NBA Jam 2002
It's 2002 and time for another season of video basketball! NBA Jam 2002 for the Game Boy Advance lets you take your game on the road with players from all of the NBA teams in several different modes of two-on-two action.
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
It's amazing just how much they can cram into such a small cartridge these days. This game has six different ways to play: Season, Playoffs, Quick Game, Jam Mode, Practice Game, and Horse. Season, Playoffs, and Quick game should be pretty self-explanatory. Jam Mode is a Quick Game with power-ups. Icons appear at random on the court for you to pick up to increase your power (being able to knock over opponents easily), 3 point shot accuracy, jumping, and speed. There's also an "On Fire" (which is all of the increase power-ups rolled into one) and a "Never Miss" which, well, I think you can figure it out. The practice game lets you and a teammate practice with no time or score limits and is great for learning the controls. The black sheep (or horse as the case may be) is Horse Mode. We all know the game of horse where a player makes a shot and the other player has to repeat otherwise you spell a letter of the word horse and the first one to spell the whole word loses. This mode is a little different, it should've been called "Cat" or "Dog" instead as you can only miss three times before you lose. At any rate, you will always follow your opponent, and he : underline;" misses. To make the shot you have to repeat a series of button and control presses similar to moves in Mortal Kombat or Street Fighter. The biggest difference between these moves is that you have as much time as you want to do them, so take your time. If you can complete Horse mode, you'll unlock a couple of extra courts.
When the game starts, you have all of the NBA courts and teams available to you. Upon completing certain modes, you can unlock courts or extra teams. Once something is unlocked or after a season or playoff game, a long password will be given to you to write down. If you attempt to access a court or team that's locked, the game will tell you what you need to complete to unlock it. I must say that unlocking these isn't too much of a challenge. While the game has three difficulty modes, none are all that difficult although you can definitely see a difference when playing. The hardest mode is challenging, but not that hard and that actually says a lot because I'm horrible at most sports games.
The gameplay itself isn't that bad, but it isn't great either. As a whole the game seems very sloppy to me. When you move a player on screen they respond okay but it just seems that the graphics don't seem to keep up with the rest of the game properly. For instance, you'll often see a player backpedal for a bit before turning around even though he isn't guarding anyone. At times I noticed that the ball was being dribbled in mid-air behind the player that had possession and when you take a shot well it's anyone's best guess as to whether or not you actually made it, at least by watching the action. There are times when the ball clearly is way too low or too high and yet it counts (I particularly love when the ball is several feet above the basket, yet it stops in midair and drops into the basket). There are other times when you're running to dunk the ball and you shoot and the player throws the ball behind him. It really seems like more luck than skill if you make a shot although it isn't hard to actually score. The bottom of the screen will show the score, but no timer or shot clock shows except on the scoreboard on the court so it's hard to tell how much time is left in the quarter unless you're standing near half-court. One nice feature worth mentioning is that you can adjust the quarter time from one to five minutes.
In addition to the standard moving, passing, shooting, and being able to switch players, you can also run for brief periods based on a turbo meter. As you run, it depletes but will regenerate as time passes when you don't use it. You can also try to steal the ball from your opponents. Often times you will knock over the player but since there are no fouls, anything goes. In fact, there are no penalties except for the shot clock, which can be turned off in the options. Occasionally I noticed that even after I knocked someone over, I still couldn't grab the ball and the one that fell will get back up and take it again.
One other thing worth mentioning is the menu system. Normally there isn't much to say as you just pick options or whatnot. This game is no different in that respect aside from the menus taking forever to pop up. There is a lot of pretty animation going on during menu migrations but since you have to wait for it all to finish, it becomes annoying to have to wait for it all before you can select an option. Likewise when you first turn on the game there are a ton of splash screens that pop up that you cannot bypass and take what seems a lifetime before you can start the game.
Strangely enough, the graphics are really good and really bad at the same time. You can tell that they were trying to pack as much as possible on the screen and as long as you just glance or squint at the screen everything looks fine. It's when you look a little closer that you'll notice the graphics just look a bit sloppy and not very well defined'almost like the game was designed for a larger screen but then shrunk down to fit the GBA screen. Despite this, there's still a fair amount of detail when you look at the picture as a whole. There are television cameras on the sidelines, towels on the bench, and even flash photography from the audience at times. The animation is pretty nice and there's a good amount of it too, especially on the menus, but I've mentioned that already.
Despite the fact that the sounds and music are pretty average, I have to say that the sounds are pretty impressive. This is because there is a commentator that frequently calls out plays in a pretty clear voice during the game. Unfortunately if he annoys you there's nothing you can do about it without turning off the rest of the sounds too. The rest of the sounds are what you'd expect to hear: bouncing basketballs, shoe squeaks, and the crowd roaring, etc. The music is just filler on the menu screens.
Just your average explanations of how to play and what controls do what. Because of how sloppy the game appears to play, you may want to look at it so you can be sure you know what you're doing since it may look like you're doing something else entirely in the game itself.
Hmm, I'm not quite sure what to think of this game. In general I don't care for basketball (or any sports) games these days, although I can say I did somewhat enjoy this one. It's probably due to its simplicity as compared to what you see on the other home console systems. The control, gameplay, and game in general have a sloppy feel -- ?it's often hard to see where the ball is, and there's no multiplayer. Despite this, the game isn't all that bad once you get used to it but I probably would only recommend this game only to someone that wants a basketball fix while on the road which is why I give NBA Jam 2002 a score of 75.