Back in the early and mid-90s, NBA Jam exploded in popularity in arcades and on home consoles everywhere with its over-the-top take on NBA basketball. Throwing down monster dunks, catching fire, and trash talking your opponent were all things that made NBA Jam such a blast back then, and that core entertainment was successfully transitioned into the franchise reboot that hit consoles in late 2010. Now an iOS version of NBA Jam [$4.99] based on the 2010 console version has hit the App Store, and despite a couple of omissions it overwhelmingly satisfies in every way if you were ever a fan of the original NBA Jam series.

The familiar NBA Jam gameplay returns here featuring a relatively rule-free game of 2-on-2 basketball with an emphasis on pulling off insane physics-defying dunks and ridiculous shooting sprees. Besides adhering to a 24 second shot clock and a no goaltending rule, pretty much anything goes in NBA Jam. Any player that makes 3 consecutive shots will then be “on fire” and during this time will make a higher percentage of shots, have unlimited turbo, and be immune to the goaltending rule. If you’ve played NBA Jam in the past, not a lot has changed here, but that’s most likely for the best.

Visually the game looks stunning on iOS. The original NBA Jam was the first sports game to use character sprites that were digitized versions of real life players. The new NBA Jam takes this a step further, using 3D polygonal models for player bodies but high resolution photographs of the actual players’ faces for the heads. The effect is hilarious, and a bit creepy, as the various NBA stars make an assortment of funny or intense faces during play. The player models are fluidly animated and the overall performance is fairly smooth, though there is the occasional stutter. The game is also optimized for Retina Displays, and looks especially crisp running on these devices.

The iOS version of NBA Jam uses a smart control system that works incredibly well. There’s a virtual stick for movement, a turbo button in the opposite corner, and based on if you’re on offense or defense a button for passing/stealing and another for shooting/blocking. Using your limited turbo meter not only increases your player’s speed but also enhances your other moves, like turning a simple steal attempt into a full-blown shove of an opponent. This is cleverly and elegantly handled by holding down turbo and then sliding to one of the other two buttons, which works great in practice. There’s a training camp mode which will run through all of these controls, as well as an alternate gesture-based control option, but the default controls were easy to pick up and are my preferred method.

The meat of NBA Jam is the Classic Campaign mode that has you choosing your favorite team and taking on the 29 other NBA teams as well as several additional hidden teams. You can choose 2 players from a pool of at least 3 current NBA players from every team, and some teams have 4 or 5 players to choose from initially. Every team also has at least one unlockable player, which typically includes classic players from the respective franchise and even some mascots. Besides the Campaign mode there is also a Play Now option that will throw you into a one-off game just for fun.

Sadly there is no sort of multiplayer component to NBA Jam on iOS. As fantastic as single player is, any multiplayer-centric game like NBA Jam is always best with human competition. An online multiplayer mode would be ideal, and even a local multiplayer option would suffice, but sadly it isn’t in the cards for this initial release. Also missing are any of the Remix modes or mini-games from the console releases, which is a shame as they would seem a perfect fit on this platform.

At the end of the day, NBA Jam on iOS is just what you would expect it to be - a wonderfully updated version of the classic arcade game. It’s missing some features, most notably a multiplayer component, but the single player offering is more than competent and a lot of fun. There are a ton of in-game achievements to earn which unlock loads of hidden players and special features like “Big Head” mode or alternate basketball styles. There’s also an option to purchase these hidden goodies via IAP if you’re unwilling to work for them through regular play. Players in our forums are loving this game as well, and if you were a fan of the original or just a fan of arcade-style sports games then NBA Jam is an easy recommendation.

TouchArcade Rating

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  • Will

    There's local multiplayer...

    • http://www.facebook.com/Fi2do Brian Gonzalez

      Nope, there isn't, apparently it was a mistake on NZ's release app description, maybe we will get it on future releases?

      • Will

        Darn, that stinks.

  • Denimesasx

    Back in the early and mid 90's, NBA Jam exploded in popularity in the arcades and home consoles everywhere with more to make the NBA.

    • http://twitter.com/VULTR3 Mike

      Thank you, Dr. History...

