There’s something irksome about an incomplete experience. Like a dream where you start driving a bus naked but you don’t know how to drive a bus and then you wake up before anything is resolved, all you get is a climax with no buildup. It’s going to an Olive Garden, stuffing yourself with free bread, and leaving with nothing but a note scrawled on a napkin or a single joker card in the middle of the table. It’s an inversion of every drunken night you’ve ever had where you only remeber before and after what happened. Instead you must relive only the sad be-beergoggled moments that were scrubbed from your mind by GABA reuptake inhibition.
This is the second mid 90’s sports game I’ve been tasked with reviewing, and I’ve gotta say, something has changed in the past 10 years or so. Or maybe it hasn’t, I’ve just never had to play games that I’ve been assigned before.
Barkley’s Shut Up and Jam (unlike the brilliant genre-busting jrpg post-apocalyptic sequel/spinoff Shut Up and Jam Gaiden) feels like a half game. You can play a match, a series, or a tournament, all pitting your favourite basketball stars of yesteryear against each other in 2 on 2 matches in the mean streats of Urban America.
You start a game, you choose a team, and you’re dropped in. I chose Sir Charles, naturally, and his smooth 16-bit rendered voice guides the way, encouraging me with an enthusiastic “nice jam” or the occaisionally less colloquial “nice dunk”. I feel good until my formidable opponents take the ball and run away. I’m unable to knock them over with a dirty street elbow the way they do to me. There is no indicator saying which of the two members of your team you are controlling. I will be driving up the court and then landing a sweet half-court shot and feeling pretty good about myself until I remember that I was controlling Sir Charles, not the other, unknighted, NBA star of yesteryear with a sweet fro-pick.
The computer is better at this game than me and doesn’t even tell me when it’s me playing, making it even more like a bad, semi-lucid dream from which I am unable to awake, my journalistic integrity compelling me to plumb the depths of Sir Charles subconscious.
I’m almost there though, a little bit more and I’ll understand it. I’ll be able to master the ways of 2v2. I’ll be able to pound the cracked pavement of Oakland, jamming left and right, so hyphy. So hyphy.
A little bit more and I’ll shut up.