While not without faults, this basketball game pushes the hardware to the limit to deliver visually impressive, responsive play, with four modes, including multiplayer support. Best of all, NBA 2K21 Arcade Edition removes a feature that has plagued the console and PC versions of NBA 2K21 (as well as most other modern sports games): It has no microtransactions. No spending real money for in-game currency, no loot boxes, no card packs to purchase in order to build your dream NBA team. Like other Apple Arcade titles, it's simply not allowed, and that's awesome in and of itself. As such, there's no MyTeam mode, as found in other versions of the game, but that doesn't mean there isn't a lot of meat on the bone here for one or two players. Speaking of two players, NBA 2K21 Arcade Edition supports cross-platform play between Apple devices, so you may be on an iPad but your online buddy could play on Apple TV, iPhone, or Mac. This is handled over iCloud and tied to your Game Center account, and the little-known feature is worth calling out.
The graphics really are extraordinary for a phone or tablet, but you may experience some slowdown in the 5v5 mode. It doesn't happen often, but it's very noticeable when it does. Two other issues: One, the artificial intelligence (AI) seems broken at times, such as a computer-controlled player that just stands there with the ball instead of shooting on an open net. Again, this doesn't happen too often but can be frustrating. Second, while 2K Sports claims the rosters are up to date, they're clearly out of date. For example, Andre Drummond is still with the Cleveland Cavaliers instead of the L.A. Lakers, while Nikola Vucevic is still with Orlando Magic in the game, but has gone to the Chicago Bulls in real life. This should be fixed with an update, and hopefully the AI issues too. Issues aside, though, NBA 2K21 Arcade Edition is a (near) slam-dunk NBA experience for Apple Arcade subscribers.