Gone are the days when arcades ruled the land. The days when people lined up their quarters to take their turns playing Pac-Man, Street Fighter, and other arcade games have been rendered obsolete in favor of home consoles and online play. Nonetheless, we’ve seen numerous Pac-Man and Street Fighter evolve and thrive over the years with new iterations of their game (and for the record, I LOVE Street Fighter 6), but one popular arcade game didn’t share the same fate: NBA Jam. Enter RoboDunk.
For the record, I also LOVE basketball (I still play from time to time) and NBA Jam was also one of the games on the SNES that I own and play on a regular basis because it was mad fun! That being said, in Jollypunch Games’ own words, RoboDunk is “NBA Jam meets Rogue Legacy, with robots”. I don’t know about you, but NBA Jam, Rogue Legacy, and Robots? They all smell money to me! Still, it’s one thing to tell people what your game is about than show it, and it’s time to put the ball in Jollypunch Games‘ court and see if RoboDunk can soar through the skies, or if it will be relegated to the bench.
Aside from the devs literally saying it, you can definitely tell where they got the inspiration from because the main gameplay of RoboDunk captures the essence of the NBA Jam games of old. You got the classic 2v2 action, players using elbows instead of just stealing the ball, and, of course, gravity-defying dunks.
What separates RoboDunk apart from its predecessor though is the addition of some mechanics. Instead of blocking, you can whack opponents in the air as they attempt to dunk, but the results are the same as you thwart their plans. Also in the game are powerups that randomly appear on the court. From jump boosters to land mines to puddles, these bring a depth of strategy on how to score and defend.
Also added to the game is a dunk system mechanic where you can hold the jump/dunk button to charge how high you will jump, which in turn gives you a higher score the longer you charge your jump (to a maximum of 4 points). Keep in mind though that after jumping, you still have to time your dunk in order to successfully make the shot, not to mention be in the right position to dunk in the first place.
There are other mechanics that make the core gameplay fun, but we’ll discuss those later.
One of the best features of the game is the wide assortment of robots you can use. So wide, in fact, that it won’t be hard at all to find a robot that will fit your playstyle like a glove. Want a speedster that can block your opponents’ path? Kobu is your bot. Want to fire homing missiles from anywhere? Then Zooka got you. Or if you simply want a tanky enforcer that is a bit slow but has all the tools needed to be a great defender, then look no further than Beast! I, myself, used Techie, a robot who is on the faster side, but his best attribute is that he plants turrets that can be used on both offense and defense.
There are 16 robots all in all, 2 of which require you beating them to be unlocked. For a game where you have to rely on the character you pick, 16 is a godsend when it comes to player selection. I have yet to try all of them, and I’m so excited to do so.
The game is all about dunking, but that doesn’t mean you can’t stop the opposing team from dunking at will. In fact, this game gives you enough defensive options to avoid that scenario.
The most common and obvious one is the “Ram” button, and it does EXACTLY what it says. You literally charge at the enemy, knocking them down, forcing them to fumble the ball if they have it. The game has no block button, but you can also ram in the air, so even if they’re about to dunk, with great timing, you’d be able to just ram them out of the air. Yes, this includes the 4-point space dunk too!
You can also use your robot’s skill to stop them from scoring. Devil has mines where you can strategically place them on the enemy court, Glory has literal pans falling from the heavens, and Bouncer has sticky bombs that detonate for a few seconds.
Lastly, courts sometimes have “Danger” obstacles in them where you have to avoid or use to your advantage. There’s the obvious bombs that never go so well, jump pads are actually more of a nuisance than a blessing, and oddly enough, some puddles of water are helpful as they give you a quick speed boost.
With this addition, I feel like I’m playing a game with combined elements from NBA Jam and Mario Strikers: Battle League, and that is a good thing!
That’s a foul
Yes, the game’s name is RoboDUNK, dunking is the most entertaining aspect of basketball, and the game features a wide plethora of them, but I, myself, am a three-point enthusiast as I love shooting from afar and making that swish sound. Also, I’m too small to play inside LOL. My favorite player of all time is Steph Curry, and it’s definitely not because he can dunk!
Back to the topic, while the game has amazing dunks, that’s all you can do on offense. You can dunk from the three point line and alley-oops are a thing, but I guess the shooter in me wishes that the robots could actually do jump shots.
Then there’s the issue of the game just swaps which player you control when the other robot on your team possesses the ball. There are a couple of possessions where I didn’t even know which robot I was controlling until it was too late: the opposing team was able to charge up for a 4-point space dunk.
Hopefully, the game gives us a couple more options in the future: the first one forcing us to swap the robot we control manually, and the other to not be able to swap at all, so our teammate will be entirely controlled by the AI. I think that will solve players using Beast’s shield all of a sudden when actually trying to plant a turret (totally not based on experience).
Straight up, the game is mad fun. Jollypunch Games hoped to execute the chaotic arcadey feel of the NBA Jam games of old, and they nailed it! The core gameplay is amazing, each robot is unique, and the hazards make the game very challenging without making it annoyingly hard.
Some of the criticisms I had with the game are either minimal or more of a wishlist, but they’re definitely solvable with future updates, and I look forward when that happens.
Overall, not bad for the first-ever basketball-themed roguelite!
It’s on fire!
+ Amazing core gameplay
+ Wide robot variety
+ Spectacular dunks
+ Challenging at late stages but not unfair
+ Okay soundtrack
– Uncontrollable player swapping mechanic