Midway took a lot of heat when its arcade basketball game hit the Nintendo 64, despite delivering a near-perfect arcade experience. Unfortunately for PlayStation owners, this version of NBA Hangtime falls very short of expectations and definitely deserves all the stinging criticism it's going to get.
NBA Hangtime is the unofficial sequel to NBA Jam, and it plays very similarly. The same tried and true gameplay formula applies: Two-on-two basketball that has few rules, no fouls, and plenty of spectacular dunks. Defense consists of knocking down guys on the other team and swatting away balls. Offensively, it's just as satisfying to embarrass the opposition by performing gravity-defying slam dunks as it is to score. If you score three times in a row, you get the special bonus of being "on fire." That is, you can drain shots from virtually anywhere on your half of the court.
Hangtime becomes more fun with every human player who's added to mix. Get up to four playing simultaneously, and the stage is set for some fun and fierce competition. Finding decent players shouldn't be much of a problem, as Hangtime's simplicity makes it easy for novice players to pick up. To further spice up the matches, custom players can be created to resemble anything from a clown to a seven-foot chicken. These created players win extra attribute points (allowing them to improve their scoring, speed, etc.) by answering trivia questions correctly at the end of each match. After answering a lot of questions correctly, your created player will be nearly unstoppable. There are also the requisite hidden characters that can be accessed through the password menu.
Fast-paced gameplay is what Hangtime is supposed to be built on, and the lack of it is what really cripples the PlayStation version. There's entirely too much loading time - especially for a game that only lasts a few minutes. It loads to start the game, then again between quarters, and also for substitutions. Although this is somewhat forgivable because of the storage medium, the slowdown during gameplay is not. Inbounding the ball and having four players on the screen at once seems to give the game fits. It makes the play sluggish for just enough time (and regularity) that the game becomes annoying to play. While the game's graphics do justice to the arcade, they are by no means cutting edge. The PlayStation isn't a great machine when it comes to 2-D graphics, but it isn't as weak as Hangtime's questionable performance implies. The only portion of the game that surpasses the N64 version is the music, which isn't much of a feat considering the space that CD-based games have available to them.
Hangtime's technical problems undermine the very elements that make this franchise so compelling. Unless you're a die-hard fan of the arcade game (and only own a PlayStation), stay far away from the PlayStation translation of NBA Hangtime - it makes the N64 version appear a delectable treat.