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Barkley, Shut Up and Jam: Gaiden, Chapter 1 of the Hoopz Barkley SaGa (PC) artwork

Barkley, Shut Up and Jam: Gaiden, Chapter 1 of the Hoopz Barkley SaGa (PC) review


"To the word. Seriously, that's crazy (kinda, but makes sense if you've played the game). Anyways. "



To the word. Seriously, that's crazy (kinda, but makes sense if you've played the game). Anyways.

In a world where ballin’ is against the law, one man stands up for what is right. He believes in dunks, in slams, in jams. This man is none other than Sir Charles Barkley.

Set in the “post-cyberpocalypse” of Neo New York, a world destroyed by the awesome power of the Chaos Dunk, he and his son Hoopz eke out a miserable existence as some of the last ballers alive after the Great B-Ball Purge, an event that saw to the death of most of the basketball players in the world. Whether they live in squalor now, in obscurity, as a robot or as an agent against their former brethren, one thing’s for sure: Basketball…is dead.

Barkley Shut Up and Jam: Gaiden – Chapter 1 of the Hoopz Barkley Saga is a game that weaves ridiculous, perhaps asinine concepts such as this together with many others to create a believable future that takes itself quite seriously despite the subject matter. Creator Tales of Games has done an exceptional job at crafting a world with its own rich mythology, one that has a lot of humor and even heart without being blatant about it. In a way, the smartly-written dialogue is funnier because of the fact that it treats itself not as a parody, but simply as itself.

Guiding Sir Charles through the overhead screens is plenty easy--you’ve got your movement keys, a confim/check and cancel/run button, and menu button. That’s it, and surprisingly all you need. The streamlined control system should no doubt ease in even people off-put that a game revolving around a basketball player is presented as an RPG.

For those used to the genre, there’s no need to worry. Shut Up and Jam: Gaiden is definitely an RPG-lite. You won’t have to fret over multiple leveling paths or technique upgrades or trying to plan 18 steps ahead. Beyond a few pieces of equipment to manage and some items, there isn’t a lot of menu-dwelling to be found. It’s a refreshing change--nice to spend more time playing the game than preparing your party so that you’re able to, though if you are one of the folks that loves to micromanage his team and comb the menus, you’ll find this game sorely lacking.

Controls have also been streamlined, but there’s little hand-holding, and the combat system is where the game really shines. Not content with the ‘pick an attack, watch recycled attack animation, repeat’ formula of the old-school RPGs that this game embodies with such fervor, Shut Up and Jam: Gaiden offers something a hair more involved, along the lines of Legend of Dragoon or Super Mario RPG in its functionality.

Each character controls somewhat differently in battle--whether you’re using the old free-throw meter to line up shots with Barkley’s assortment of mighty basketballs (some have spikes! How does he hold those?), aiming and rapidly tapping to fire a salvo of lasers, or waiting for a target to fall over the right enemy for maximum damage using Hoopz’s guns. On top of that, they all have a few variations of their regular attack--for example, Barkley can do a vanilla jump-shot at normal damage, or he can do a fade-away for less damage, but increased defense next round. Beyond that, all of the heroes have the more traditional special skill and item commands, though those function without the specialty or the skill required of the regular attack commands, ironically.

Since it acts like a ducks, it looks and sounds accordingly. Shut Up and Jam: Gaiden appears to be, for all intents and purposes, a lost game of the 16-bit era, and even uses a few sprites from games of the time to help spruce up the scene. Why is Barkley’s kid Skate from Streets of Rage? The world may never know. The tunes rock appropriately, most composed by the ToG staff, and the few they pinch are utilized in clever and sometimes even touching ways.

This old-school-feeling game revels in tongue-in-cheek humor, taking good-natured potshots at some of today’s more modern gaming icons, the more ludicrous conventions of yesteryear, and assorted bits of basketball and pop culture. Nothing is safe! Whether you’re exploring a city haunted by Ghost Dad, dueling Kevin Malone in an extra-dimensional vortex, or facing down a giant cube of sugar on the island of a diabetic, you never know what’s going to be thrown at you next but it’s always entertaining and never feels out-of-place within the game’s universe.

It’s difficult to find fault with a game so lovingly-crafted (especially when it’s free--Google it!). The most damning thing I can say is that it’s a tad on the short side, especially for an RPG. I had no trouble beating the game in 5 hours even while taking my time and seeing everything that the game had to offer. However, when there are full-priced retail games that have campaigns that last as long (I’m looking at you, Force Unleashed 2) and are nowhere near as enjoyable (again, Force Unleashed 2--FU2 is an appropriate abbreviation since it’s all I have to say to that game) this is forgivable. And though the game does offer an unlockable mode after you beat it, all this does is make some minor modifications to character portraits and names; while slightly amusing, it isn’t enough to warrant a second playthrough. Lastly, the game has a few Quick-Time Events early on; my only question is, why so few? There are maybe 3 in the entire game. It feels out of place especially in an RPG that otherwise ensconces itself in nostalgia, but none of these tiny quibbles can tarnish an otherwise phenomenal piece of free-ware.

Do yourself a favor, leave your Neo-Shekels at the door and download this game. If you don’t like it, you deserve to be dunked into oblivion.

Rating: 8/10

turducken's avatar
Community review by turducken (March 12, 2011)

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