  • http://twitter.com/JZWilliams Zach Williams

    If it's anything like the console version that came out a few months ago then it should be a great game for $5. The console version should have definitely been a PSN or XBLA game and not a retail game because it was awful and really lacking in content. That being said, I'm gonna see if I can win this from EA's twitter trivia tomorrow like I have for the last two weeks with Dead Space and BopIt.

    • Mister Mumbles

      Well, it's a good thing that I got my PS3 copy for just that: $5. Gotta love Amazon promotional deals... on stuff I was already buying anyway.

  • Jim

    It looks more stunning than a cup of coffee!

  • Jay

    I'm disappointed that in 5 minutes of gameplay footage I didn't hear a single one of the announcer comments I fondly remember from the original game back in the day. I get that it's "improved" commentary over how it used to be, but it's also not the same, and that's disappointing.

    The nostalgia-based purchase I would have made just to hear the classic quotes is now instead a wishlist item for whenever it goes on sale for $.99.

    EA "puts up a brick!"

    • Mak Akas

      The commentator is there, with more BoomShakaLaka you can brick from downtown, just on a separate audio slider. Which is turned way down in the video :( But he's still there and I love him!!!

  • Brunocm

    NBA Jam is by far the best EA game released to date.
    What impress me the most was the controls and smooth gameplay.
    Finally someone nailed the touch controls for a sports game.
    Now that we have NBA Jam, we just need Madden NFL Arcade.

    • http://tinyurl.com/26qdufz qbgabe12

      oh yeah Madden NFL Arcade ... I believe it is better match with iOS in terms of control and gameplay

  • Anonymous

    AWESOME! INSTABUY!

    Would love multiplayer though!! And custom chars (which was also missing from the PS3/Wii/360 versions).

  • http://twitter.com/johnhood John Hood

    Loved NBA Jam on the Mega Drive.

  • http://twitter.com/lions3 Bill Keeter

    Any word if EA is going to make this Universal down the road or make a separate HD version for the iPad?

    • Anonymous

      EA? Universal? NOT fleece us for 2 versions?

      I think we'd more likely see pigs dressed in golden helmets farting angels in the sky.

  • Kenkin34

    Can EA bring me back Sir Charles Barkley? I don't understand why he is simply ignored in the previously rebirth versions in both console and handheld......

    • Anonymous

      read the wiki page with information.

      They were not able to license certain NBA players for whatever reason. It's an interesting read, and reminded me as to why the game was missing some of the big names.

      I still can't believe I forgot that Jordan WASN'T in the game. Looking back, I completely remember thinking why certain players weren't in the game.

      Without wikipedia back in the 90's, explains why I didn't know until now.

      Thank lord for Al Gore and the interwebs.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=3302127 Kevin Hanson

    I love NBA Jam!.... when i'm playing with friends. Won't buy until there's a multiplayer update.

  • Anonymous

    The game is awesome, but yes, it needs at least local multiplayer. Hopefully in an updase. Still, this game has EA pulling out all the stops, it plays great and it's very fun. Fantastic game and worth the $$$.

  • Aswan

    Does anyone now how it works on 3G ? :) thx

    • Aswan

      know*

    • Anonymous

      Uh, you can't download it over 3g. Wait till you're on wifi ;)

      Now if you're talking about Multiplayer, which is commented on heavily in the article and in all of the posts above, there IS none. So I'm sure it works like a dream on 3g since nothing actually happens.

      • MikeHuntNsideU

        I think he is talking about the iPhone 3g performance, its pretty good runs fine for me

  • http://www.lonseidman.com lonseidman

    Picked this up this afternoon, fantastic game with excellent controls. I've never been a big fan of the touch screen interface but this actually works. Well done EA.

  • Joel

    I think the control is pretty awful. And the rebounding and shooting is downright miserable. In the originals, I understand that shooting was overpowered, but now you can't shoot at all.

    The AI is also atrocious (but it was that way in the original). The solution EA sports cooks up for more difficult AI isn't greater intelligence, but more breaks (don't turn the ball over when shoved/stolen, land more shoves on the player, etc.).

    I loved the original and so this was something of a disappointment. At least the rosters are relatively current.

  • http://www.ultimatesportspsychology.com Sports Psychology

    This looks great! The NBA on my iPhone! Too bad it doesn't have multiplayer.

NBA JAM by EA SPORTS™ Reviewed by Jared Nelson on . Rating: 4.5