NBA Jam • Page 2

Court short.

The HD versions naturally look sharper than the Wii game, though the extra detail and visual polish - boom-shaka-lacquer, if you will – can get a little distracting. With the frenetic pace rarely letting up, there's the odd occasion where the ball can get lost in the melee, particularly when four players are in close proximity. It's nowhere near as bad as in Tecmo's execrable NBA Unrivalled, but it happens enough to warrant a mention. Despite fuzzier graphics, it's a problem that seems to occur less frequently on Wii.

Meanwhile, original announcer Tim Kitzrow returns to the commentary box for an irreverent and often amusing take on events. That said, repetition does crop up a little sooner than you might have anticipated. "Like my wife's top drawer – nothing but nylon!" is funny the first time, less so when you've heard it for the fifth or sixth time in half an hour. Otherwise there's a single tune that burbles away in the background during each game, and which will likely have grown irritating for most players by the third quarter of their first match.

That's admittedly less of an issue if, like the original, most of your time with NBA Jam is spent in bite-sized play sessions. Yet it's evident that EA wants to command the player's attention a little longer, ladling on extra modes to – in theory – add longevity beyond repeat visits to the basic multiplayer game. However, they add little variety to the way the game plays, instead merely tweaking the structure.

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Unlockables and secrets are plentiful – you can play as a team of famous Democrats or Republicans, or as The Beastie Boys.

The Classic Campaign offers 36 straight matches as you take your two-man team through six different regions, each containing five matches against regular sides and a final against a pair of basketball legends. The Remix Tour requires you to earn bronze, silver and gold trophies to unlock further divisions across the USA, with five different game modes that offer slightly different objectives.

There's the aforementioned Smash where wrecking the backboard is your ultimate goal; Domination asks you to score baskets from marked spots on the court; Elimination is a basic last-man-standing variation, while 21 simply tasks you with reaching 21 points before your opponent. Finally, the 2-v-2 Remix introduces collectible power-ups which give you extra speed, accuracy, power or the ability to withstand shoves, though ultimately you're still doing pretty much the same thing throughout: playing a heartily daft and slightly shallow game of arcade basketball.

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There are various challenges to complete, like doubling your opponent’s score, or completing ten successful interceptions in one match.

It should go without saying that NBA Jam is much more fun when four players are involved, especially as the erratic behaviour of your team-mate can occasionally have you chewing your fist in frustration. They're not too bad when attacking, but when they fail to even attempt to block an opponent's three-pointer, you'll be praying for a human replacement. As such, the online modes on 360 and PS3 give the HD versions the edge over the Wii game for those unable to regularly enjoy local multiplayer, even if the latter's surprisingly responsive motion controls add a gratifying physicality to the dunks.

With the full complement of players, NBA Jam is great fun in short bursts, but it's impossible not to feel that EA has swamped a simple game with extraneous modes desperately to try and justify a retail release. A stripped-down version with just the Classic Campaign and a multiplayer mode would have made for a cracking downloadable release; as it stands, NBA Jam is a very good remake of a classic arcade game that's unfortunately surrounded by a lot of unnecessary fluff.

7 /10

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Chris Schilling

Chris Schilling

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Chris Schilling writes about video games for a living, and knows an awful lot about Pokémon. Ask him anything. (Though he may have to confer with his son.)

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