NBA Jam iPhone Review

If you're a basketball fan, download NBA Jam for the iPhone. Electronic Arts somehow managed to shove the high-flying, rim-rattling Wii version onto the App Store without sacrificing much in terms of quality or content. Most importantly, the game plays almost exactly like its console counterpart, complete with thunderous monster jams, rainbow three-pointers and sweet alley-oops. There's even classic Jam announcer Tim Kitzrow, who punctuates every play with familiar trademark phrases like "Boomshakalaka" and "He's on fire." Bottom line, you need this right now.

NBA Jam plays almost exactly like last year's game and previous iterations in the historic franchise. You select from one of 30 NBA teams and hit the court for some two-on-two arcade action where anything goes. Fouls don't exist, so feel free to push the opposing player to the hardwood, steal the ball and feed the open man, who proceeds to leap over 20 feet into the air for a Statue of Liberty jam. Hit three shots in a row, and you'll be on fire, where almost everything finds its way through the hoop. It's a fast-paced, intense and fun experience.

For the most part, the controls work surprisingly well. The default scheme features an on-screen analog stick and buttons that let you pass, steal and shoot. We also love the way EA combined them to perform different actions. To steal the ball, for example, you press Turbo and then slide your thumb to the Steal button, instead of removing it. Turbo dunks work the same way, as you press Turbo and then slide upwards to the Shoot button.

On the downside, the analog stick is so big that it obscures a significant chunk of real estate, but we'd much rather deal with that compared to the gesture based control scheme. It removes the buttons, but pulling off the moves takes a while to get used to, and even then, the latter option works best.

You'll also notice (if you played the Wii edition) that the game moves a bit slower and the computer's just as cheap on higher difficulties; it steals almost every pass. Thankfully, neither of these issues cripple the experience.

As for content, NBA Jam has plenty. You can dive into a quick Play Now game, or complete Jam Challenges that test your skills in specific contests, from defeating Larry Bird/Magic Johnson to scoring 100 points in a single game. In addition, there's Classic Campaign, where you must beat 36 teams to become champion.

Meanwhile, the game has a plethora of achievements (win a game against the CPU, dunk ten times in a single game) and unlockable players, including the likes of James Worthy, Patrick Ewing, John Starks, Karl Malone and celebs such as Bill Clinton, Barak Obama, Sarah Palin and team mascots. There's also the Jam Store, which lets you purchase a bunch of players in different divisions; these cost $0.99 a piece. You may not want to spend more dough after forking over $4.99, but hey, a few more bucks go a long way.

All of this makes NBA Jam one of the iPhone's greatest and most impressive sports games we've played. Do yourself a favor and snag it immediately.

Requirements: Compatible with iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad. Requires iOS 3.0 or later.

What's Hot: EA shoved the Wii version onto the iPhone, impressive graphics, satisfying default controls, unlocking players.

What's Not: Slower than the console version, cheap A.I., gesture based control scheme doesn't work too well.

4/5