In the late 1990s, street basketball underwent a renaissance, fueled by an upstart shoe company looking to make a mark for itself in the highly competitive basketball shoe industry. That company, And1, succeeded in creating a grassroots phenomenon known as the And1 Mixtape Tour, an event that showcases the country's slickest streetballers with their acrobatic dunks and electrifying ball-handling moves. Today, the Mixtape Tour is nationally known, with a regular show on ESPN, and now its players are household names among most basketball fans. A video game based on the real-life streetballers is a logical extension, and while And1 Streetball does offer all the basic amenities and an interesting ball-handling design, sloppy execution makes this a game that most basketball fans can safely avoid.
While And1 Streetball tries to live up to a great premise with a unique ball-handling design...
On the surface, And1 Streetball seems like a perfectly fine game for avid fans of the Mixtape Tour. The game includes just about all the most prominent And1 ballers, their likenesses, and their signature moves, including original stars like Half Man, Half Amazing, and Main Event. Newer stars like Spyda, he of the amazing hops, and the slick-handling Pharmacist, are also prominently featured. Of course, it wouldn't be an And1 game without everyone's favorite, The Professor, whose unassuming looks belie his incredible quicks and a savant-like mastery of ball handling. To a lot of basketball fans, The Professor is the true "White Chocolate," not Jason Williams of the Miami Heat.
And1 Streetball's primary strength is actually in its unique ball-handling design, which is entirely appropriate for a genre of basketball that promotes its exciting brand of jukes and fakes. Instead of relying on buttons or combinations of button presses, And1 Streetball's "I-ball" system requires you to use the analog stick to execute your fakes. The game is sensitive to eight degrees of input from the sticks, and the jukes are separated into three tiers. Level-one fakes are setup dribbles, where the ball handler dribbles in place to try and lull the defender into complacency. Second-level fakes are more dramatic and abrupt, which then lead to the tier three finisher moves, which you can use to break your opponents' ankles. Not literally, of course--you just make them fall down--but the game shows this off dramatically as it goes into slow motion. The more jukes you work in, the more respect points you earn, which will fill up a meter that eventually earns you a "mic." You can consume these mics at any time to either unleash a canned, animated "breakdown" dunk worth three to five points, or to get your whole team on fire, which increases all of their general abilities.
Sounds good so far, but the execution of the I-ball is flawed in that you must chain together moves in a specific way for maximum effectiveness--the game attempts to show you visually how to time your transitions from setup dribble, to fake, to finisher. That's fine on paper, but in practice, the inputs from the controller are not usually responsive in the way you'd expect. At times it feels like mashing around on the sticks and hoping for the best can be almost as effective as trying to play in the way the designers intended. What's more, the act of breaking the defender's ankles is tied in to an ankle-breaking meter that fills whenever the on-ball defender is close. Since it requires proximity to make it work, the defender can simply back up off you to shut off your ankle-breaker meter. You can do the same to your opponents, as well.