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Both of these games put a very different take on the sport we know and love. Will Jam’s arcade-style gameplay and oversizes heads trump 2K12’s aesthetics and excellent simulation? Let’s find out.
Features and Design
Both games are bound to have lots of their ow little features that contribute to the overall gameplay experience, so it’s worth covering some of these such as the modes of play, achievement systems etc.
NBA Jam opens with some arcade-style music and menu that immediately implies you’ll have a good time. You have the option to jump into some sweet 2v2 action in Play Now, tackle through a season with Classic Campaign and engage in multiplayer gameplay. When you Play Now, you have the option to continue a game that was already in progress if you had to dash off somewhere.
Sticking to its arcade roots, NBA Jam lets you put in your initials and select a difficulty. Upon confirming this, you’ll here the infamous “BOOMSHAKALAKA!” belted from your speakers when the team selection screen appears, a simultaneously cool and comical touch. The name of each team is also shouted out just as loud while scrolling through.
One thing I like about Jam is that you have “Privileges” that you can unlock as you progress, which are things such as new balls you can play with and Bighead Mode, which is exactly what it implies — big heads. There is also an achievements system known as Challenges, which is probably more of an appropriate name. There’s quite a few to complete, but all are relatively easy to get.
Alternatively, NBA 2K12 offers a much more in depth and fuller gaming experience. As well as opening with some hip-hop, it offers quite a few game modes: Quick Game (like Jam), a full immersive season mode, Playoffs, Practice and for the more hardy, Situation, which allows you to recreate a game situation by modifying all sorts of settings to see if you can get out of it. The game also has a mode named Jordan Challenge which will appeal to basketball fans, as it lets you relive ten of Michael Jordan’s best moments. The reason it’s a challenge though, is you have to actually perform these just like the original actions. The game has 30 achievements to ensure you always have something to aspire to.
The graphics and realism present in 2K12 far outrank those of Jam, but that’s not to say their better. Each game’s style is suited to the game itself; Jam is an arcade classic and looks as such, while 2K12 is a realistic simulation of basketball, clear to see from the excellent graphics and design.
NBA Jam Gameplay
The gameplay in NBA Jam is ridiculously fun — that’s the bottom line. There’s something about being able to play as your favourite basketball star and make a shot from practically anywhere on the court, not to mention the elevation you receive when jumping for an insane slam dunk — that really appeals to me. I’ve managed to do a reverse jam through the backboard a few times, too!
Jam opts for non-traditional 2v2 gameplay that is simple, fun and fresh. There are no timeouts, no free throws, no fouls (besides goaltending) and no restrictions. For someone who has never played basketball before, this is the ideal game to get.
The control mechanism is incredibly simple in Jam. You have a steal and block button on defense, and a pass and shoot button when on offense alongside a directional stick. Due to the simplicity of the controls limiting the different kinds of things you can do, games are kept short and sweet, so you get enough to have a good time, but not enough that it makes you want to go another round.
There comes a point where you recognise all the insanity of the game as standard. The basketball is on fire, the ridiculous three-pointers, it becomes regular. At this point, you enter the campaign mode and actually try and apply some skill to all the insanity that goes on within a short basketball game. Due to the game being so easy to master, you’ll probably only play through the campaign mode once or twice before getting a little bored. I prefer NBA Jam as a quick-fix as opposed to a lengthy campaign.
In a way, the gameplay takes everything people love about basketball and exaggerates it, almost like a reverse caricature. The high jumps, the insane shots, the strange facial expressions; it’s almost what a lot of people come to a basketball game to see. This is usually contrasted against a lot of mediocre play however, so having solely the icing from the cake does get tiring after a while and makes you undermine other titles.
Another loveable thing about Jam is the realistic commentating that goes on throughout match play. I smile on the inside when I hear that I just “beat my man like a dirty rug,” and other various comments.
NBA 2K12 Gameplay
In contrast to NBA Jam, we have the engaging, immersive gameplay offered by 2K12. Instead of packing it to you in one go, 2K12 is a title with much more depth than its opposition. You’ll find that you have to actually make decisions, think about where the player is, where the ball’s going or if your man is open. This decision making gives birth to tactics, something you won’t find much of in Jam.
Obviously, the games are much longer in 2K12 as to give a more realistic simulation of actual basketball. Moreover, you won’t find that you’re making three-pointers left right and center; rather, you actually have to time the release of your shot and position yourself correctly to make them. This makes success all the more satisfying, as you’ve either gotten lucky or put the effort in.
All the foul calls are thrown in, plus free throws and backcourt violations. This does emphasise again that you need to actually think about how you play the game, which in turn increases satisfaction. The game is something you stick with, not to unlock things, but to advance and improve your skills and status of your team.
The controls in 2K12 are actually not too dissimilar from those in Jam. You have a steal, block and rotate player button on defense, and a pass, shoot and alley-oop button when on offense, coupled with a control stick on the left. I still have yet to use the alley-oop button, as it usually just makes you perform a regular pass, but maybe that’s just due to my lack of co-ordination.
And the Result?
As you can see, the games are similar in what they deliver, but different when you look at how they accomplish their goals. Jam puts an arcade twist on the game we all know and love, while 2K12 is the game we know and love. If I had to choose between the two, I’d probably go with 2K12, but that’s only because I’m a basketball fan. All newbies out there should get the bargain that is NBA Jam.
Of course, it’s up to you to decide which one beats the other. I hope this article helps you decide.