🏀 Retro Review: Space Jam - PS1 "Jordan's Motivation To Return To Basketball?" 🏀 #Retrogaming #GamersUnite

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This Space Jam video game is based on a movie by the same name that I am pretty sure I saw in theatres and remember very little about; partially because that was the only time I saw it, and I know very little about Michael Jordan or basketball as a whole, so it never kept my interest. 

I considered re-watching the movie for this review, but couldn’t find anyone I knew that actually owned a copy, so not sure what that says about the movie or my friends. It is a simple concept though, with the world-famous Looney Tunes meeting real-life NBA players—mostly just MJ after he decided to do baseball—and play a game of intergalactic proportions: Tune Squad vs Monstars, where the stakes are…

I honestly don’t recall, but I’m sure they’re big. The movie, however, was a hit, to the point that Hollywood is still talking about a sequel to this day, so I’m a little surprised there is only one Space Jam video game.

It was released right near the movie (1996) for the PlayStation and Saturn, as well as a PC port a year later. Published by Acclaim, development was handled by Sculptured, who had some experience with the characters before, as they did a game called Looney Tunes B-Ball, that I don’t think I’ll be playing, which makes Space Jam an odd sort of spiritual successor. The game’s standard play is 3-vs-3 arcade action that feels a whole lot like NBA Jam. What a great title to copy, but this is a hollow imitation at best, with weaker gameplay and less replay value. There are only a few buttons to learn, which is great at first until it shows that there isn’t much to do. The controls being a little more responsive and not having to hold down the button to shoot would have been a good start, but the issues go a bit deeper than that.

Though the core experience isn’t bad, there are many games that do this better, and there just isn’t anything else to draw players in other than the Looney Tunes properties.  There are these mini-games that pad out the experience, trying to match the eighty-eight runtime of the movie, while breaking up the monotony. 

Most players will find these interludes annoying or simply weak, and they aren’t explained well, so everyone’s first time sucks. To get everyone warmed up though, there is an opening little challenge for Daffy Duck to grab Michael’s uniform and sneakers while avoiding obstacles and the family dog, Charles, which I am told is from the film.

They should have had the movie’s soundtrack in the game, as the current one isn’t very memorable, and I liked the Space Jam music better than the actual movie—Quad City DJ’s for life. The visuals aren’t great either, as the PlayStation was just putting out much better stuff at that time, but some of the sprites and their animations did look good. The court may not look great, but it sure is easy to make out that McDonald’s logo for the easy endorsement. The Looney Tunes roster and the Monstars are pretty varied and I liked that they had their own stats, but my guess is everyone just plays as Lola Bunny and Jordan, creating some incredibly awkward fan fiction. 

It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that MJ has perfect stats, but part of me wishes I could pick some of the other Bulls players, like Dennis Rodman, since he was in the NWO; I feel like I could win more with him. Speaking of that, the manual is cool because it has all of the characters’ career stats and is fun to flip through, but there is an ad on the back for WWF In Your House, which I wish I was playing right now instead.

What is basketball: 

that was the question I asked myself about halfway through this review.

I don’t care if it is based on Space Jam, I still feel weird reviewing a non-wrestling sports title. I don’t think it actually follows the rules of the game too closely though, so it shouldn’t matter, but I can’t help but think I would be having more fun if this game had embraced the Tune side more than keeping it as a basketball game with guest characters. 

I’m imagining a very different experience that stands out more because it embraces that looney side. Each character has a special animation that triggers sometimes when they dunk or get a big score (like Taz spinning), something specific to them and being a cartoon. Think if they had expanded on that and gave each character a couple of more abilities or moves, so players could see a real intergalactic spectacle. Instead, we get something that edges towards boring after a few minutes and gives some real photos of the development team at the end—because it’s about the small rewards. 

Space Jam got a lot of negative reviews, and the words ‘poor execution’ was being thrown around a lot. Even the positive pieces usually pointed out that there needed to be tweaking to the mechanics and a little more content to hold up. 

Personally, I’m shocked there were no clips from the movie, considering that the PS1 loved to show off that kind of stuff at the time, and I think both the movie and game could have used a lot more Bill Murray to make them better. 

As it is, I think I should stop trying to make this game work, just play NBA Jam and put on the movie in the background. Though I’m glad we all admit that ProStars was Michael Jordan’s better cartoon crossover.

P.S. Kovic just reminded me that Jordan actually went back to basketball not long after this and won like three championships. I want to find a way to blame the Space Jam game for this, like how bad it was motivated his return. He knew he could do a better game, something like that.

🏀 Review By Wilds 🏀

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