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Preview: NBA Jam


I played a quick half of an NBA Jam game at EA's booth between a couple of E3 appointments. In that short session, I had a great time -- but I think my AI partner had a much better time than I did. That's not to say I didn't enjoy myself: in my admittedly brief experience with EA Canada's renewed version of the classic arcade basketball game, I found that pretty much everything about the game is scientifically designed to deliver maximum fun.

Gallery: NBA Jam | 12 Photos

The reason I say that my AI partner enjoyed himself more than I did is because said partner was surprisingly aggressive and skilled, often grabbing the ball from my (human) opponent, rushing to the hoop and scoring with a spectacular dunk, all while I watched, a bit confused as to whether or not to be happy. I mean, my team was scoring and all, but entirely without my participation.

Everything else about the game, though, was a total blast. I found that the default motion-based control scheme actually enhanced the fun of Jam. In this scheme, the D-pad and buttons are still used for almost everything, but to shoot or dunk you have to flick the Wiimote up and then down. The swift downward motion that accompanies a dunk (especially when it's a crazy, impossible dunk performed while the Turbo button is held) is, like the motion-based combo finishers in No More Heroes, just the right amount of motion to punctuate an exciting move. It adds a little extra element of theatricality.

The graphical style is inspired, too, combining realistic bodies with 2D, photographed heads on all the characters. This is the first time in years anyone has hit upon an appropriate art style for a sports party game -- this works so much better than Mii-style caricatures.

Aside from the controls and the imagery, Jam is as it has always been: fast-paced, back-and-forth basketball for people who don't necessarily know anything about basketball. And it's still a delight, as long as your AI partner is letting you play.

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