GBA Championship Basketball: Two-On-Two
Requirements: Apple IIgs (reviewed here), 512K required; Commodore 64; Amiga; Atari ST; Apple II; IBM PC, XT, AT, and true compatibles with 256K and CGA card.
Remember the way One-on-One burst onto the scene when Electronic Arts released its basketball arcade simulation, featuring Larry Bird and Julius Erving? Even today, years after its release, One-on-One remains a popular diversion and graphic pleasure. Activision's newest release doubles the pleasure and the fun by adding one (player, that is) to each side and getting GBA Championship Basketball: Two-on-Two.
Two-on-Two is a delightful game whether you're playing or just watching. It can be played with either keyboard or joystick and can be played in any number of ways: one player against the computer, two players against a computer team, or two players against each other. Additionally, the game allows the player to practice (and engage in delightful games of Around the World and Horse), play an exhibition game, or start a full season by competing in a 24-team, four-division tournament that climaxes with the GBA Championship game.
How Good Are You?
After making initial choices from the graphic chalkboard that serves as a menu, players create their on-court persona by adjusting their ratings on the Scouting Report screen. Here, qualities are grouped in sets of two, and you can allot eight points to each pair: inside and outside shooting, dribbling and quickness, and stealing and jumping. If you set your inside shooting ability at 5, then your outside shot must be set at 3. These initial ratings determine the type of player you are on the court.
One other choice is made at the Scouting Report screen, that being the race of your player. Incidentally, the fact that you can vary your player type brings with it a tremendous variety in game play. In one game, you can be the slick, ball-hawking guard with the great outside shot; in another game, you can be the strong rebounding front-court man with a deadly short hook and slam dunk.
Magic Or Larry?
After selecting your own qualities, your next major choice is that of a partner with whom to play. Ten superstar teammates are available, and all ten are patterned after famous NBA players. For example, select Kareem Ugrin, and you get a partner with a great inside shot who can also hit the boards. Select Oscar Dunbar, and your partner will score inside and out and pass brilliantly but seldom be a force under the boards. Then there's Larry Berg, Magic Lyndon, and others to provide you with more enjoyment and variety.
But choosing a teammate isn't to be taken lightly; he should complement the type of player you've created for yourself. For example, if you're strong on the boards with a good inside shot, you might pick a partner who can score from the outside and play strong defense.
The real fun begins when the roar of the crowd goes up, the buzzer sounds to begin the game, and the dribbling of the ball echoes throughout the arena.
Offensively, you can choose from one of five play patterns; defensively, you can set up in one of four different ways. Select your play and be on your toes because this is as close as you can get to the intensity of two-on-two basketball without sweating.
The animation is superb. Players and their moves are sharply defined, and there is no problem discerning when a player is making his move. Be quick though. Your opponent can anticipate your passes and pick them off or time your jump and block your shot. All the nuances of basketball are faithfully reproduced in Two-on-Two. You must position yourself for rebounds, time the release of your shots, and pass quickly to the open player if you expect to compete with the computer.
Two-on-Two offers outstanding graphics, animation, and playability.
Additionally, there are included all the violations you can think of—for both teams, thankfully. Move your player into an opponent after he's established position, and you'll get called for charging. Send your teammate under the basket and let him stand there without the ball, and hear the buzzer sound for a lane violation. Watch a three-second violation result in a turnover. Fail to release the ball after going up with it for a shot, and you've traveled. Fouls, timeouts, fakes, and three-point shots—they're all part of Two-on-Two.
Check Out Those Stats
When the game is over, the screen turns into the sports page of the Gamestar Gazette, and you can read all about it. A full statistical summary is displayed: field goals made, shooting percentage, rebounds, steals, blocked shots, assists, and fouls for each player. The leading scorer gets his name emblazoned at the top of the page, and (of course) attendance is announced.
Two-on-Two's graphics are excellent; each player displays a wide range of moves, both inside and out; the sound effects are realistic; and the game play itself is smooth and challenging. I thought perhaps the play selection would become repetitive, and that the computer players would become predictable—and they do on occasion. Repetitive patterns occur at random, but by the time you realize that they are occurring, you've lost the opportunity to exploit them.
A final note before the next tip-off: The IIGS version requires the new 2.0 ROM chip to ensure game play. If your GS still contains the old ROM, Two-on-Two may bomb at any time during play, although you might get lucky and play several games before this unpredictable bug fouls you out of the contest. Time now to take off the sweats. Two-on-Two is a classic that will keep calling you to center court.
GBA Championship Basketball:
2350 Bayshore Pkwy.
Mountain View, CA 94043
$34.95 Commodore 64 version
$39.95 Apple II and Atari ST versions
$42.95 IBM PC and compatibles version
(includes 5¼- and 3½-inch disks)
$44.95 Apple IIGS and Amiga versions