NBA Jam, available from the iTunes App Store for the iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch (on OSes 3 and 4) is the most complete port of a console sports game to this platform in its two-year history. It helps to have Electronic Arts’ muscle behind this – but it also helps that NBA Jam’s quirky graphics and presentation translate well to the smaller screen. This truly looks and sounds like exactly the same game.
Controls are a bit of a different story. While a virtual stick and buttons are not ideal and necessarily obscure the playing area, with only four players onscreen they don’t have to be overly complex. NBA Jam gets away with using only three buttons by incorporating a two-button slide on the screen. It takes some getting used to but the learning curve is reasonably shallow.
After that I was surprised at how much it played like the main release. Getting back into the flow I could sense when my man was going to flash to the basket and hit him with the pass for the easy alley oop. It’s just as easy to trigger it when I’m the dunker, too. Dunking on the whole felt easier than in the console release, which requires you to have more of a clean look at the basket before clearing you for takeoff. So the emphasis here is on rim-rocking fun.
It wouldn’t be NBA Jam without unlockables, and there are scores of goodies to keep you busy. The Classic Campaign’s progression through the entire league, plus classic duos, also is here. Mark Turmell’s commentary is deep and crystal clear. And I can’t say it enough, the game looks fantastic on the iPhone 4’s Retina display. EA Sports couldn’t deliver the Remix Tour games or multiplayer, which is a shame but understandable. There’s still plenty of replay value within.
Ports of sports simulations to the iPhone have been technically brilliant but their complexity has kept them from being pick-up-and-play friendly. That’s not the case with NBA Jam, which will serve up pound-the-rock mayhem whenever you can steal a break for it, whether that’s a full game or just a quarter while waiting in a long line for groceries. The game is $US5, which isn’t a bubblegum price point. But it’s not an extravagance either.
NBA Jam by EA Sports [iTunes]