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BOOMSHAKALAKA! You may remember that sophisticated expression being thrown around a lot in the 90’s. It could very well make a comeback with the release of NBA Jam by EA on modern consoles. This fast paced arcade style basketball game is a ridiculous amount of fun. Oh and if you’re wondering “BOOMSHAKALAKA”, according to the urban dictionary, is the sound of a slam dunk with the “BOOM” being the dunk and the resulting “SHAKALAKA” being the rattling of the backboard.

The HD graphics in NBA Jam are indeed bright and shiny, but perhaps more entertaining are the goofy player likenesses. The players in the game have normal video game bodies while their heads look like photo cut outs that have been pasted on. This might sound cheesy, and it is, but it’s also quite amusing (particularly when you enable “big head” mode). Each team has a limited selection of players, but you’ll get to choose from some of the most popular ones on each team. The animation of the players is done very well too. The slam dunks look great and are of course greatly exaggerated. If you’re not familiar with NBA Jam games, they aren’t so much about providing realistic gameplay as they are about displaying an excessive amount of flare. From flaming basketballs to ceiling high windmill dunks, you’ll definitely be entertained. While you may not expect to find any offensive or violent imagery in a basketball game, parents should be aware that there is the potential for a great deal of shoving and elbowing in the game.

The commentator in NBA Jam is definitely one of the highlights. Borrowing many familiar phrases from earlier games in the franchise and adding some new ones, NBA Jam will almost certainly extract a chuckle from even the most reserved of gamers. Some of my favorites included: “From his mother-in-law’s house!” when firing a hopeless shot from half-court or “Covered like a rug on your floor” when the other team won’t let you get a shot off, and then one I heard far too often while shooting; “Puts up a brick.” I was a bit nervous that there would be some potentially offensive comments in the game, but during the course of play I didn’t detect anything questionable. The sound effects are satisfying and work well in the game. The simple sounds of the ball being dribbled up and down the court and the swish of the net are very realistic and add a great deal to the game. The music falls a bit short in my opinion however. While the urban beats suit this game and get you pumped up, there is so little variety that it can become a bit monotonous. I found that during gameplay I didn’t notice the music much, but if I had the game paused for any length of time the music was so repetitive that I would mute the TV so I didn’t have to listen to it.

This game has so much unlockable content that you’ll go into overtime trying to play it all. Players can complete various achievements to unlock additional game balls, characters, and “privileges” such as unlimited turbo, mini men, big head mode, and various power-ups. There are also some good old fashioned secrets that you can unlock by pressing the correct sequence of buttons or entering specific initials. For instance you can unlock special teams such as the Republicans or Democrats and play as (or against) modern political figures such as George W. Bush, Bill & Hillary Clinton, Sarah Palin, Dick Cheney, or Barack Obama. You may, however, need to restrain yourself from throwing elbows in the event that you play with some of these characters. As you play through the classic campaign you can earn several trophies by completing certain tasks such as performing 10 successful jump shots or beating the CPU in a game without shoving. NBA Jam can be played by up to four players locally or on-line providing great potential for multiplayer action. The replay value of NBA Jam is high due to the amount of extras and the fact that it’s just fun to play again and again. The game can become somewhat addicting if you don’t keep yourself in check, so take caution when playing.

The gameplay of NBA Jam hasn’t changed much in this new release. This isn’t really a bad thing as the fast paced action and high power dunks are just so much fun. There are some new “remix” modes in this edition, but I found them to be a bit too gimmicky for my taste. A few of these “remix” modes are Domination which challenges players to take control of certain parts of the court by making baskets from the designated areas. Elimination takes the lowest scoring player out of the game after each round until a single player remains. The Smash remix mode focuses on dunking to destroy the backboard. The controls in the game are simple to master and work well during gameplay making this game accessible to a wide range of players. NBA Jam features a “Jam Camp” to teach players the basics of gameplay so they can begin playing right away. This is a great feature and it makes quick work of explaining how to play the game well. While the game is a blast to play, the simplistic controls do limit the variety of moves you can perform on the court. A little more diversity here would have added a lot more to the gameplay. 

This game is rated ‘E’ for everyone and I agree that it is safe for most ages. There are a couple of things that parents should take into account before playing. Shoving and throwing elbows are available to players at any time during gameplay and these aggressive actions are displayed quite clearly. If you’re concerned about your child picking up on bad sportsmanship this is something you’ll want to keep an eye on. Having said that, your child is likely to see worse watching a live game of professional basketball. This game can be played together as a family as long as the competition is kept friendly. The action can get pretty intense in the game and doesn’t cater to poor losers. I enjoyed playing this game and I am glad to see a fresh release of an old classic that is still, for the most part, safe for families. If you’re looking for a fast paced arcade style basketball game, NBA Jam should be on your roster.


Graphics: 86%
Sound: 95%
Replay/Extras: 99%
Gameplay: 92%
Family Friendly Factor: 78%
System: Xbox 360/Playstation 3
Publisher: EA Sports
Rating: 'E' for Everyone

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