As far as NBA games go, there are few, if any, that can claim to provide that same over-the-top basketball experience as EA’s downloadable sequel to last years NBA Jam, NBA JAM: On Fire Edition. Containing enough different modes and challenges, and an extremely enjoyable multi-player contest, NBA Jam: On Fire Edition provides enough entertainment, whether you are playing solo, or with an opponent.
Though it features several different game modes, the main single-player one is the Road Trip mode. In this mode you compete against teams in matches broken up into bronze, silver and gold levels of difficulty, with each one more challenging than the last. The matches take place as two-versus-two games, allowing you to control one of your players, while the AI controls the other. In previous NBA Jam games, you were forced to win matches against all the teams in a division in order to progress. But this time around, you are able progress in any order that you wish – meaning that once you have completed the bronze match for a particular team, you can immediately move onto to the silver match, and so on.
Playing the online mode, aside from providing a fun competitive challenge, provides extra bonuses through Jam Levels and Jam Challenges. These challenges consist of tasks such as: scoring a certain number of dunks, stealing the ball from your opponent. When these challenges are completed they will provide you with Jam bucks. As your progress, you can use Jam bucks to unlock more and more in-game content, such as new teams or players.
During a match, when one team scores three baskets in a row, that team goes on fire for a short time. This gives your team the ability to pull off some amazing feats and can allow your team to quickly take the advantage. It does, however, expire after a certain amount of time or if the opposing team is able to score with an alley-oop.
This year’s edition also has the new razzle-dazzles. These are a way to showoff while playing, by performing a flashy move while on offense. While these moves provide a great opportunity for your opponent to try and steal the ball, they are nonetheless extremely enjoyable to pull off. You can also perform them while shooting, causing your player to spin their arm, or shoot with their back turned. Likewise with the others they increase the chances of missing your shot. There aren’t many of these, however, so chances are you will see them all quite quickly, they are still extremely fun to pull off, though.
For all the fun of NBA Jam: On Fire Edition, there are still quite a number of small annoyances. Because of the ‘team on fire’ feature, many matches will rapidly descend into both teams scrambling to alley-oop, so much so that in some matches that is all that you will see. The game can also descend into shoving matches when on defense, which can be particularly annoying, since there are no fouls, or anything to stop this from occurring.
There are also times when your teammates AI simply lets you down, by either not being in the right spot, or doing something random and foolish. As you progress through Road Trip mode, this sense of frustration can grow as things become more and more difficult and you really need your AI teammate to be doing the right thing. The opponents AI, on the other hand, can often be the complete opposite, sinking shots that would not normally be able to be made, and quickly getting on long streaks of goals, which can be annoying and demoralising.
In some matches it is possible to bypass the need for having an AI teammate, by using the Tag Mode. This mode does away with your AI team-mate by allowing you to control both members of your team at the same time, controlling one directly, and issuing commands to the other. This puts the fault of any mistakes made squarely on the player, and can be challenging at times, since the wrong command to your team-mate at the wrong time can prove disastrous.
In online matches, there seems to be a tendency for players to forgo defense and opt for 3 point shots all the time, which can get boring quite quickly to play against, and is also slightly frustrating in that it is difficult to defend against. However, matches where this doesn’t occur can be extremely enjoyable, and exciting.
Though it lacks the stunning graphics of other sports games, the animations provide an arcade feel, which continues to add to the light-hearted, and fun nature of the game, rather than seeming like a drawback. The matches also feature a witty and amusing commentary track, which further adds to the over-the-top sense of the game, which in turn, makes it that little bit more enjoyable to play. The comments, criticism and comments feel right at home on the court, and very rarely feel out of place with what is occurring in game.
NBA Jam: On Fire Edition, is certainly fun, and at times extremely exciting to play, but in a number of instances it can get old all too quickly. Whenever matches turn into non-stop alley-oop fests, or 3-point shootouts, the game becomes tiresome. However, when matches remain fast paced, with things changing frequently, the game is at it’s best, particularly with the razzle-dazzles sprinkled in on top.
Despite it’s potential to become repetitive in some instances, and the few annoying AI problems, NBA Jam: On Fire Edition’s arcade, over-the-top style of Basketball play, should deliver hours of fun, and is extremely appropriate for most ages, with simple controls which are easy to learn.