What is it with Americans? Just because they're rubbish at proper football, they have to go and invent their own ridiculous sports only they play, just so they can win at something.
Then us poor British people have to endure endless streams of games featuring rules we don't understand, players we've never heard of, and commentators who get so excited they make Murray Walker sound like he's giving a speech at his mother's funeral.

Note for foreign readers: Murray Walker is a famous UK TV commentator who gets really, really excited.

Fortunately, the people at Acclaim also understand how rubbish American sport is, so they've tried their best to spice things up a bit with their latest release 'NBA Jam Extreme'.

Yes it's a basketball game, but in an effort to make it more of an enjoyable videogame experience, the rules have been altered slightly. Well maybe 'completely changed' would be a better description, as the only similarity this has with real basketball is the basket, the ball, and a collection of curiously named tall people.

Further helping to blur the lines between game and reality, NBA Jam Extreme features only two players on each team, a huge number of special 'dunks' to help you rack-up the points, Extreme and Turbo buttons for extra skill and speed, commentary by Marv "Famous in America" Albert, and the essential item this season for any fashion-conscious young game: Big Head mode.

Yes, all your favourite NBA stars with great names such as Pooh Richardson and Clyde Drexler have been included in the game, and thanks to a new 3D engine, their pictures have actually been mapped onto the faces of the polygon players so you can recognise the people on your team, and have hours of fun saying: "Hey, that looks like Pooh"

The new 3D arena looks good, with lots of detail in the crowd, a nice solid looking shiny floor, and good use of the camera angles. The only problem with this venture into the third dimension is that the update is a little bit too slow for the pace of the action, sometimes leaving you a bit confused about what's going on, and the tiny orange blob that supposedly represents the ball, is quite hard to keep track of even when the screen isn't moving.

But even when you can see the ball you're still not too sure what's going on, as no matter how close you press your face up against the screen, the players, the court, and especially the ball, all seem slightly blurred and blotchy, which makes following the play even harder.

The action in the one player game has you controlling one team member, while the Saturn takes charge of your team mate. You control the passing and shooting of both players though, so you can string together some flashy looking passing sequences, and frequent use of the 'Turbo' and the 'Extreme' buttons is rewarded with some impressive and reality-bending turns of speed, and those legendary 'dunks'.

The thing is, the player left under control of the Saturn seems able to perform miracles, so what usually happens is that you sit there mindlessly hammering the buttons, while your computer controlled team mate takes up the ball, stunningly dribbles the length of the court, dummies the defence, then launches into a spectacular dunk, while the player you control is facing the wrong direction at the other end of the court.

It's great to watch your team mate in such tremendous form, but when your team scores say 40 points, and 35 of those were scored by the computer player, you tend to think that your players would be better off if you didn't touch the joypad at all and just let the Saturn play on its own.

But as with most sports games, it gets a new lease of life in the multi-player modes. Because at least then everyone hasn't got a clue what's going on, and the classic one-on- one gameplay of NBA Jam surfaces. You don't worry so much about how you score, as the satisfaction of once again being able to shout "Boom- shaka-laka" in chorus with the commentator, splattering Coke and crisps over the telly and most of your friends in the process, is really what NBA Jam is all about.

The one player game is quite entertaining for a while, but does get repetitive very quickly, and if it wasn't for the multi-player options, there wouldn't be much in this game to appeal to even the die-hard Jam-fans. But with the game also supporting a four player mode, and containing the usual wealth of options and hidden extras, there's at least something to keep you entertained for a while.

I would say this game falls in the Frank Bruno league of sporting achievement: Quite fun and vaguely amusing for a while, but ultimately history will forget NBA Jam Extreme.

Or my name's not Pooh Richardson.


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