30 teams are available for selection, split into East and West categories. Though my knowledge of basketball is limited (I play as the New York Knicks because it's the team Joey and Chandler support in Friends) there are a handful of clearly top-tier players available to preen over for your tailored duo. A typically wacky cast of supporting characters - including President Obama, Sarah Palin and the Beastie Boys - are also unlocked after ploughing through the various single-player modes.
The main chunk of the single-player content is the 36-stage Classic mode, which is all NBA Jam really needs. Sadly, EA has also gone out of its way to add in a 'Remix' campaign, which bogs down the bits you really want with needless power-ups and drab mini-games: 21 has three players competing to achieve the aforementioned score; Elimination has the player with the lowest score knocked out at time intervals; and Domination has you locking down point-generating areas by shooting hoops from specific points of the court.
These are all frustrating diversions, worsened by the fact the game even goes so far as to change the camera angle for most of them. Regular boss fights are Remix mode's lowest ebb, and it's here you'll mostly stew in a pool of your own anger and despair. The only semi-decent new mode is Smash, which puts you back in the familiar NBA Jam camera angle and has you jostling to performing dunks and alley-oops to break the opposing hoop's backboard. Assuming that most people who buy NBA Jam will just want to just, you know, play NBA Jam, it's particularly perplexing to see EA go out of its way to add as much unnecessary distance from the actual game as possible.
The AI could also do with a bit of work. Relying on CPU cohorts is rarely a good idea, and NBA Jam's wonky teammates allow for some particularly grating defeats and missed opportunities. Their attacking is usually okay, but defence and tactical know-how leaves a lot to be desired. It can often become a massive source of annoyance: repeated failures by the AI is a crushing blow to any of your goodwill towards the game, especially when you're being forced to struggle through yet another fiddly game of Domination.
So while the core game remains as entertaining as ever, what we've got here is essentially a fun little multiplayer-focused game which EA has burdened with a cache of tiresome, superfluous and unnecessary bonus modes, the overall focus designed around squeezing out a full-blown retail release. It's a shame, because a basic version of NBA Jam with just a basic campaign, local versus and multiplayer would have made for a must-have downloadable release - and probably would have ended up more successful for EA in the long run, too. As it stands, however, NBA Jam is a bloated, unnecessary title probably destined for a life in the bargain bin.
VideoGamer.com Score6 Score out of 10
- Classic NBA Jam is as good as ever.
- Brilliant visual style.
- Should have been a digital release.
- Remix mode is horrible.