NBA Jam (iPhone) Review
Boomshakalaka! Let’s get one thing straight. I’m way too Scottish and the wrong side of six foot to really play basketball. I wish I was a little bit taller. I wish I was a baller. Luckily for us short-arses there is… NBA Jam.
I first played the SNES version back in the mid 90’s and in fact the original arcade version dates way back to 1993 (thanks Wikipedia). As an impressionable young teen I would always play as the Chicago Bulls since Michael Jordan was so ubiquitous at the time. Unfortunately Midway had failed to secure the licence to use his name or likeness so he never actually featured. Same story for Shaq. Still, I had heard of Scottie Pippen so that would do for me.
The thing that made NBA Jam better than other b-ball titles is the over-the-top, slam-dunking, backboard-busting ridiculousness of it all. This isn’t normal basketball. This is basketball as seen through the eyes of Charlie Sheen. Scoring three consecutive baskets would lead to the commentator uttering the immortal line “He’s on fire” and the ball and hoop to ignite as you gained unlimited turbo and the ability to leap fifteen feet into the air twist 360 degrees and slam dunk right into Charles Barkley’s face.
The exaggerated nature of the game was what made it special and the cheeky sense of humour that would allow you to put in codes to play as Bill Clinton or Mortal Kombat characters only added to the fun.
Fast-forward 18 years (Sweet Dunkin’ Jesus! 18 years!) and NBA Jam drops on the iphone from EA and the first time you play it the memories all come flooding back. The graphics are just as good and clean as the console efforts and the sounds are the same as way back when. “He’s heating up” and “Is it the shoes?!?” all present and correct.
To control your player the game uses the same virtual onscreen joystick and buttons as used to great effect on the StreetFighter port. It takes a little getting used to but once you work out how to best position your hands to still see the action and memorise the three button layout you’ll be dribbling, blocking and dunking in no time. The quick tutorial before you begin definitely helps.
There’s plenty to keep you coming back for more in NBA Jam. As well as the usual pick-up-and-play mode there’s a standard and long Campaign mode. There are loads of unlockable Challenges as well to gain new players, classic players, play as the development team, new balls, etc etc. You can pay to unlock all these things without playing for them but let’s face it – you won’t.
One small gripe is a lack of multiplayer but as the game is so fast and busy it would be way more surprising if they had managed to put it in.
In conclusion this is a solid, satisfying quality game. Well worth your £2.99 ($4.99). If you’re old enough to remember the original it’ll bring back great memories and if you’re new to NBA Jam then you’re in for a real treat. Buy it!
9 flaming hoops out of 10