Barkley: Shut Up and Jam Gaiden review.

Oh yeah. I went there.

True story: When I first found a demo for this game on a message board, just reading the title made me laugh so hard that I choked on my own spit. I enjoyed the demo, but I was certain that, as most fan games go, that I’d never see a whole game. Imagine my excitement in early January 2008, when Tales of Game’s (bad grammar intentional, appearantly) released a full version of this game. Well, it took a while, thanks to my previous computer not playing the game; however, I’m finally here with a review, and I must say - it’s even BETTER than the demo could have possibly shown.

So, in 2041, b-ball player Charles Barkley performed the Chaos Dunk, a jam so powerful could level an entire city. And it did - As a result of the Chaos Dunk, New York was completely destroyed. The nationwide response was a genocide of almost every b-ball player, and a national outlawing of b-ball. The event went down in history as 'The Great B-Ball Purge of 2041."

Fast forward to twelve years later, Charles Barkley lives in the post-cyberpocalyptic ruins of Neo New York City with his son, Hoopz. A Chaos Dunk destroys the city of Manhattan, and the B-Ball Removal Department (think like a B-Ball Gestapo) immediately comes after Barkley, the only human being capable of performing a Chaos Dunk. Barkley is forced to escape from the B-Ball Removal Department, and there he meets the Ultimate Hellbane, a mysterious ‘criminal’ who hunts down members of the terrorist organization, B.L.O.O.D.M.O.S.E.S. Hellbane believes that B.L.O.O.D.M.O.S.E.S was behind the Chaos Dunk, and urges Barkley to take help from him. He then goes on an adventure to find out the truth about the Chaos Dunk - one that forces him to confront his past.

So, unless English isn’t your first language, you’ve probably realized that the story is a COMPLETE satire on epic-style RPGs. The game’s savepoints even take it further by spouting hilariously ironic rhetoric about how much greater Japanese games are than American games. The game uses corny b-ball slang very liberally, and even treats words like ‘slam’ and ‘jam’ like they have real, tangible meaning. The game also boasts a heavy use of long dialogue sequences and dramatic pauses to drive home the satire. The way in which the characters say completely ridiculous things like “We may need to slam and jam at a moment’s notice”, and “The test subject’s internal gatorade levels have risen dramatically” never gets old; in fact, it gets FUNNIER as you go. The best part is when you realize that you can substitute words like “Slams” and “Jams” with other keywords from any epic RPG with a weird fantasy storyline, and still have a completely coherent story. This is absolutely brilliant.

The game also cleverly uses a cast of fictional and non-fictional characters, both of which have a variety of characters that have nothing to do with basketball and everything to do with basketball. From Micheal Jordan to the grandson of Lebron James to Wilford Brimley… this game uses them all, in ways that are both clever and absurd, but always funny. Ironically, this is appropriate and in line with the story, which treats certain fictional events - such as the events of the movie ‘Space Jam’ - as if they actually happened!

There’s a lot more to this game’s story and humor, but to tell anymore would be pushing it - after all, the game is unfortunately only about six hours long.

There are only a few things that bothered me about the story. For one, it seems silly that the game is held in 2053, since that would mean Barkley is roughly ninety years old. I’m not sure if they failed to address this on purpose or not. The game ends leaving you in the dark about a lot of stuff; however, this IS supposed to be part 1 of an ongoing story, so there will likely be more opportunities to explain things better. Still, it feels like there was a lot of wasted potential near the end of the game. Even though the dramatic pauses were intentional, I felt like they really overdid it in the first parts of the game. It got a lot better and funnier as it progressed, though. The game had a few inside jokes that appearantly spawned from the original message boards where they discussed the game. Most of them are funny whether or not you know the joke; but there are a few that just leave you scratching your head. I suppose it doesn’t detract from the experience much, though.

The last thing that bothers me is Charles Barkley’s excessive swearing. It’s not really that I’m offended by it, but I just didn’t really think it was funny. I didn’t really see the point in it, and I thought this was the only thing they did that was just dumb. In any case, the rest of the game more than makes up for it.

Perhaps one of the funniest things about this game is not even the story, but that the rest of the game is competently made! The music was written by one of the main game designers, who goes by the alias of Chef Boyardee. The music captures a surprisingly real post-cyberpocalyptic feel, while also having a few funny tracks. The graphics are roughly SNES style (which makes sense; the game was conceived in a program called RPGMaker, which makes SNES-looking RPGs), and the sprites come partly from RPGMaker, SNES and Genesis games, as well as original sprites and drawings.

The battle system is pretty sweet, too. Dubbed the B.A.B.B.Y system (I didn’t even try to figure out what it stood for), the game takes a number from the Paper Mario series of having ‘timed hits’ to power up attacks. Every character also has a variety of different attacks for different situations. My one big gripe about combat is that every character has one ‘obviously-best-in-every-situation’ attack. A lot of the higher-damaging attacks have too low of accuracy to really use, and a lot of attacks are useful in situations that are too uncommon to be very useful. As a result, you’ll probably find one attack with every character that is simply the best in every single situation. I really love the concept of this battle system, though - it was a truly awesome idea. Hopefully, the next game uses the same system, and simply improves upon it.

The dungeons are really well-made, too. The game boasts a variety of different things to make dungeons interesting, from having puzzles, multiple paths, and even fun sidequests and diversions. This game has even more; but, as before, I shouldn’t ruin it.

Barkley, Shut Up Jam: Gaiden gets right in your face with its sharp sattire and makes no apologies for it. If you don’t get it, too bad. If it offends you, too bad. The game was definitely made for the kind of people who feel jaded about the oversaturation of RPGs who think they can pass off as Final Fantasy 7. It’s incredibly short, but still manages to be a thoroughly fun experience for those who appreciate what this game has to offer. And for those who can’t, well…as they say, “If you can’t slam with the best, then jam with the rest.”

I’m fairly sure that the “part 1 of the Hoopz saga” tagline isn’t so much a promise of a sequel as it is a jab at games like Xenosaga where the box makes every effort possible to let you know that there’s more games in the series for you to buy. I really need to get around to finishing this game one of these days, I got to the part where the cyborg betrays you and then got sidetracked.


Perhaps it references this iconic Yahoo Answers question?

Taran, clicka!

I really should play it again in steampunk mode. Goddamn that game was good.

The Chaos Dunk is possibly the greatest ultimate attack and technique of doom ever concived.

When I have a computer for alltimes instead of sneaking-into-hoteltimes, I’ll give this a try. It sounds hilarious.