3 Reviews


The fire still burns

You can only really get away with shouting "He's on fire!" without prompt if you're of a certain era, and you have arcade-nostalgic friends.

The fact that clusters of us are still shouting it 17 years after NBA Jam's debut only goes to show that the basketball classic has a special place in a lot of our hearts.

It's games like Jam that must leave developers in two minds when it comes to a remake. On the one hand, it's such a classic that too much tinkering could result in the always likely fan backlash. On the other, it's such a classic that the right mix of respect and modernising polish could result in the often elusive fanboy applause.


If you were a passionate contributor to the old school arcader you can rest easy. This is NBA Jam as we left it, spinning dunks and all - only it takes advantage of modern day tech, so there's no need for those rose-tinted glasses.

For newcomers, the concept is simple: Two on two basketball, no rules and the most ludicrous, flubber-assisted dunks you've ever seen. It's cartoon basketball in every way.

Being the epitome of pick-up-and-play, NBA Jam only really requires you to use two buttons to get started (we're marking the left analogue stick for movement as a given); a press of A will pass to your team-mate, no direction required, whilst Y triggers a shot.

And... that's it, you're playing NBA Jam. You'll need to go deeper into the controls to get the most out of it, but it never gets complicated. X will make you fake a shot, causing anyone guarding the hoop to jump prematurely like a mug, and B will execute a spin to avoid attempted steals or dirty pushes.

The core of NBA Jam, however, is in its flamboyant, gravity-defying dunks. Shoot while you're sprinting towards the basket using the left trigger and your player will launch himself into the air and usually hit net with an amusing game face and an other worldly pirouette.

Don't have the ball? Don't worry. Go for the dunk anyway and your team mate might be able to pick out a pass to you completing the ultimate alley-oop.

The modern day remake keeps the Jam basics at its core, but new tech heightens what made the original so great.

It's almost not worth comparing 2010s offering to that of '93, but animations are quick detailed, smooth and varied. Graphically it's a trade-off between meeting today's standards and retaining the quirks of an arcade game of the '90s.

While players bodies, then, are fully flowing, functioning 3D models, their heads are more like cut-out masks of their real-life counterparts, flicking through different expressions depending on their actions.


It's a great compromise; while the heads become a key part of the quirky philosophy behind the game and a nod to its roots, the more advanced bodies allow for much more inventive, visual spectacle that really propels the whole idea of NBA Jam into 2010.

Another vintage aspect of NBA Jam has been given a boost, too. Fans will be pleased to hear Tim Kitzrow take up the role of enthusiastic announcer once again - only this time he has much more to say.

Where the original NBA Jam only contained a smattering of commentator phrases at key points in the game, now Kitzrow is able to give play-by-play coverage throughout the match as well as the expected celebratory phrases when ball meets hoop.

The best part is some of the new colour phrases are funny enough to have become as prolific as the likes of "He's on fire!" and "Boom Shaka laka!" had they been a part of the original game.

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