App Review: NBA Jam

BOOMSHAKALAKA! NBA Jam is an extremely old franchise that Electronic Arts had way back when Sega was cool. It was a huge success that gave fun, arcade-styled gameplay. Unfortunately, it slowly faded away. Fortunately, EA has brought this franchise back to life!

With an updated roster, NBA Jam lives up to its past prime as the arcade basketball game to play because of its great gameplay, gorgeous graphics, abundant audio, reams of replay value, and a huge bang for your buck.

Gameplay and Controls

NBA Jam offers a fun, fast-paced gameplay that is unique to any sports game on the App Store.

The game features its own set of rules, or better put, lack of rules. It is really just some untraditional basketball. The games are 2 on 2, not the traditional 5 on 5. The game also has no fouls whatsoever. Actually, they encourage you to shove your opponents to knock them down and steal the ball. Even though they leave out lots of rules, they do adopt some important ones so the game doesn’t get cheap. There is a shot clock, and each player has a clutch rating, to make every second count. They also incorporate goal tending in the game as players can jump 20 feet to block shots.

NBA Jam has authentic superstars from every team in the league: from current day players like D-Rose to retired legends like Rodman. It gives the game a great authentic feel to it.

When you finally begin playing the game after the 260MB download, you notice that it is 100% arcade.

  • You can jump 20 feet in the air to block balls and slam dunks!
  • D-Rose can block KG

Derrick Rose rejecting Kevin Garnet’s shot.

  • Every other shot is a slam dunk or alley-oop. This actually makes the game that much more fun, but hard. Dunks are so much more entertaining when the players jump 20 feet in the air!
  • YOU’RE ON FIRE! Words that every NBA Jam fan loves to hear! When one player makes 3 consecutive shots in a row without the defending team scoring a single point, they are ON FIRE! When on fire, you are more likely to make shots and dunks. You also get unlimited turbo!

When you’re ON FIRE, your ball is literally on fire and you are more likely to make shots. Carter’s facial expression is just hilarious too!

The 100% unrealistic arcade gameplay is 100% pure fun. Guaranteed to kill hours of time.

The controls in this game are perfection. EA offers players 2 control schemes that just seem to work perfectly with the game. The first one is arcade controls, which consists of buttons that we all are used to because of Gameloft games that use them all the time.

The button control scheme consists of 1 directional pad and 3 buttons.

The other control scheme is the gesture controls. Although many people dislike gesture controls, I absolutely love them. These feel so natural to the device, which gesture controls do in general. Whether you like gesture controls or classic button controls, the game will have something in your flavor.

The controls in NBA Jam are actually very in depth. You can do lots of things:

  • Turbo: Press and hold the turbo button or left side of the screen in Gesture mode to use turbo. It makes your character move faster, but may run out over time.
  • Run: use the D-Pad to move your player around. Move your finger on the left side of the screen to move around in Gesture controls.
  • Dunk: You can dunk while in turbo mode for more spectacular, rim-rattling dunks. Press the dunk button or swipe up on the right side of the screen to dunk.
  • Pass: passing can be done by tapping the right side of the screen in gesture mode or by pressing the pass button.
  • Alley-Oop: there are 2 ways to do this. You can jump up to do one when you don’t have the ball. The CPU will normally pass it to you. Follow the same directions for a turbo dunk to perform one like this. The other way is to pass the
  • ball to your team mate that jumps up.
  • Spin Moves: Shake the device to perform a spin.
  • Cross-Overs: Shake the device while in turbo mode to perform one.
  • Pump Fake: this can only be done in gesture mode. Swipe up then down to do a pump fake.
  • Throw Elbows: While standing still, shake your device to throw some elbows and knock your opponent over.
  • Rebound/Block: Tap the rebound/block button or swipe up.
  • Steal: to steal the ball, swipe left or right or press the steal button.
  • Shove: Shoving players is easy, follow the steps for stealing while holding the turbo button.

The gameplay and controls in NBA Jam are perfect in just about every aspect. I had no problems playing the game. The game did crash more frequently when Noah and Rose were on the court together though; it is a really minor problem that only occurred sparingly. This will not affect the score that much as it is really minor. Most people wouldn’t have this affect the score, but I’m a Bulls fan and want Noah and Rose on the court as they are the 2 main superstars. There is absolutely nothing that I’d change with the gameplay and controls.

