Mario Slam Basketball

Not quite a slam dunk from Nintendo's finest

We all know exactly what to expect from a Mario sports game: loads of powerups, fast action, big scores and, increasingly, depressingly, Diddy freakin' Kong. It's a simple blend that has resulted in gems such as Mario Tennis and Golf, as well as the odd Strikers stinker, and Mario Slam Basketball doesn't deviate from the tried, trusted and generally successful formula.

But Basketball never hits the heights that so many previous titles have reached. While it's certainly an impressive visual treat on DS, it lacks the playability, friendliness and depth we've come to expect.

Lonely on court
It's controlled with the same wrist-knackering D-pad plus stylus combination familiar to players of Metroid Prime Hunters. Tapping on the screen makes your character bounce the ball in different directions to shield it from the opposition and collect coins from the special squares dotted around the court.

The coins are added to your points tally when you score a basket, and since you can carry up to 100 of them at once there's absolutely no point in going for the hoop unless your pockets are well and truly stuffed with cash. A fully coined-up basket is worth around six times as much as a standard one.

So the games are about bouncing the ball on the spot till you're maxed out, then trundling off to pop it through the hoop and bank the money. The passing controls, which involve swiping the stylus towards a team-mate, are rendered useless by a camera that doesn't show enough of the court to locate the other players.

Not that they ever get into good positions to receive the ball. Going solo is such an effective tactic that it might as well be a one-on-one game - passing only makes it much more difficult to score.

Given that the multiplayer requires multiple cartridges to work properly, and there's no Wi-Fi, no RPG and a lack of minigames, it's unlikely that Slam Basketball will be popular in this country.

It's nowhere near the quality of the other handheld Mario sports titles.

The verdict

Looks a lot better than it plays - an unusual state of affairs for a Mario sports game.

Nintendo DS
Square Enix
Sports, Action