NBA Basketball and a squishy driving game: iPhone apps of the week

This week's apps are both games, with the first complete basketball game for the iPhone and a fun sequel to one of the more unique games in the iTunes App Store.


Like I've mentioned here several times before, I'm one of the people who is still using the iPhone 3G. Like many, I'm waiting for my two-year contract to be up so I can get whatever the next-gen iPhone is. It doesn't bother me too much (aside from a few app features that require 3GS), but I do long for the faster processing power and extra features found in the latest iPhone. Especially when it comes to (surprise!) games.

To give you an idea of the difference between the two iPhone processors and how they effect game performance, fellow CNET editor, Josh Lowensohn, put the two iPhone models to the test. In Josh's article, he offers up several side-by-side comparisons of many of the top iPhone games with analysis. If you're an iPhone-gaming fan or just want to see how the processing power matches up between the two models, check out his article.

This week's apps are both games, with the first complete basketball game for the iPhone and a fun sequel to one of the more unique games in the iTunes App Store.

NBA Live
I hope Ellis doesn't pass it to the guy with the green square around him (Credit: Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET)

NBA Live ($9.99) is the first fully licensed and complete basketball game for the iPhone and iPod Touch. You can play as any of the 30 NBA teams featuring the actual players and stats. You can play a quick exhibition game, play through an entire season, or just play through the playoffs up to the NBA Championship. The control system includes an onscreen joystick for movement and two buttons that take care of most basketball action (shooting, passing, etc.), but with a clever system for pulling off more advanced moves. The graphics are not on par with what you'll find in the current basketball games on consoles, but for an iPhone game, it looks fairly good and plays well enough to satisfy basketball game fans.

NBA Live packs a lot of features into the game using only a couple of buttons. Advanced moves like cross-over dribbles and hardcore dunks require you touch a button then flick in a direction. Holding down on the pass button brings up icons you can touch to pass to specific players. If you want to go deeper than just running and gunning, you can touch the clipboard icon to call a play and set up an open man for an easy shot. While I'm happy with NBA Live as an iPhone basketball game, I may be spoiled by the smooth experience on console versions. The graphics are pretty good, but not great and the movement can be a bit jerky. Overall, I think it's a pretty good basketball game, but it might be worth waiting a little while to see if it goes on sale. Hardcore fans should get this game.

JellyCar 2
The simple, hand-drawn graphics are part of what makes this game charming. (Credit: Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET)

JellyCar 2 is the sequel to the unique squishy driving-puzzle game, JellyCar. JellyCar 2 expands on the hand-drawn, cartoon puzzle game with several more levels, new game types, and the capability to customize your car and create your own levels. The controls involve touching the screen on either side to go forward and backward and you can tilt your iPhone to right your car when it flips over. Play the game in the Classic Mode to navigate your car through a level to the goal in the least amount of time. You have three skill levels in classic mode with a number of tracks for each level. Long Jump mode lets you drive down a long ramp and use obstacles in the level to project your car the longest distance. The third mode adds a new game entirely, requiring you to direct Tetris-like puzzle pieces to their associated bins--strange sounding, but it's pretty fun with the JellyCar physics in play. Adding to your options for solving puzzles, you can touch the car to "go big" like the original JellyCar. You also get two extra skills you can grab while driving: a balloon that lets you take to the air and one that makes your wheels sticky--each of which you will use at different times to pass levels.

JellyCar 2 also adds a few other features to play with and will amount to a lot of replay value. You can customize your vehicle and wheels with different colors, but you can also choose different vehicles, each with their own physical properties to change how you attack various levels. A new editing mode even lets you create and save your own levels from the ground up. Overall, I think JellyCar 2 is in a class by itself, with a fun, stylistic feel to the game and plenty of challenging levels that are very enjoyable to play.

What's your favorite iPhone app? Do you think NBA Live is worth the price to play? Is JellyCar 2 a worthy sequel to JellyCar? Let me know in the comments!

About Jason Parker

Jason Parker has been at CNET for more than 13 years. He is the Senior Editor in charge iOS software and has become an expert reviewer of the software that runs on each new Apple device. He now spends most of his time covering Apple iOS releases and third-party apps.