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Developer: EA Mobile
Price: $9.99
Version Reviewed: 1.0
Device Reviewed On: iPad 1G

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★★½
Game Controls Rating: ★★★★☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★★½
Replay Value Rating: ★★★★½

Overall Rating: ★★★★½

NBA Jam’s revival by EA Sports has been a boon for gaming – over-the-top sports games inexplicably went out of style a long time ago, and it’s a shame that we have been free of basketball games where everything is over the top, turbo speed is the norm, heads are huge, and gravity is merely a suggestion. NBA Jam is back, and after the iPhone/iPod touch incarnation earlier this year, the game has been released on the iPad. This is largely the same game as the iPhone version, featuring a quick play mode and a campaign mode that takes you through all 30 NBA teams as well as several classic teams. There are dozens of hidden characters to unlock, ranging from NBA legends to political figures, though if you put Al Gore and Joe Biden on the court simultaneously, the pasty whiteness may permanently blind you, so be careful.

Nothing has been lost in the transition from the smaller device to the larger iPad – the game still looks great, and details pop out even more than they do on the smaller screen, even with the Retina Display. The player uniforms are more detailed, and you can even clearly make out the real head coaches on each team’s sideline. You also have the advantage of having less of the screen obscured with the controls. If you have the Fling joystick, this game works perfectly with it, for superior movement control. The gameplay is still the classic NBA Jam that you know and love – the high-flying 2-on-2 arcade action, all the classic elements, the game plays just as well as you remembered it back in the 16-bit era of gaming, and the over the top announcing of Tim Kitzrow is here as well. And if you never played it back then, then it’s definitely worth picking up, as the game’s arcade elements are truly timeless. As an added bonus, the iPad version supports wireless multiplayer, along with the update for the iPhone/iPod touch version – and yes, the versions of the game are cross compatible for the local wifi/Bluetooth multiplayer.

Sadly, while the controls still work well, you still have to shake your device to do spin/crossover moves, and this is just not very intuitive on the larger iPad. There’s space for a fourth button, why not add it in? Some of the annoying elements of the AI haven’t been changed yet – the rubber band AI is still there, the one that will give up points like if the Dream Team was playing a middle school team, but then turn into a kind of defensive force in the 4th quarter that will take the ball away from you if you even look at them funny. The AI still hates to take 3 point shots, too – but considering how easy it is to dunk, and how they can avoid any kind of shoving once the first quarter ends, why would they even shoot threes at all?

The iPhone/iPod touch version of NBA Jam was supremely addictive when it first came out, and the iPad version is no exception. If you love NBA Jam and own an iPad, this is a must-have.

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Posted in: iPad Apps and Games, iPad Games, Reviews

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