Review: NBA Jam
Review copy provided by the publisher
NBA Jam is not your typical basketball simulation. Reimagined for the year 2010, EA Canada has taken the classic arcade-style basketball game and introduces the series to a whole new generation of gamers. If you don’t already know, NBA Jam titles are all about taking everything that makes watching real basketball exciting and cuts out all the uninteresting stuff. That means there are no out-of-bounds, fouls, backcourt violations or time-outs. The game is all about ridiculous shots, blocks and, of course, slam dunks! Boomshakalaka!
What most fans of the series in the early 90’s will remember most about NBA Jam are the classic 2 vs. 2 multiplayer matches, and it has returned in full-force. If you remember how to play then, you will know how to this latest iteration. Full-court 5 vs. 5 games and entire NBA rosters are noticeably absent, but again, this isn’t your ordinary basketball game. You pass, shoot, steal, block, run and dunk, that’s all. No need to set-up defensive frames or anything too complicated. It’s a game that fits the ‘easy to pick up and play’ mold perfectly.
Along with classic 2 vs. 2 matches, NBA Jam also introduces five all-new modes to the series. These modes include Remix 2 vs. 2, Domination, Smash, 21 and Elimination. Each have their own spin on the original gameplay, and Domination, 21 and Elimination are only played half court. Remix 2 vs. 2 takes the regular 2 vs. 2 matches and adds into the mix, power-ups. These include power-ups such as running faster and being stronger, and they are obtained by touching them as they appear randomly throughout the court. A game of Domination is won when a team scores enough times off of specific areas on the court. 21 and Elimination are self-explanatory modes that are played in a three person free-for-all. Lastly, a game of Smash, which I believe will be a fan favorite, is won when a team slam dunks on the opposing team’s hoop enough to break it into pieces. Although none of these modes truly replace regular 2 vs. 2 matches, they do serve as decent substitutes. The game also features online play, which is not available in the Wii version released earlier this year.
Another new addition to the NBA Jam series is the Remix Tour. This is the game’s campaign mode of sorts. This is where you will make your way across the country, and play against every team in games that consist of the five modes listed above. Unfortunately, there are no classic 2 vs. 2 matches present in the Remix Tour. Thankfully, the whole thing can be played with a partner through cooperative play. There’s nothing better than sharing the fun with a friend, or frustration. Yes, the game can get really frustrating at times, because of the game’s steep difficulty. This may have been a design choice, but NBA Jam features some serious old-school challenge. It’s not the learning curve, but rather the AI. The AI in the game have some cheesy tricks and tactics that will cause many controllers to be thrown against the wall. This difficulty is most noticeable when playing Remix 2 vs. 2 games. Not only do power-ups often appear right under the feet of your computer opponents, they also dash in straight lines to them as soon as they appear. Standing the same distance away from a power-up, you stand no chance against the computer, because they know the exact distance needed to travel in order to grab it quickest; whereas you need to kind of feel around the court a bit.
Remix Tour also includes Boss Battles. These Boss Battles are all unique, and their uniqueness is catered to the players featured. For example, the Shaquille O’Neal Boss Battle requires you to slow down the amounts of slam-dunking from Shaq for 3 minutes. These Boss Battles are challenging, but can be beat once you figure out the best way to get achieve victory.
The graphics in NBA Jam are crisp, but not photo-realistic. If you cannot tell already, this game does not take itself too seriously. Characters look silly, and an option for bigger heads is available; it borderlines ridiculous. Speaking of ridiculous, the announcer’s commentary is something that really makes playing with friends worthwhile. The stuff that returning announcer Tim Kitzrow says only makes somewhat sense when you’re playing, because I cannot do them justice writing them out of context. The music of the game is pretty repetitious and generic, but it’s usually drowned out by the in-game action anyway.
Overall, NBA Jam is a worthy successor to the classic game introduced all the way back in 1993. Seventeen years later, we have a game that honors all that was great from the original, and adds much more. Old fans and new fans alike that are looking to pick this one up should be ready for a game that offers hours and hours of competitive play, and fun that is both accessible and charming.
- Title: NBA Jam
- Platform Reviewed: PS3
- Developer: EA Canada
- Publisher: Electronic Arts
- Release Date: Available Now
- MSRP: $49.99
- Review Copy Info: A copy of the game was provided to DualShockers Inc by the publisher for purposes of this review.