Gameplay and Controls: ★★★★½

Presentation and Graphics

The menus in NBA Jam work very nicely with the game. They are clean and to the point. I found them very easy to navigate as well. Within 3 taps, I was ready to start my first game. Everything is in its correct place and conveniently positioned. The buttons are nice and large, and easy to understand.

The main menu consists of large buttons you can’t miss. Everything is self-explanatory.

NBA Jam features a graphics “theme” that hasn’t changed since the ’90s. I think that this is actually a good thing. Some things just aren’t made to change, this is one of them. The graphics have been updated to be a little more detailed, but not much has been done. They still look gorgeous on the Retina Display.

The graphics are clean and fun. Every detail can be seen. The court, pop-ups that tell you what is happening throughout the game, ball, and even facial expressions are nicely drawn out and just look great, and humorous at times.

Presentation and Graphics: ★★★★★


When you start the game, you hear this upbeat BGM. Then you figure out that it only has one song. The song is great and really puts you in the basketball mood. It fits the game perfectly. If you get tired of the song (which I don’t really notice while I’m playing) it does support iTunes music from your iPod library.

Besides the BGM, the game is filled with various sound effects as you’d expect from arcade games. They are separated into 3 categories:

  • Crowd: You can really hear the crowd in this game. They cheer when they like something and boo when they don’t. It really makes the game that much more exciting and upbeat.
  • Game Sounds: Every sound is here. You can hear every dribble, grunt, push, block, alley-oop, and even the backboard shatter. The sound of the ball getting pounded is just fun to hear.
  • Commentary: There is commentary to the game done by Tim Kitzrow who has done the commentary for NBA Jam since the dawn of time. They announce everything that happens. The commentary is humorous at times as well. Unlike most games, the commentary in this one doesn’t seem to get repetitive at all.

The audio in this game is abundant and plentiful. Everything is looked after and just supplements the gameplay and graphics. EA has really done a terrific job with the audio this time around.

Audio: ★★★★★

Replay Value

NBA Jam offers players plenty of replay value. It offers players 4 difficulties levels to play at, so every player can be satisfied, from the novice to the casual gamer to the true Jammer, this game has a difficulty for you.

Besides the four difficulty levels, EA gives you plenty to do after you beat it. There are a total of 46 challenges to do in the game. Each challenge unlocks something in the game. Unlocks can include privileges, players, and balls.

46 total challenges for players to go through, each one unlocks something for you to use.

Besides players, you can also unlock cheats, balls, and other miscellaneous options.

Although you can unlock everything using the challenges of in the game. Electronic Arts also gives players the option to purchase every unlock available for 3 dollars. They are also constantly adding more downloadable content for the game.

Besides all of the above, NBA Jam is just addicting to play. I can go BOOMSHAKALAKA all day if I didn’t have anything to do.

Although the game offered me lots to do, I was disappointed with the lack of any multiplayer. It would have been nice to have at least local multiplayer as this was what NBA Jam was known for: great multiplayer, 4 chums just getting together, have some fun, and shooting some virtual hoops. This is the only downside to the replay value; I hope they add it in a future update.

Replay Value: ★★★★½

Value for Money

NBA Jam is available in the Apple App Store for $4.99. All I have to say is that the game is well worth the price tag. The game is so addicting and fun. It offers players 6 campaigns to go through. In each one, you face 29 other teams and must win each game. The game itself is well built and designed. NBA Jam has an authentic classic feel to it. There is no other game like it in the App Store, it virtually has no competition. EA developed a really quality game that is well worth the 5 bucks you spend on it.

Value for the Money: ★★★★★

Final Thoughts

EA has stepped up their games lately. This one is well developed, runs smoothly and supplies me with the nostalgic gameplay I haven’t seen in years. I welcome this game into my iPod with open arms. The game has updated graphics from its predecessors, so it looks better, but it is still the same NBA Jam that we all know and love. I wouldn’t call it a direct port, but it’s still NBA Jam. It is fun, addicting, fast-paced, and unique. If you have never tried NBA Jam (or NBA Hangtime), you should definitely give this game a shot. It is just plain fun and amusing. BOOMSHAKALAKA!

Final Scores:

  • Gameplay and Controls: ★★★★½
  • Presentation and Graphics: ★★★★★
  • Audio: ★★★★★
  • Replay Value: ★★★★½
  • Value for the Money: ★★★★★

Overall Score:

† All prices are in US currency unless stated otherwise.
This review was written by the Review Team. Overall scores are rounded to the nearest half or full star.
All applications and accessories were purchased at their respective prices unless stated otherwise.

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