JAMDAT Sports NBA 2005 Review (Wireless)
In August, we reviewed JAMDAT Mobile's "NFL 2005", and recognized it as a harbinger of what’s next in sports gaming; the burgeoning wireless world. JAMDAT Mobile's back with "NBA 2005" - an "NBA Jam"-styled game that's fully licensed by the NBA. (NOTE - This game was tested on a LG VX7000 phone.)
The side-scrolling two-on-two game immediately conjures memories of the original "NBA Jam". It's bright and colorful, which makes it easy to tell the players apart. The animated sprites are simple, but they get the job done. The perspective works quite well, despite the comparatively simple graphics, with the exception of rebounding, which can be a bit difficult at times due to the game's angle. Players look more or less the same, including their height, but given the limitations of a cell phone's graphic potential, this is to be expected. The jump shot animations are solid, and they make timing your shot's release a snap. Given the platform's limitations, "NBA 2005's" graphics are as good as can be hoped for.
There's a theme when the game starts, whistles at the end of half and game, and some beeps, chirps and other tones throughout the game. They don't add much to the game, but they're better than silence, I suppose. Personally, I'm of the belief that cell phones should make as little noise as possible, so as far as I'm concerned, the audio's fine with me - as long as it can be muted.
"NBA 2005" is completely licensed by the NBA. That means that you'll have all the real teams, along with their team colors, logos and rosters. The rosters are updated for the 2004-05 season, so you'll see Shaq on the Heat, K-Mart on the Nuggets, and all of this year's hottest rookies.
An odd menu selection makes it look at first as if no "exhibition" games can be played - but they can. It's just that the menu lists "Season" at the top, which can throw the new user. Set the Season length to one game, and you're playing one game for fun. It may be beneficial for JAMDAT to add another line in their menu to make things just a bit more clear. It's easy enough to figure out for experienced gamers, but the casual gamer or one that might be trying such a game for the first time may be a bit baffled. There is a "Quick Start" available that selects two random teams, but since you're stuck with the teams the CPU chooses - that may not appeal to many players who want to use their favorite NBA players.
Seasons can be played, of course - either seven, 15 or 29 games - with playoffs after the season ends. The game's length is also selectable for four, eight or 12 minutes.
Simple stats are tracked and can be cleared at any time. There's also an excellent online manual, that spells out every facet of the game clearly and effectively, and a small list of tips that are helpful to the novice player.
Sounds and vibration can be adjusted in the Options menu, and the menus on the whole are simple to use, and instantly familiar to anyone who's played a JAMDAT sports game.
"NBA 2005" also uses "micro-saves". That means that you can take a call, and then hop right back into the game where you had left it. Moreover, if you exit a game entirely from the Pause menu, it will be saved, and you can pick it up from there later. It's just an example of how well JAMDAT understands the wireless platform, and for a cell phone sports game, it's hard to imagine a much better feature set than "NBA 2005's".
If your phone has a D-pad, then you can control your players with that (giving you convenient 4-way movement), or you can use the keypad for more control (8-way movement). The center button on a D-pad or the "5" key shoots on offense and blocks on defense. The * button passes the ball, and the 0 key tries to steal the ball on defense. The controls are easier to use then JAMDAT's earlier sports effort, "NFL 2005", and if you have a D-pad on your phone, the game is only slightly more difficult to control than most console games.
To make things easier to see and recognize on a small screen, JAMDAT displays "Status discs" under the player you're controlling. If he has a green circle under him, his shot is open. Yellow represents a risky shot, and red warns you that the shot is likely to be blocked. It works quite well, and helps to overcome the inherent limitations of cell phone gaming.
Players perform in line with their statistics - vaguely. Obviously, Ray Allen stands a good chance of hitting a three-point shot, but that doesn't mean that you can't make them with Shaq. It's less likely, of course - but at heart - this is an arcade game, and it plays as such.
To that end, if you hit three consecutive shots in a row, your players will earn a "Super Move". The move is activated by the # button, and pressing it will either give the player an automatic dunk, three-point shot, block or steal depending on when and where it's pressed.
All in all, the games are fun and surprisingly challenging at times. It's not complicated, but it retains a certain "just one more game" flair that will keep you busy playing.
"NBA 2005" is a simpler and more entertaining game than its football brethren. The control scheme is well-designed and effective, and to put it quite simply, it's a great time-killer when you're on the bus, waiting at the doctor's office, or whatever. "NBA 2005" debuts on Verizon's network on November 3rd and will be available over most cellular service providers' networks shortly thereafter. For only $4.99, you could spend your gaming dollars a lot less wisely, and if you spend a lot of time gaming on the go, "NBA 2005" provides some welcome old-school hoops fun.