EA Sports NBA Jam Review

By Mike D'Alonzo - Posted Nov 29, 2010

This bite-sized roundball phenomenon gets a next-generation update with NBA Jam, and the throwback feel of the game will take you back to the days of coin-operated stand ups in your local arcade.

The Pros
  • Old favorites, like the original NBA Jam announcer, remind you of the first time you played.
  • New mini games and game modes add some variety and spice.
  • Very cool boss battles and unlockable perks add to the fun.
The Cons
  • Sometimes the game moves too fast, even for itself.
  • Scoring can be frustratingly easy at times, and just flat frustrating at others.
  • A great deal of what's good about the game takes a long while to unlock.

NBA Jam 360/PS3 Review:

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 the throwback feel of the game will take you back to the days of coin-operated stand ups in your local arcade.

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, to Elimination, an every-man-for-himself scoring fiesta, 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. As always, however, with such a fast moving game, any hint of lag is going to leave you flailing and a step behind as your competitor levels you with a crushing dunk. It can be a little bit of a wait getting set up with an online opponent, but the result is usually well worth the effort.

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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!

Controlling NBA Jam on the 360 is a matter of learning to use your analog sticks with some proficiency. Flick the right stick up to start your shot, and slam it down to finish, however that might be. It's similar on defense, as you'll use your right stick to attempt a steal, and the left trigger in combination with the right stick to shove your opponent and try and separate them from the ball. It's a little more interactive than just using buttons to get the job done, but make sure that you don't get too excited, or you might end up in the market for a new controller with some fresh analog sticks.

The bad news is that sometimes the game is a little too fast, making for some futile button mashing. 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.