of sidetracking, but it does divide up the pace of playing the same game over and over. You will spend most of the time in Quickplay and Versus against another computer controlled opponent and even partake in a little 1 vs. 1 vs. 1 action from time to time.
At the outset of the game the roster is a beat meager, but as you progress through the game winning TV Tournaments you will unlock more players to either face off against or use in the other modes of the game. Winning TV Tournaments will allow you to unlock legendary and current NBA stars as well as earn points to spend in the Inside Stuff shop unlocking cool items such as cars and houses for your player. Unfortunately the PSP version is lacking the sheer amount of unlockables that console version has simply because of the limitations of the UMD format, but rest assured there is plenty here to keep your portable gaming time interesting and fun.
Still the biggest and best reason to play Ballers is the Rags to Riches mode and I am happy to say that the PSP not only includes this mode, but allows just as much freedom to “pimp out” your player as the console version does. Basically this is basketball RPG which means you start out with a baseline character and slowly work your way up by learning new skills, tricks, and abilities that let you earn more money, acquire more bling, and of course play with the big boys of the NBA. Needless to say that for a portable game the career mode is more than worth the price of admission if you enjoy these types of games.
So now you know that it contains most of the console’s bells and whistles and now you are wondering how it plays. Well unfortunately this is one of the hang-ups for the PSP version of Ballers. The original game was certainly designed with two analog sticks in mind and as we all know the PSP lacks in that department. This results in a simplified control scheme where most of the right analog sticks moves have been assigned to just one button. The end result usually ends up doing the same trick over and over until you are really sick of seeing it. This in turn allows your opponent to easily snag the ball away from you as well as doing a number on your points earned during each match as repeated tricks are worth less and less each time. This will effect the career mode simply for the fact that your character entirely depends on those points to upgrade stats and of course obtain more bling bling.
The visuals in Ballers as I mentioned earlier are pretty much carbon copied from the console iterations which also includes the hiccups and camera glitches. None of these deter enough from the game but it would have been nice to see a PSP-specific engine designed for this game to take advantage of. Another gripe I have, and this is just me being really nit-picky, is the loading times. The game seems to take forever to load the simplest of options, for instance loading a new set of clothing takes so long you almost begin to care less about what you are wearing. Like I said this is a minor complaint and one that does not take away from the overall fun, it just makes you wait longer for it.
The PSP version also includes multi-player but unfortunately it is limited to simply Ad-Hoc and not truly online. There are several variable types for each match that the players can set and it can prove to be entertaining for a while, but much like the single player game you may grow tired of the simple one on one after a while.
In the end I guess Rebound was exactly what I expected it to be and nothing more. A simple port of the popular franchise downsized to fit in the palm of your hand. Granted the core game mechanic is still tons of fun in small doses I believe that was the game’s main goal in the first place and this iteration nails it flawlessly. With a reasonably deep career mode, lots to unlock, and multi-player this game has enough to satisfy the Baller in all of us, not to mention it is portable. If you are a fan of the sport or simply need a quick and easy fix sports title for the PSP you can’t go wrong with NBA Ballers Rebound.