With big lights, great graphics, and a Jay-Z produced soundtrack, NBA 2K13 is all about the big stage, and it’s one of the rare sports games that delivers an enjoyable experience on the iOS platform. Keeping the spirit (and much of the core gameplay) of its console version, NBA 2K13 raises the bar for basketball games on iOS devices. This $8 game is available as a universal app for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch; devices must be running iOS 5.0 or later.
The game is actually one of the most realistic sports simulators you’ll find on the mobile platform. The logos and courts are crisp, clean representations of their real-life versions, and the players are recognizable. Players will warm up, talk to each other, and jog around the court in believable ways. The commentary is also fairly accurate and situation appropriate. In short, you feel like you’re playing an NBA game—right down to the sometimes-mindless cutaways to the crowd.
Before each game, pick your preferred control arrangement: one finger, or classical. The classic-styled controls offer the player a small touchscreen pad on the left and a range of situation-dependent buttons on the right. These buttons change depending if you’re on offense or defense. Strangely, the one-finger controls—where you can change your play, pass, and shoot with only a single finger—are more challenging, but also more robust. You’ll be able to do far more with the one-finger controls, making it the preferred method to utilize.
With the one-finger controls, you can steal, double-team, or initiate a full court press on defense. It’s exceptionally easy to initiate, but takes time to master. Likewise, understanding how to use quick screens and alley-oops on offense are techniques you’ll have to practice. If you’re looking for NBA 2K13 to be like the arcade icon NBA Jam, you may be disappointed; dunking is a challenge and a rarity, and the game is shockingly true to the fundamentals of the game—if that’s your kind of thing.
The learning curve for NBA 2K13 is considerable, even for experienced iOS gamers. Learning the nuances of the pass and shoot gestures can lead to some frustrating shot clock violations. Your computer opponent isn’t a pushover initially, either. If you try to double team an opponent, they’ll often find the open man for the open basket.
The game is perhaps best suited for ten to 30 minute sessions, as even Quick Games are large time investments and a real challenge. This isn’t a game you’ll be playing nonchalantly, as it’s a serious sports simulator that translates a great many of the console game’s features. One aspect that console players may recognize (and loathe) is the game’s “rubber band” approach to competition: if a player is down by a significant margin, his field goal margin will suddenly increase dramatically. (My roommate was down 20 points during a game and went on an 8-for-8 tear to make a comeback.)
NBA 2K13 has several modes, including practice, “greatest games,” quick game, multi-season, and multiplayer. The greatest games mode allows players to relive famed moments in the game with key players like Michael Jordon and Allen Iverson; each game presents you with the challenge of replicating their stats—whether it be assists, steals, and/or points. You can also hop on a multiplayer game through Bluetooth or Game Center. While getting matched up with a random stranger was a cinch, the ability to actually compete against the player is dependent on your connection—my experiences were mainly unplayable and laggy.
Despite some connectivity problems with multiplayer and a control scheme that can prove frustrating to beginners, NBA 2K13 is still a stylish, authentic and entertaining experience. Sure, you’ll miss the ease of acrobatic dunks a la NBA Jam, but when you find your man open for an alley-oop or pull off a perfect screen to set up a big time play, NBA 2K13 really soars.