Review: Tales of Game’s Studios Presents Chef Boyardee’s Barkley, Shut Up and Jam: Gaiden, Chapter 1 of the Hoopz Barkley SaGa

13 04 2013

The year is 2053. Charles Barkley is one of the last remaining legendary ballers living in the post-cyberpocalyptic ruins of Neo New York after the events of “The Great B-Ball Purge” in which the game of basketball was universally banned and its players were hunted down and driven to extinction. Why? The Chaos Dunk, a jam with so much ballin’ power that when performed snuffed out a 100 billion lives…
When the B-Ball Removal Department comes knocking, Charles must escape into the dangerous city and uncover the plot of the terrorist organization B.L.O.O.D.M.O.S.E.S. and clear his name, and maybe even redeem the game of basketball forever…

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Oh, and I forgot to mention: in the universe of the game the events of the 1996 movie Space Jam are canon.

Are you downloading this game yet?

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Barkley, Shut Up and Jam: Gaiden is an independently produced PC game made in a parodical style of a SNES-era JRPG (the J stands for something else in this game though). The work is one of both tribute and ridicule as it emulates, deconstructs, and satirizes an entire genre of games. While the overall purpose is mostly an exercise in humor, the game itself is no joke. Although there is a slight pervasive clunkyness that one might expect of a home-brewed indie game it is a solidly constructed game that holds up well to the standards of that which it invokes in its imitation. The production values are low but polished, with many borrowed sprites and art assets ripped from other games but the jumbled visuals overall contribute to the humorous tone.

The general gameplay closely ascribes to the genre of game that it pokes fun at. Players control Barkley as he assembles a team of allies to assist him in his journey, traveling about the ruins of the post-cyberpocalypse in an overhead view, interacting with the denizens of Neo New York. When you engage an enemy in battle, the game switches to a classic side-view menu-based mode where Barkley and co. must utilize their various baller skills, zaubers, and verboten jams to defeat opponents while using helpful items like insulin and tobacco to keep them free of harmful status effects like diabetes, glaucoma, and aspergers. All of the characters’ main attacks consist of a small minigame that involves careful timing or rapid button presses to maximize the effect. This battle system is fairly well done and does what it needs to.

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Ridiculous premise aside, the comedic nature of the game is a bizarre party mix of forced basketball references, ’90s throwbacks, gamer pop-culture satire, and general absurdity. There is a self-aware authorial presence in the humor that persists throughout every element of gameplay, from the villains that appear to the simple nomenclature of the things in the world of the game. Although they live in comic circumstances, the characters take themselves and their situation very seriously which highlights the tongue-in-cheek nature of the game. You should make a point of talking to the random NPCs roaming about the overhead maps for some choice bits of dialogue.

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Overall Barkley, Shut Up and Jam: Gaiden is a worthwhile play for the simple hilarity of its existence but also as a study in solid indie-game execution. Taking about 6 hours to complete, it is great for lulz but also manages to evoke a fond nostalgia for a cherished but fading era of games. There is a certain charm and appeal to the game that will resonate with many gamers, and it has broken free from obscurity and spawned a legion of mashup memes inspired by the game and its Space Jam roots.

The Tales of Games team has even had a recent and successful Kickstarter for a follow up title, so sometime in late 2013 or 2014 be on the lookout for “The Magical Realms of Tír na nÓg: Escape from Necron 7 – Revenge of Cuchulainn: The Official Game of the Movie – Chapter 2 of the Hoopz Barkley SaGa” if you crave more slams in your jams.

http://www.talesofgames.com/related_game/barkley-shut-up-jam-gaiden/


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