iTuesday Review: NBA Jam for iPad

I remember when I was younger I would go to friends’ houses and play NBA Jam on the Sega Genesis. Back then I didn’t know anything about basketball, but I still loved playing the game. Now, over 15 years later not much has changed. I still don’t care about basketball and I still have a fondness for NBA Jam. Last year NBA Jam was resurrected, and last month it made it’s way onto iPad.

NBA Jam for iPad has everything you would expect from an NBA Jam game. Big head mode? Check! Flaming basketball? Check! Unrealistic dunks and alley-oops? Check! It’s all here.

The game has two different control styles: gesture and arcade. In both styles you move your character around with an on-screen joystick. The nice thing is the joystick will change position based on where you put your left thumb down, so no matter what size hand you have it won’t become awkward to hold the iPad. In arcade style there are three buttons on the left side of the screen forming a backwards “L”, one to pass/shove and one to shoot/block and a turbo button in the middle of the two main buttons. If you drag your finger from the turbo button to another button it will give you a more aggressive pass, block, push etc. With the gesture method you slide your right finger in different directions for different moves. This isn’t that hard to get the hang of, but I found arcade style worked best.

The Default postion of the joystick

The position of the joystick if you have Shaq hands

You can shake the iPad to throw your elbows or do a spin move. Usually I’m a big fan of when games find ways to use the accelerometer, but not in this case. Because you are also trying to control your character (and therefore your thumbs are on the screen) while shaking the iPad it’s pretty hard to do. I found myself not shaking the iPad very often.  This would probably be a lot easier to do on a smaller device (it should be noted there is also an iPhone version available).

NBA Jam for iPad has one really nice feature. You have the ability to use songs from your iTunes collection as the in-game music. Usually I just mute the music and play my own anyway so it was cool to see this integrated into the game.

The main gameplay mode is classic campaign. Here you go head-to-head with the rest of the NBA in an attempt to become world champions. There are four different difficulty levels to choose from, which you can actually change during the campaign if you want. Throughout the classic campaign you get the chance to unlock other players (and privileges). You would think the way to unlock these players would be through beating different teams, but that’s not always the case. Unlocking something occurs when you complete a challenge. For example if you perform ten successful shoves in one game you can unlock Dennis Rodman.  One thing that I found strange is that some of the challenges involve you not doing well. For example I unlocked the cobalt basketball by missing five consecutive shots in a single quarter. I couldn’t help feeling like I didn’t deserve that basketball. It seems silly to reward poor performance, but whatever… it keeps the game interesting.

Being that I’m more of a NBA Jam fan than an actual basketball fan it didn’t really matter to me if I unlocked any of the players (although it was pretty cool unlocking the Beastie Boys). If you’re an actual basketball fan you’ll probably have more fun trying to unlock your favorite NBA legends. If you don’t have the patience to unlock all of your favorite players you do have the options to buy different player/privilege packs for $.99 a piece or $2.99 for all of them. These packs also contain mascots, so you get a little bonus if you decide to spend some extra cash.

I know so little about the NBA, the only reason I knew this was a legend team was the flat-top haircut

NBA Jam was originally an arcade game, and as such is the most fun with friends. NBA Jam for iPad supports multiplayer over wifi or bluetooth, and while I haven’t had the chance to try this first hand I think it’s a fair guess to say this is the best way to experience the game.

NBA Jam for iPad is available for $9.99 from the App store. $9.99 is a bit of a high end game. However you do get a lot for your money. The classic campaign mode features 36 different teams you need to beat, not to mention over 40 challenges. If you’re a fan of the classic version of NBA Jam or even just a basketball fan with an iPad you’ll probably have a lot of fun playing NBA Jam for iPad.

Final Rating: 7.5/10

CBR Break Down:
Console Played On: iPad (first generation)
Approximate Time to Completion: varies depending on how long you have the quarters last. Minimal of 6 hours to complete the classic campaign.
Price Bought at: N/A – Review copy furnished by EA Games
Current Price: $9.99

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