There are moments in the NBA that are simply awe-inspiring, like when a player breaks the backboard with an epic dunk or sinks a three-pointer at the buzzer. And then there’s NBA Jam, which takes all of these great moments and turns them into a spectacular interactive cartoon. No doubt about it: This game is pure fun.
NBA Jam first appeared in the arcades in 1993, but we remember endlessly replaying the console versions back in the day. It’s a two-on-two game of B-ball, with insane dunks and fast-moving quarters. The players have oversized noggins, and if you sink three shots in a row, you’re literally on fire and can play even better.
This iPhone version is not only a perfect recreation of those early NBA Jam games, but it updates the graphics and controls beautifully. The players move with a smooth, lifelike animation, and their digitized heads seem to be pasted on, like a Jib-Jab or South Park cartoon. NBA Jam looks unlike anything else we’ve seen on the iPhone.
As for the controls, they’re kept simple with just one button for turbo boosts, and two buttons that switch functions based on whether you’re running offense or defense. One lets you shoot the ball or jump to block, and the other lets you pass the ball or try to steal from your opponent.
If you combine these moves with the turbo button, you’ll be able to shove other players or perform astonishing dunks. The dunks are easily the most fun you’ll have with this game– if you keep running to the hole, you’ll perform flips and soar to the ceiling with ease.
NBA Jam is also a fast-paced game. You can set each quarter to last two, three, or five minutes, so a full game will only take 8-20 minutes. However, the game’s campaign mode requires you to compete against 32 other teams, so it’ll take hours to actually beat. This can get repetitive, unless you bump up the difficulty level (there are four) once you get the hang of things.
Tragically, these players are all suffering from encephalitis.
It wouldn’t be NBA Jam without a goofy sense of humor, and we’re glad bonuses like Big Head mode made it into this version of the game. To unlock most of the players and bonuses, you have to meet achievement-like challenges, like sinking ten jump shots in a game. You can also “cheat” by buying the unlocks outright as an in-app purchase.
Our only disappointment is the complete lack of multiplayer. As a two-on-two game of basketball, it would be perfect if you could play with a friend online or locally. However, there’s absolutely nothing right now in terms of multiplayer, and this is a definite area for improvement.
Even as a solo game, NBA Jam is incredibly fun. The top-notch visual style, quality controls, and fast-paced gameplay make it a sports game that action or arcade gamers will love as well. EA Mobile really brought the jam this time, so don’t pass it up.