As you play NBA Jam, you can't help but wish that this is what basketball looked like in real life - players launching twice the height of the hoop, rotating 720 degrees (complete with helicopter sound effect) and smashing the ball through the net so hard that the backboard splinters into a blizzard of broken glass. Unfortunately, until we're all clinking around on robot legs or shooting hoops on the moon, it's not looking likely.
NBA: Jam was never about a realistic representation of the sport, but its slippy-slidey controls and breakneck end-to-end games cemented it as an arcade classic in the SNES and Mega Drive era. The most important factor is whether that feel has been retained in this HD remix. The answer is a resounding yes - if you're familiar with the classic game you'll be right at home here. Even the comedy commentator is back, with a host of new chucklesome phrases. What's been added is plenty of silly. Just completing a two-minute tutorial unlocks bighead mode, which inflates the already amusing character head photographs to ludicrous proportions.
Hosting the ridiculousness is the Remix Tour. This is a far more appealing prospect than the vanilla campaign, which might as well be the version from 1994's Tournament Edition. Remix introduces new gametypes and power-ups that mix things up. We love Smash, which plays out as an assault on the opposing team's backboard, with elaborate dunks the quickest route to full vandalism. The other game types succeed in shaking things up even more, switching to an end-on view of a single basket and restricting you to half the court.
As a single-player game it's sweet, but won't last long. As a four-player local multiplayer game, with elbows and nachos flying, it's brilliant. Even if you can't tempt a group of friends around, there's the option to play through the tours with a buddy and take your skills onto Xbox Live. Either way, it's in the company of devious, gloating humans that Jam is best played.
There's a lot to love here, but even as a complete package it feels stripped down compared to full retail releases - mostly because the thrill comes from the immediacy and accessibility of the on-court action. That's why it's refreshing that EA has decided to stick the game out at a budget price. If you're in any way nostalgic about the original Jam games, at this price it's a slam dunk.
Monster Jam! He's on fire!
- Feels the same
- Great commentary
- New game modes
- Xbox Live multiplayer
- Not that deep