NBA Jam Review
One of the biggest crazes these days in the world of gaming has been the relaunching of classic, dormant franchises. While some of these reboots are older console games, several of them have been updates to arcade classics. Recently, EA, which has had a stranglehold on the sports genre, relaunched a franchise made famous by Midway; the over-the-top 2-on-2 arcade classic, NBA Jam. Unfortunately, this reboot falls a bit short to what EA and fans of the original were hoping for.
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Here's the basics. You start by picking one of two superstars from one of the 30 NBA teams out there. Then, you play a 4-quarter game of basketball -- but this isn’t your typical simulation. Instead, you can do any number of moves you would never see at a real game, such as shove an opposing player without being fouled -- or something even more unrealistic, like a half-court, spinning slam dunk. This simplistic premise worked almost 18 years ago when the original NBA Jam hit arcades, and it still works to this day. The problem is, EA decided to make this edition a little more complicated. In the original, all you had to do was make it up the court and shoot or dunk the ball. In this version, you have to time your shot a little and release the ball at the right point. While this would be fine in a simulation-style basketball game, such as NBA Live, this just doesn’t cut it in this game. EA did include a tutorial mode to help you get the timing right, but a pick-up-and-play game like NBA Jam should not be this complex.
While the game play does not feel like the classic arcade hit, many of the memorable features of the original and its sequels do make a comeback. As you play along, you’ll unlock various modes, including the most memorable, Big Head Mode. Other unlockables include making all of the players smaller and changing the way the ball looks. EA also included hidden players in the game who range all the way from NBA legends, to mascots, to even President Barack Obama. Along with the classic mode, in which you play through all the NBA teams, there’s also a remix option which places random power-ups on the court. This node is very similar to the one in the original’s sequel, NBA Jam: Tournament Edition.
Along with those classic features, this version of NBA Jam also has new game play modes. There’s Smash Mode, in which the main objective is to break the backboard of the hoop before your opponent does. There’s Elimination, in which you and up to three opponents keep playing, with the player that has the lowest score being eliminated after a set amount of time. The Schoolyard Classic 21 is another game play option, as is Domination, which is pretty much a basketball twist on King of the Hill. All of these classic and new modes add some replay value to the experience, but it isn’t enough to warrant a full purchase.
Overall, this new version of NBA Jam would have been better served as a downloadable on Xbox Live Arcade or PlayStation Network. You get the feeling EA tacked on the extra modes to try and justify the price tag for a disc-based game. If you can find it at a discounted price, it’s worth a look, but otherwise, leave this reboot on the bench.