The NBA season may be over, but EA wants you to keep playing basketball with the new NBA Live Mobile. The NBA Live franchise has had tough sledding on consoles over the past few years, so now EA is trying their hand at a mobile version. NBA Live Mobile gives you a basketball simulation with five on five action with all of the authentic players and teams included. The caveat is that NBA Live Mobile is like Madden Mobile in which it’s a card based game. You can pick your favorite team, but everyone starts out with basic bench players, so the Warriors don’t have Steph Curry, the Cavs don’t have Lebron James, etc. Instead, it’s all about building your team by earning coins and opening card packs.
Beyond the team building mechanics, the core question is the actual basketball gameplay. NBA Live Mobile looks like a serviceable edition until you start to play it. This is an extremely basic version of basketball with limited controls, on court action, and ways to play. You’re given a very basic tool set to play with, which results in most possessions playing out the same. The game doesn’t allow for set plays, or much of anything beyond sprinting in to the defense and passing the ball around. There are dribble moves lite that are hard to activate, and don’t have any impact on the defense. The one ability you do have is to drag your finger between the on screen action buttons. You can swipe from drive to pass to pass to the open man, or drive to shoot to try for a dunk/layup attempt. It’s not always clear what your player is going to do around the rim, and it’s amazing how often the ball gets fumbled away by your players. On defense, there’s a similar set-up, except you mainly drag from guard to block without any ability to go for a steal.
NBA Live Mobile is as bare bones as a basketball simulation comes to the point that the game doesn’t even have fouls or free throw shooting. The on court aspect is so basic that it’s frustrating and disappointing. Off the court, the game modes don’t offer a brighter picture. You can play the regular season of your favorite team with random bad players. The problem is that each game has only two minute quarters that result in maybe six to eight possessions total between both teams. Beyond the season mode, there are mini-games included with challenges for specific situations, target shooting circles, obstacle avoidance on the court, and similar missions. There’s also an online turn based mode in which you play a quarter at a time against an AI controlled version of your opponent, and then your opponent does the inverse. Each mode is basic, and the entire basketball portion of the game feels like it’s over a decade old.
NBA Live Mobile is free to play with the familiar trappings of an energy meter, multiple currencies, and staggered upgrade system. The freemium structure is in your face, but not as limiting as it could be. You can keep playing for free, but the problem is that there’s no incentive to keep playing. It’s easy to see how the game pushes you to spend money to acquire better players for your team. With that said, you could have an all-star line-up, and it would still be annoying to play with the extremely watered down version of basketball. If you want to play a basketball sim on iOS, do yourself a favor, and spend a few bucks for NBA 2K16. It’s not perfect, but it seems like the greatest game ever in comparison to NBA Live Mobile.
NBA Live Mobile (Free, Universal) offers a bland and overly simplistic version of basketball that fires an air ball on iOS.