As many of you probably know, FIBA Eurobasket 2013 started just few days ago, and while still not popular as NBA in North America, we do enjoy watching the championship and rooting for our team / country. So just before the evening match yesterday, I got a call from a friend asking me if I knew some good basketball games for Android to try them out while grabbing a beer in the local bar and watching the game live. At that moment two games crossed my mind, NBA 2k13 and NBA Jam.
I got both games on sale some time ago and totally forgot about them ever since… until now. I told him to grab his Galaxy S4 and meet me at the bar as I launched Google Play and started downloading them both. After settling up, we decided to try out NBA 2k13 by 2K Games first. The download took a while since the game requires over 1 GB of storage space, so we decided to watch the game while waiting.
At this point I should probably mention that both of us use external controllers to play games on our phones and tablets. I have the Moga Pro and the cheaper iPega PG-9018, while my friend uses his modified Sixaxis exclusively. Needless to say, we get very disappointed when certain premium AAA titles lack the support for such devices, forcing us to unwillingly use the touch controls and holding us back from fully appreciating the game. As you probably guessed by now, both games lack this support.
The download finished and we both started the game. After the brief intro showing the 2K logo and the NBA teams, we landed on the main menu. Going through the menus deeper, we both noticed that the game offers local multiplayer over bluetooth so we decided to play it together. Upon selecting our teams and the control method, the game started by presenting the 3D playfield from above and various close-up shots of the player models running around. The graphics are good, well at least for a handheld device. If I had to visually compare NBA 2K13 for Android to other platforms, I would say it looks as good, or even better than NBA Live 2005/6 by EA Sports on the PC. Almost everything is 3D rendered, except the crowd that is made out of 2D animated sprites jiggling left and right like drunken amoebas and clapping their tiny hands together. Game on then!
Well, we started playing…sort of. It was quite a mess in the beginning. Struggling to get a hold of the touch controls while trying to do something, anything, turned out to be much more complicated then we originally thought it would be. After some 15-20 minutes of playing we finally started having fun. My friend even managed to slam dunk couple of times, while I mastered the art of personal fouls. The game feels quite solid. You have the full roster (as far as I can tell) at your disposal, full compliment of players on the field, all the rules, dribbles and movements that you can expect from a basketball simulation game. You can call for timeouts and make substitutions as well or replace injured players. From that aspect, the game offers the complete package or at least the most complete when it comes to basketball games on Android as there is virtually no competition at this moment.
NBA 2k13 offers two types of on-screen controls. The first one is the standard joystick on the left, action buttons on the right type which provided adequate performance in terms of responsiveness and precision. While attacking, you have the standard pass and shoot buttons with one dedicated “Alley-oop” button that when used at the right moment, will result in a spectacular slam dunk. While on defense the button scheme changes and you coordinate and switch between players trying to steal the ball or perform a block. If you feel like experimenting, you can switch the control scheme and use the gesture type where you can use command queues and finger gestures in order to perform actions, or rather tell your team to perform them for you. This scheme felt more like watching the game instead of actually playing it, and if I wanted to watch a game the TV was right there beside me. I seriously doubt that the devs will implement the external controller support in NBA 2k13 as the next game in the series has already been announced to be released on October 1, but unfortunately no one confirmed (yet) that the Android version will be available as well.
The live broadcast of the basketball game (that we completely missed by the way) finished long time before we stopped playing NBA 2k13. As it was still too early to go home I suggested we try NBA Jam as well. My friend hesitated at first, but quickly changed his mind when I launched the game and the narrator yelled “boomshakalaka”. Since we both enjoyed the arcade and the PC version as teenagers back in 1993, we surely knew what was about to happen.
As the game requires some 260 mb of storage, the download completed relatively fast (The bar had free Wireless N) and we started playing. Forget about basketball rules, fouls or laws of physics. NBA Jam is all about having plain old dumb fun. 10 minutes into the game and we were both screaming like little girls. Considering that we are both somewhere in our mid 30’s, I can only guess what all the people around us felt like. Even the waitress had to remind us to keep it down a bit couple of times. Yes we had a blast. Electronic Arts decided to remake the original game in 2010 and release it on all major platforms, including Android. Slam dunks from the “free throw” line, balls on fire, backboard shattering and the juicy comments from the narrator, they are all here. The essence of the original game lives. EA did excellent job keeping the core gameplay intact, while updating the graphics to keep up with today’s standards.
To state the obvious, NBA Jam is a basketball 2-on-2 arcade game. There are no fouls, outs or any other violations for that matter. When dunking, players can jump well above the backboard, perform crazy stunts and set the ball on fire (if the same player makes 3 or more baskets in a row), that grants you unlimited turbo and enhanced precision. The “on fire” mode ends when the opposing team scores. As I stated above, the game doesn’t recognize external controllers of any kind. It offers two types of on-screen controls instead, arcade and gesture based. Both of them use the virtual joystick to control the player movement and the only difference between the two is the action part on the right screen side. The arcade mode offers classic run, pass, shoot buttons that you can chain together, while the gesture based mode features a circle with 4 sides. Sliding your finger in each direction will produce the desired action. Think of it as dual analog mode, the left stick will move the player while moving the right stick up, down, left or right will allow you to pass, shoot, steal or block. The touch controls are surprisingly good, allowing you to quickly move your player around or get in position to block the shot. Precision and sensitivity are not an issue here.
It was already past midnight when my phone started ringing, interrupting the game just as I was about to break the backboard glass. *Snap* back to reality – I realized that we played the game for almost 2 hours. My battery was about to go down and I had to work in the morning, so we decided to call it a day. Now I probably have to draw a conclusion out of all this. I can’t really compare NBA 2k13 with NBA Jam, no one can. They are completely different type of games based on the same subject. NBA 2k13 is a full blown basketball simulation, respecting all the basketball rules and tiny details, player substitutions, tactics and organized gameplay, while NBA Jam is just stupidly fun to play with, especially if you have a friend thinking the same.
There we go, that looks like a conclusion…well sort of. We don’t usually update the blog over the weekends (we have a life too), and we are definitely not going to fill it up with posts like “rumors about…”, “top charts” or “weekly round-ups” that hardly anyone cares about, but I had to make an exception about this. It’s not always about the latest games, reviews and news, sometimes it’s about putting the game on real test in everyday situation, like this one. * keep on gaming *
by Martin J.