Publisher: Story Fort
Developer: Story Fort
MTV used to play music videos (afterall their government name was called Music Television), however occasionally they would dabble in music adjacent programming. One of which was a mash up for sports and music, Rock N? Jock series brought stars of music and sports to play sports…with the most memorable (in my opinion) being the basketball iterations of the series. Some of the alterations to the rules of the game including hotspots where shots would be worth additional points and a secondary hoop which is placed higher than the standard hoop which if someone sunk a shot would be worth a ludicrous amount of points. Around the same period (the 90?s) Midway also came out with a 2 on 2 arcade basketball game featuring the NBA licence.
Why did I waste an entire paragraph to wax poetically about the past? Well Dunk Lords from Baltimore based Story Fort is what happened if someone took NBA Jam and gave it a touch of Rock N? Jock B-Ball Jam. Sure, it?s roster of 16 aren?t celebrities or known athletes, but each of those characters are filled to the brim with personality and color. In fact one is a diminutive, but swole talking strawberry who?s amazing from downtown, another is a carnival strongman who can sic his monkey on opponents to knock them down!
Dunk Lords spices up the arcade basketball gameplay by having all the characters possess 2 special moves and a passive ability. This allows the player to build team compositions that suits their playstyle. Like shooting threes? Pick Frank or the karaoke robot, Tina-28. Prefer to Rock the Rim, select the ectoplasmic Hope, whose passive ability prevents her from being uppercutted! Given the game is named Dunk Lords, you?ll probably want to focus on shattering those backboards. In fact, Dunking is the most prominent way of earning stocks of special meters. If you are masterful enough, you can rack up the points by hitting your opponents with specials and then posterizing them with a sick dunk to get another stock to repeat the cycle. Each court also has hot spots which if initiating a scoring opportunity will grant whatever effect is displayed (cash, higher accuracy, dunks which can?t be stopped). Mega spots, scored from 4 times will trigger an ability for the player to grow twice their size to do dunks that literally blows through the roof.
Between quarters teams will be paid based on their performance and have an opportunity to buy and utilize equipment which can improve their play. Some of the wild equipment that is randomly available include shoes which make dunks worth 3 points, gloves which make it impossible to steal the ball from you and even a piece of armor which will advertise a fictional sports drink, decreasing your speed…but will generate a $250 payout at the end of the quarter. Further to add to the mayhem, the only hard rule is the shot clock (which when violated will literally drop a shot clock on the character possessing the ball to a hilarious effect), so even after a point is scored, if the opposing team is not diligent in taking possession of the ball, you can grab the ball and score again!
The game?s story mode is a series of matches with some gimmick matches sprinkled in. The gimmick matches include first to X points (A standard match is the highest score at the end of 4 quarters), a 2 on 1 match and standard matches with stage hazards. While they were a tad frustrating during my first encounter, I lament the fact that these rule variants are not available to play outside of the game?s story mode (specifically the variant that occurs during the final match of the mode). The other major mode of the title is the gauntlet mode, a 4 match ladder on the game?s hardest difficulty where if you get a higher score the better you do without spending money. My biggest nitpick would be I would?ve preferred the mode more if I didn?t have to go through the entire gauntlet in one sitting. This mode probably best personifies the fighting game nature of the title, but unlike fighting games where matches are usually under 3 minutes, basketball matches are a tad longer.
While professional sports have been cancelled indefinitely, something like Dunk Lords arrived just in time to help with social distancing (I mean it doesn?t even have online play…although I hope they implement it at some point otherwise it might prevent the title from having serious legs). That said Dunk Lords is close to a total package for an arcade sports game. Great gameplay, fun gimmicks, colorful cast, I certainly look forward to a console port. Before I part I think I figured out a great mystery of the title…I know why Frank the Strawberry has such weak stats for dunking…it?s cause he doesn?t want to JAM! Good night folks. Dunk Lords is currently available for purchase on Steam.
Story Fort provided us with a Dunk Lords PC code for review purposes.