NBA Jam (Hands-On) (Wii) Preview

By Mike Mason 01.08.2010

Review for NBA Jam (Hands-On) on Wii

“Boomshakalaka!” were the words on everybody’s lips as they play-tested EA’s new edition of NBA Jam on Wii. The SNES-era classic is back, and it’s just as frantic and funny as you remember it. Acclaim was in charge of proceedings back in the 1990s, but the franchise has long since changed hands. The question everyone has been asking, though, is whether or not the same intense feeling can be recreated by a new development team. The answer appears to be a very clear one indeed.

Two-on-two basketball is the name of the game, with up to four players able to take part in the least strict version of basketball ever conceived outside of a school playground. Players are shoved, slamdunks are performed after 100 mile-per-hour 720° spins, and balls are set on fire as players score a continuous stream of baskets. Just as you remember it, basically.

EA could not, of course, get away with releasing the same game all these years later unless it was through Virtual Console, and so everything has been spruced up. The characters are a hilarious mix of realism and cartoon, with large 2D heads placed atop normally-proportioned 3D bodies. The heads are made up of photographs, each player having a standard look, a pained look and a victorious expression, flicked through at split-second speed as the situations change, with crude yet stylish animation. Outside of the heads, though, the movement has all the slickness you would expect of an EA title.

Screenshot for NBA Jam (Hands-On) on Wii

The only real adjustment for Wii is in the shooting/jumping mechanic, now controlled with a flick up and down of the Wii Remote. It got tiring to do this for every slamdunk, shot and defence of your hoop, but the game is so fun that I didn’t even realise that my arm was aching until afterwards. It could have been far worse, with motion used everywhere; happily, it doesn’t become irritating because it is only used when it truly feels like it matters.

NBA Jam is perfectly playable as a single player experience, but it was when four people got involved that it brought back childhood memories of its perfect multiplayer. It’s a real shame that online play has still yet to be confirmed either way, but much of the fun is to be derived from a close back-and-forth match supplemented by a room full of taunts and laughter.

Asked about the appearance of comedy characters as in the original, the demo representative was unsure as to who would be included, but did reveal a couple of playable mascots. As such, our multiplayer mayhem was made more hilarious by the teams of man plus red Barney the Dinosaur (a raptor) VS man plus Bungle from Rainbow (genus unknown). Truly a match for the ages that I look forward to replicating again and again.

Screenshot for NBA Jam (Hands-On) on Wii

Extra Thoughts

NBA Jam immediately appealed to me - whether it was the sly Nintendo representative giving a competitive glare in my direction or the quirky action on screen. The re-imagining on Wii is being crafted by the folk at EA Sports and has left a fair few fans wondering whether the studio can pull of the Midway Magic. Don’t get me wrong, EA do know how to make a competitive and enjoyable sports game, but with a fresh squad behind the new game it can make even the most hardcore fan a little sceptical.

But it works - it’s smooth, fun and most importantly easy to pick up. It’s been a while since I’ve played any sort of basketball sim, perhaps the closest thing being Mario Hoops 3-on3 on the DS. So going up a hardened Nintendo rep that’s played the game for around six hours initially proved tricky, however getting into the games’ rules and controls proved quick and intuitive.

Screenshot for NBA Jam (Hands-On) on Wii

You run about with the nun-chuck analogue stick, pass about with a quick tap of the button and shoot with a waggle of two. The action is fast, fluid and highly competitive. One second you can be on the brink of a basket full of points and the next wandering what on earth happened as you see the enlarged 3D heads of your adversaries laughing at your defeat. That’s perhaps one thing that I don’t quite like - sure it’s a two on two game, but its very easy to quickly be shunted in the loser’s seat in the blink of an eye, that or I’m just rubbish. I lost 50-28, owch.

That said with a little bit more persistence and thought it can be come highly competitive, especially with the original rules intact - if a team can score three times in a row they’ll literally be on fire, pumped up on virtual steroids and giving a major advantage. Despite my defeat, NBA Jam does offer the same enjoyable and smooth experience that can make the most subdued person the most competitive, especially with up to four human players able to leap in and go head to head.
Jorge Ba-oh, Cubed3 Founder

Screenshot for NBA Jam (Hands-On) on Wii

Final Thoughts

You don’t have to be the biggest basketball enthusiast to enjoy this, as long as you’ve shot or seen a few hoops in your time the concept should certainly appeal. Fans old and new can find something here: a classic setup given a slick dollop of modern paint. EA have managed to put together a solid experience so far, without draining the franchise of its unique charm and style. We’re hoping for maximum points scored when NBA Jam dunks onto the Wii later this year.









C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  n/a

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   


Can see it appealing to a lot of people - I'm not the biggest bball fan yet enjoyed the simple controls and setup. Got royally butt-whooped, but still good fun. Definitely want to try 4-player, sounds like it could seriously ruin some friendships!

Cubed3 Admin/Founder & Designer

4 player was brill with me and Mike against Adam and that guy who'd been playing it all day, me and Mike won 65-63 and it was a really tight game as the score suggests. Also, mascots as playable characters were brilliant.

Follow Me on twitter :: @Stulaw90 || My Youtube || Backloggery
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That was indeed fast and frantic, definitely reminding me of the days when I used to play with mates on the SNES version.

I'd bypassed the game all day, but was glad we had time to spare later on so we had chance to try GoldenEye and NBA Jam!

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]

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