NBA Jam Review

By Mike D'Alonzo - Posted Oct 05, 2010

The truth is that the new NBA Jam is a lovely little throwback for those who were fans of the original game, and they will be the ones who will get the most out of it. That's not a bad thing, and you have to give EA props for adding depth to a game that was very one-note in its original iteration.

The Pros
  • Old favorites, like the original NBA Jam announcer, are fun and nostalgic
  • New mini games and game modes add some variety and spice
  • The Wii mechanic is easy to master, but if you prefer, you can play with the classic controller
The Cons
  • Sometimes the game moves too fast and glitches
  • Scoring can be frustratingly easy at times, and just flat frustrating at others
  • A great deal of the features take awhile to unlock

As NFL Blitz is to football, so is NBA Jam to basketball. Only tangentially related to the rules of the sport, the game was, when it came to arcades in 1993, a visceral experience that allowed for fast movement, high scoring, earthshattering dunks, and very little in the way of defense. In short, all of the things you'd want basketball to be if you only had about ten minutes to devote to playing it.

This bite-sized roundball phenomenon gets a next-generation update with NBA Jam, and EA Canada has designed a Wii experience that both takes advantage of Nintendo's now-commonplace motion control system and embraces the best parts of the original game.

 


 


He's Heating Up!


As always, the standard NBA Jam game is a two-on-two dunkfest featuring players from current (and sometimes former) NBA teams. The game moves ridiculously fast, and is played almost entirely above the rim. The rules of basketball (and the rules of physics, for that matter) do not apply. In the classic campaign mode, you will take your two-person team through the other tandems of the NBA, working from the least to most difficult.

New to this edition of Jam is the Remix Tour, which breaks challenges into individual divisions from the Association, and into different types of challenges for you to meet. From a 2-on-2 game that features power-ups which make your players stronger, faster, and more resilient, to Domination, which awards your team extra points for making shots from different points on the floor, you'll have to show that you can do more than just jam if you want to make it through.

And you'll want to do that, because there are unlockables aplenty in NBA Jam, from Boss Battles, which feature some of the greatest to ever play the game, to secret teams like the Beastie Boys and certain galvanizing political figures, to special courts that change the venue of the game. Unlocking these aspects of the game, however, can take quite some doing, and might take a while, so be prepared to dig in if you really want to get to the good stuff.

There's multiplayer in Jam, as well, encouraging you to either go head-to-head with a competitor, or take a friend along for the ride during the campaign mode. Make sure you give each other a wide berth, however, as swinging Wiimotes to throw it down can cause serious injury in close quarters.

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BOOM Shaka-Laka!

Fans of the orignal game will be thrilled to know that Tim Kitzrow, the ubiquitous voice that emphasizes each jam with an often hilariously voiced punctuation, is back, which means that, not only will you hear old favorites like "Boom Shaka-Laka!" when you flush it, but many, many new recorded interjections, as well. You'll find that you're still laughing hard at some of them as you try and defend your opponent on the other side of the court.

The presentation is just the same as the original, as well, with the Jam art style of big-headed players making the leap into the 21st Century. It's somehow refreshing that they didn't try to amp up the visual style, and instead decided to remain true to what worked in 1993. Some of the perspective in aspects of the game can be frustrating. When playing 21, for example, the game changes to a half-court set, which will take some getting used to.

 


 


Sweet Potato Casserole, Take The Shot!

The good news about controlling NBA Jam is that it's not terribly complicated, which can be trouble with the Wii. Simply flick the Wiimote up to get your player up in the air and slam it down to dunk it. Movement is controlled via nunchuk. There are some nuances, like when to use turbo, and how to throw elbows to keep your player from being shoved around by his opponents, but, for the most part, it's pretty instinctual.

The bad news is that sometimes the game is a little too fast, leading you to frustratedly shaking your controller up and down trying to make something happen. That part's on you. The game has its glitches, too, though. Things move at such a clip that sometimes the voiceover melts into a confusing mess, and sometimes announces the wrong player. You'd have to be able to slow your mind down to notice to a point where it would bother you, but it's there.

 


 


He's On Fire!


In the end, the truth is that the new NBA Jam is a lovely little throwback for those who were fans of the original game, and they will be the ones who will get the most out of this. That's not a bad thing, and you have to give EA props for adding depth to a game that was very one-note in its original iteration.

NBA Jam might not be a game that you spend hours playing in one sitting, but it's the sort of thing that you'll come back to every once in a while and remember how much fun you can have playing overly-stylized comical basketball for a little while.