The lights are on
What new ideas the game brings to the table and how well old ideas are presented.
How good a game looks, taking into account any flaws such as bad collision or pop-up.
Does the game’s music and sound effects get you involved or do they make you resolve to always play with the volume down?
Basically, the controller to human interface. The less you think about the hunk of plastic in your hands, the better the playability.
Flat out, just how fun the game is to play. The most important factor in rating a game.
In the height of the arcade era I probably spent the GDP of Burundi
raining threes and shattering backboards in NBA Jam. But after years of
success, the franchise found itself in a scoring slump and inevitably
retired to the bench. After Midway liquidated its assets, the franchise
license fell into the lap of EA, which just happened to hire original
NBA Jam designer Mark Turmell shortly thereafter. Cue the Rocky
comeback training montage and overdub it with a Boomshakalaka. NBA Jam is
back, and it’s as good as you remember.
This over-the-top take on
the NBA trims away the fat from team rosters to deliver glorious
two-on-two gameplay with the most recognizable faces in the sport, as
well as a few guest appearances from celebrities and politicians. Most
teams have unlockable legendary players from the original games as well,
with a few glaring exceptions like Charles Barkley, Reggie Miller, and
Shawn Kemp. The art style takes a page from South Park, as
pictures of player faces are Photoshopped onto animated bodies with
hilarious expressions that change as they perform different actions on
The tried and true gameplay remains largely unchanged.
Each game is filled with thundering dunks, bombs from three-point range,
and an excessive amount of blocks, steals, and flying elbows. Hitting
three shots in a row without letting the other team score sets your
player on fire, but this doesn’t increase your shooting accuracy as much
as in years past. EA did an admirable job translating the controls to
the Wii remote and nunchuk, but it’s not without problems. When you jump
to block or take a shot, sometimes your character jumps again
immediately after you complete the motion, which can easily cost you a
basket in tight games.
The classic campaign structure returns, but
EA wisely complements it with a few new game modes as well. The Remix
Tour offers a host of different game types, challenging you to destroy a
team’s backboard or control hot spots on the half-court to rack up more
points than your opponents. My favorite is the Remix 2v2 game, which
intermittently strews power-ups across the court that your player can
use to get the upper hand on the competition. Those who crave a hardcore
challenge will adore the Boss Battles, which pit your skills one-on-one
against NBA legends like Larry Bird and Dr. J.
NBA Jam’s only
major flaw is the lack of online multiplayer. This game was made for
competition, and not everyone has three other people to play with in
their house. I’m glad to see the full game is getting ported to the other consoles
so we can challenge our friends online.
Email the author Matt Bertz, or follow on Twitter, Google+, Facebook, and Game Informer.
Rather than trying to revolutionize the core elements of the game, this
reboot plays just like classic NBA Jam with updated rosters, hilarious
visuals, and some entertaining game modes. EA nails the presentation,
from the high-flying tomahawk slams to the commentary from Tim Kitzrow.
While it may look and feel like the same game you pumped countless
quarters into back in 1993, the Wii controls can be a hindrance at
times. It’s frustrating to watch your character go for jump shots when
you want a dunk, or when the remote misreads a slight hand motion as an
intent to block a shot. It’s also disappointing to see that being “on
fire” doesn’t give you quite the dominating edge it did back in the day.
Despite these minor issues, NBA Jam absolutely delivers if you’re
looking for a concentrated shot of nostalgia.