You should play Barkley, Shut Up and Jam: Gaiden

Rich McCormick at

Poor Charles Barkley. Voted the NBA’s most valuable player in 1991, the man dubbed the “Round Mound of Rebound” (I’m not lying) is now trapped in a horrible dystopian future: the post-cyberpocalypse of 2053, where basketball is strictly forbidden and evil agent Michael Jordan is on hand to shoot anyone who even attempts a bounce-pass.

He just wanted to forget, but it was Barkley that got the world into this mess. In 2041, during the last seconds of a game his team were about to lose, Barkley performed a Chaos Dunk. In focusing all of his basketball energies to impress his infant son Hoopz, Charles leapt in the air, performing a slam dunk so utterly awesome that everyone in the crowd was killed outright, bar his baby boy. Since that day, Charles Barkley has had to live in the city of Neo New York, knowing that he's the sole reason his beloved sport is expressly banned.

For unhinged indie collective Tales of Game’s (the apostrophe is entirely intentional), Barkley’s dunk-less world is best represented in a top-down lo-fi role-playing game. Looking to casual observers like a relic from Japan’s 1995 Super-Nintendo catalogue, the game’s party setup and battle system will be familiar to anyone who’s ever tangled with a Final Fantasy game. Barkley is the player’s main character, but is joined throughout his travels by another three companions. When meeting an enemy, the screen shifts into a side on view of the forthcoming battle: played out with turn-based attacks selected from each member of your group’s unique move-pool. It’s the standard JRPG format, and beyond a few innovations in the attack system, doesn’t expand hugely on the template. But – and this should already be clear from the details above – Barkley, Shut Up and Jam: Gaiden is absolutely insane.

Fantastically insane. It’s a joke taken beyond its initial giggles, past the point it’s no longer funny, and back round to a place where it’s not only funny again – it’s ten times more hilarious than it was at the start.

Examples! On paper, your party follows standard RPG tropes, with tanks, damage dealers, and the like joining your gang. Except, your tank is the Cyberdwarf, a dwarf from space with skin made entirely of basketballs. One of your earliest companions is 90s b-ball star Vince Carter: except he's now half-robot, has lasers for eyes, and is called Vinceborg 2050.

A makeshift city in the sewers of Neo New York is populated by weirdos who've had plastic surgery to resemble animals. I was accosted by a lovelorn man with the body of a snail. He pined for a vixen next door, but, unable to express his emotions face to face, handed me a sheet of poetry to give to her. The prose was horrible, so I stepped in to 'rescue' it, choosing replacement sentences as suggested by my party. Her favourite line of the rejigged poem was “and does not mind animal faeces much”.

Once I was through the sewers, I found myself in the undercity of Proto Neo New York. Cackling laughter echoed all around, and swirling sandstorms obscured my party's vision – ducking into a house, I was informed of a malign presence in the depths: the remorseless 'Ghost Dad.' Gearing up, I headed outside, coming face to actual face with the monster: Bill Cosby's disembodied head.

I could go on – I've got enough anecdotes from this free game to last a lifetime. One more, if you're not yet convinced of its brilliance: on completing the game, I unlocked 'Victorian Steampunk mode.' Its only effect? Giving all of the characters stovepipe hats on their dialogue screens.

Download the game here, for the princely price of completely free.