NBA Jam Review
NBA Jam box art
System: Wii Review Rating Legend
Dev: EA Canada 1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid 4.0 - 4.4 = Great
Pub: EA Sports 2.0 - 2.4 = Poor 4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
Release: Oct. 5, 2010 2.5 - 2.9 = Average 5.0 = The Best
Players: 1-4 3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
ESRB Rating: Everyone 3.5 - 3.9 = Good

With fond memories of over-the-top-basketball silliness, many folks have undoubtedly long been awaiting Electronic Arts’ (EA) reboot of NBA Jam. Does this latest Wii entry offer players the dose of fun nostalgia they’ve been yearning for, or is it merely a hapless cash-in?

NBA Jam screenshot

NBA Jam for Wii is pretty much what you remember from the 㣾s arcade cabinet by Midway: two-on-two basketball that throws most of the traditional rules (and laws of gravity) out the window in exchange for a crazy gameplay style that’s as entertaining today as it was over fifteen years ago. EA’s version of NBA Jam isn’t without its flaws, but it’s a throwback that should, for the most part, satisfy fans.

There are a decent variety of modes to choose from, but the gameplay premise is always pretty much the same. NBA Jam isn’t a complex game in theory, but finesse and timing certainly do play a large role in your ability to own the court. You can choose to play with the Wii Remote and Nunchuk, just the Wii Remote, or the Classic Controller. Personally, I found using the Wii Remote by itself to be terribly clumsy and unfulfilling, and I quickly settled on the Wii Remote and Nunchuk set-up as my default for play. Analog control works well, and though the motion controls are a tad too sensitive for my liking, there’s potential for satisfaction when taking a shot.

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Whether you’re new to series or a longtime fan, you’ll likely want to run through Jam Camp, the game’s tutorial. Jam Camp is a very competent, hands-on start-up that will get you up to speed on the basics. Using the Wii Remote and Nunchuk, you’ll move your player with the analog stick and pass with the A button. You can also elbow players off, as well as fake a shot. There’s enough going on mechanically to give players ample room to dig in deep without ever feeling overwhelmed by the controls. Blocking and shooting are both executed by swinging up and then down with the Wii Remote, and both the timing and power of your motions factor into the respective actions.

NBA Jam screenshot

Play Now is the game’s quick-play option, but you can also take on Classic Campaign or Remix Tour for a lengthy Jam experience. In Classic Campaign, you’ll pick a favorite team, along with the player you want to play as, and then push your way through a series of engagements, unlocking additional opponents as you progress through the campaign. The gameplay in Remix Tour is basically the same, though power-ups appear randomly on the court, adding an additional element of intensity to an already chaotic game of basketball. Unfortunately, the rapid pace of a typical game of two-on-two makes it difficult to concentrate or care about power-ups, and their effects are seemingly marginal at best.

Remix Modes and Boss Battles round out the roster, and when it comes to content, NBA Jam for Wii offers decent bang for your buck. My personal favorite from the Remix Modes is Smash, another two-vs-two game in which the object is to weaken the opponent team’s backboard until it…well, smashes. Alley-oops and slam dunks do extra damage, and when you’re “on fire,” it’s a pretty good feeling pounding the remote downward in order to sink a ball.

NBA Jam screenshot

Other modes include Domination, Elimination, 21, and Remix 2v2. All of these modes (except for Remix 2v2) are half-court games with special rules; however, I didn’t find any of these extra modes to be particularly interesting or exhibit nearly the same frenetic appeal as the classic two-on-two-style games.

For my money, NBA Jam on Wii performs best when it sticks to the original formula, but even then the game is not above reproach. The controls function fine, and once you get into a groove, gameplay can be quite rewarding. It’s the little things, though, that I miss here in this version. Bigger isn’t always better, but up against the experience of today’s AAA titles, much of the gameplay in NBA Jam on Wii feels a bit hollow. The players move without any feeling of weight, and the only time the controller offers feedback is when the ball is either taken away or you’re shoved by another player. When you run toward the basket to take that slam dunk or lay-up, there’s no vibration or sound emanating from the Wii Remote – just the empty swiping of your own arm. Scoring, therefore, feels disconnected and not nearly as satisfying as it could or should be.

Screenshots / Images
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