Rings of Saturn. Issue #9. “NBA Jam Extreme” and “Scorcher” in THE GRUESOME TWOSOME OF DOOM………SOME

I’m condensing two games together this week as I really couldn’t see me writing enough for one of them on their own. Henceforth, I have smashed them together like two tubs of butter and watched their remains explode all over your computer screen. Quite frankly, I’m surprised that putting two such miserable games next to each other hasn’t caused a black hole that has swallowed all of humanity as we know it into an unavoidable vortex of suck. There’s still time I suppose.

Picture Courtesy of Wikipedia

I’ll start off with NBA Jam first as it was both chronologically the first of the two games that I played and also the one that had the distinction of annoying me the least. That’s not to say that it DIDN’T annoy me of course, but it at least didn’t cause me to wish bodily harm on people, so it’s got that going for it if nothing else!

First off, this isn’t the NBA Jam series made famous by Midway. For those not acquainted with the series, NBA Jam was a 2 Vs 2 basketball game that was released in arcades by Midway during the 1990’s. It was renowned for its wacky 2D graphics and the fact that players in the game could perform all sorts of crazy super moves, such as leaping into the air in a display of flames before destroying the unsuspecting basketball hoop with an Earth shattering dunk. I played it a few times in the arcade during my younger days and have fond memories of it.

Unfortunately, Midway lost the rights to the NBA Jam name to Acclaim in the 90’s and thus the series took a pronounced nosedive, with “Extreme” being an example. Midway went off to make NBA Hangtime, which was a more authentic “Jam” experience and the spiritual successor to the series, while Acclaim went about ruining the actual series by being Acclaim.

Picture Courtesy of www.defunctgames.com

The first thing they changed were the graphics. Instead of going with the 2D Mortal Kombat styled designs used by Midway, Acclaim decided they were going to go with 3D graphics instead. This not only went against the overall spirit of the series but there was also a snag in that the graphics looked absolutely atrocious. On more than one occasion I had no idea what was actually going on in the game as everything was so fuzzy that I didn’t know whether I had the ball or not. The players look awful and the controls are clunky and unresponsive.

The rosters to choose from are at least decent and there’s a nice touch where by if you keep scrolling through the Bulls roster selection screen Dennis Rodman’s hair colour will be different each time. However, this is a slight chink of light in an overall dark and depressing experience. The Super Moves, once the series calling card, now look slow and uninteresting. Commentary from Marv Albert is dull and repetitive, the sound effects are blasé and the overall gaming experience is a poor one. I really wouldn’t recommend getting this one at all. I’ll post some footage at the end of the feature and you can decide for yourself.

Picture Courtesy of Wikipedia

As bad as NBA Jam Extreme was, it couldn’t hold a candle to “Scorcher”, a game which I bought on a whim as I was hoping it would be a hidden gem. I’m afraid the reason I’d never heard of it was because it’s a simply horrific game that made me so angry I almost rented office space just so I could a create a not-for-profit organisation motivated solely by the desire to rid the world of this horrid game one disc at a time (We’d also sell bagels, cos bagels are brilliant. But mostly it would be about ridding the world of Scorcher)

Scorcher is one of those games that Americans must look at and feel like it validates all their misconceptions about us in Europe. The game has a techno styled soundtrack and is about riding weird looking bikes around crumbling dystopian landscapes. For all Joe Yank knows, this game could quite easily be based on a real sport that takes place in Moldova rather than being a futuristic racer in the style of Wipeout or Rollcage. I feel it’s relevant to mention those two releases as this game was clearly trying to dine at that table and ended up with racing pie all over its bikes as a result.

I wouldn’t even go as far to call what you race with in this game as “bikes” in the first place. The bikes themselves are surrounded with a green force field that makes them look far more like hamster exercise balls than anything else and they handle on the winding tracks with all the ease of one. The game comes with an accelerate button, a boost button and also a jump button. Oh yes, you didn’t misread that little snippet there, this game has an honest to goodness to jump button. That’s just what this genre of racer was missing wasn’t it, chuffing plat forming sections!?!? Oh and before you ask, no, the plat forming doesn’t work at all and only serves to make the game even more frustrating and anger inducing. What doesn’t help matters is that sometimes the jump button doesn’t even work! You’ll be trying to navigate pits of acid and assorted trap doors in the course, and your bike will stubbornly refuse to leap over them thusly causing you to fall to your inevitable death.

Picture Courtesy of www.chronicgames.net

The aforementioned soundtrack is by far the low end of the techno scale. When put up with the soundtrack of games such as Wipeout, there really is no comparison. I stuck the Wipeout soundtrack on just so I could have something to listen to while writing this and it’s still a jaunty journey of mad techno beats. Scorcher is sadly more a kind of techno white noise than anything else. I’m hardly a big fan of the genre to begin with, but both Wipeout and Rollcage at least have tracks that add to their gaming experience. Scorcher’s soundtrack is just “there” and adds nothing to the game at all. It also doesn’t help that the futuristic dystopian world that we’re racing in doesn’t look anywhere near as interesting or graphically pleasing as the two other games.

Overall, Scorcher is just an awful game. The vehicles control poorly, the controls are unresponsive, the graphics are ugly and the soundtrack is big load of meh. The game is nothing more than a vapid and on the nose attempt by Danish developers Zyrinx to cash in on the popularity of much more popular and better made games. If you own a Saturn, you can hunt Wipeout down for the system and it will hardly cost you much more than having to pay for this sodden mulch of a game.

As always, I’ll post some game footage of both games at the bottom of the article.

Thanks for reading.

Peace Out

You can check out footage of NBA Jam Extreme here courtesy of Man Stuff on YouTube

You can check out footage of Scorcher here courtesy of World of Longplays on YouTube

Looking for other stuff to read on the site? Well check the links below!

Stephen Jackson reviews Scourge of Waterloo here

Stephen also looks at the Top 10 Zombie Games here

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