NBA Jam redux is on fire


Let’s face it: sports games, especially basketball games, are just not as fun as watching sports. They are usually one game and done.

But the new NBA Jam, already out for Wii and coming soon to Playstation 3 and Xbox 360, is so addicting that I have to watch the clock while playing to make sure two hours haven’t evaporated.

This is the classic 2.5D two-on-two full court arcade-style basketball that dominated the coin-op scene and then consoles in the 1990s.

There are no personal fouls and play is over the top. You can play as everyone from the Beastie Boys to former NBA players to Obama and the Clintons (or, for equal time, as Bush, McCain and Palin.)

If you make three baskets in a row, you are literally on fire, complete with a flaming ball and improved skills. The game has appeal for everyone from casual gamers to hardcore basketball fans who actually watch the NBA before Christmas.

Unlike the original NBA Jam, which lacked Michael Jordan, this one has all the best NBA players, appeasing Team LeBron and Team Kobe.

In Classic Campaign, you play five teams and then face a “Legends Battle” for each division, like Karl Malone and John Stockton, complete with the nut-hugger shorts.

The graphics, 3D-rendered bodies with photos of the players as their heads, look great and work well together. I was skeptical, but they look natural.

The “Remix” modes are great complements to the standard modes, featuring ones like 21, one-on-one-on-one and boss battles.

The best remix mode is Backboard Smash. Instead of scoring points, the goal is to be the first to break the backboard. The basket has a life bar and even flashes red like a video game boss.

Boss battles let you face bosses like Magic Johnson, who literally uses magic against you, or a Dr. J, who can dunk from the three-point line.

The A.I. is superb, not too smart and not too dumb. The A.I. in EA Sports games is usually so stupid that the computer calls timeouts in football when the clock has already stopped.

The old ‘90s NBA Jam announcer is back. Unlike most sports games, where the announcer is a weakness, he is one of Jam’s strengths. After about 100 games, I am still hearing new one-liners. My favorite is “uncool dude, you shot blocked me!”

The music is so good, I would buy some of the tracks if they had them in the iTunes Store.

The real question with NBA Jam 2010 is what version to get. The only difference between the Wii and the HD versions is supposed to be that PS3 and 360 will have online play and the Wii has motion controls.

The lack of online for Wii is inexcusable and is really the game’s only weak spot but the motion controls are well done. They are just for shooting and blocking the ball, and it is more satisfying to actually jam it than to mash a button.

Still, it is hard to pick the Wii version over the HD versions, which tip off Nov. 17 and cost $50 instead of the standard $60 price point.

Whichever version you pick, you will have fun.

Grade: A

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