Review – Dunk Lords

Story Fort’s Dunk Lords arrives at a crucial times for games inspired by the classic NBA Jam. After the release of NBA 2K Playgrounds 2, we were all worried about the future of the franchise. The sequel to the flawed but enjoyable NBA Playgrounds might have featured improved controls, but also a ton of microtransactions and a much grindier gameplay loop reminiscent of its adoptive bigger brother, the NBA 2K franchise. We are welcoming a brand new arcade-centered basketball game with arms wide open. The question is: is Dunk Lords the game that will replace Playgrounds as the king of arcade baller titles, at least up until the day the heavens grace us with a proper NBA Jam sequel?

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He just went full Piccolo.

As to be expected, Dunk Lords‘ gameplay is heavily inspired by NBA Jam. It’s a fast-paced 2v2 basketball game with no technical fouls, where you can freely tackle (and even outright punch) the living hell out of everyone who doesn’t play for your team. As the title suggests, there is a big emphasis on performing insane dunks. It’s the same gameplay we all grew up enjoying ever since the mid 90’s. Dunk Lords does try to innovate in a few areas, though, as this game does not feature licensed teams or players.

There are no predetermined teams in Dunk Lords. You select a team by initially choosing a kit color and then selecting two characters from a total roster of sixteen. Each character has specific attributes, like speed and strength, as well as a special move you can pull off by charging your special meter. For instance, one character is able to “glitch” everyone around him, paralyzing them for a few seconds, allowing him to steal the ball with ease. Another one is able to control an opponent’s mind for a few seconds, essentially turning the match into a crazy 3v1 game. As you can clearly notice, Dunk Lords is inspired by Overwatch in this regard. It’s basically “the hero shooter of NBA Jam clones”, in very simple terms.

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It’s colorful, but that’s best suited for the PS2.

Another neat feature is the possibility of buying gear in between quarters. You can earn money by basically wreaking havoc on court, be it by performing insane dunks or performing the equivalent of a shoryuken on an opponent’s jaw. You can use that money to buy armor that lets you withstand a few tackles, shoes that allow you to run faster, and so on. It’s a small layer of strategy that is added onto a game that’s mostly about going crazy and rated-PG ultraviolent on a court.

With all that being said, Dunk Lords is not a perfect game. It’s really fun, but it’s a bit flawed. There’s the issue regarding its overall presentation. It does run phenomenally well, at a constant 60fps even on a mid-range laptop, but this looks like a PS2 title at best. The sound department can only be described as “cheap”. The soundtrack is comprised of tunes that don’t fit at all with the game’s chaotic premise, as well as its basketball roots. There is also a bit of voice acting in here, but that’s limited to a handful of voice clips uttered ad nauseum by everyone in the roster.

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Where’s the NBA Jam narrator when you need him??

Dunk Lords is ugly and a bit janky at times, but I ended up enjoying its “hero shooter” take on the classic NBA Jam style of gameplay. It’s a game that’s less about mastering techniques and more about wreaking havoc while occasionally scoring a few dunks. While I did enjoy the game, I really don’t think it was released on the best platform. Computers weren’t made for local multiplayer shenanigans. Dunk Lords would have been a much more enjoyable title were it available on a console, especially the Switch. I hope that’s still on Story Fort’s plans for the near future.

 

Graphics: 5.5

It’s colorful, cartoonish, and it manages to run at 60 frames per second without ever demanding a lot from your computer. However, Dunk Lords still looks somewhat dated, as if it came straight from the PS2 era.

Gameplay: 8.5

Even though the gameplay can be chaotic at times, the controls are fast and fluid. This game is less about being technical and more about knowing when to tackle and when to use your overpowered special moves.

Sound: 5.5

Can’t say I was impressed with the sound department. The soundtrack is very mediocre. All characters are voiced, but they only say a handful of lines each, which get really repetitive after a while.

Fun Factor: 8.0

It’s pure arcade fun, a cartoonish and even more absurd take on NBA Jam. The main thing the game suffers from is the fact it’s on the wrong platform. PCs weren’t made for local multiplayer arcade titles like this one.

Final Verdict: 7.5

Dunk Lords is available now on PC.

Reviewed on PC.

A copy of Dunk Lords was provided by the publisher.