Sawbuck Gamer



Does a Shaq-vs.-zombies game have a place in 2013? Maybe, but not if that game is ShaqDown.

By Joe Keiser • January 15, 2013

Sawbuck Gamer is our daily review of a free or cheap ($10 or less) game.

Across the great gamut of ’90s cultural phenomena, few are as difficult to explain as “that time people enjoyed it when basketball players did non-basketball things.” It doesn’t help that they were universally terrible, these things basketball players did. But two decades later, the lovely warmth of nostalgia has kicked in, allowing us to remember efforts like the 1996 Michael Jordan/Looney Tunes film Space Jam as kitschy fun and forget what it really was: a window into a gaping chasm of madness.

ShaqDown is a game very much in this tradition, but free from the benefits of being recalled with fondness. It is bad, and it is bad now. The set dressing is appropriately insane—in a post-apocalyptic future, only former NBA All-Star/rapper/actor/reality show host/U.S. Deputy Marshal Shaquille O’Neal can save us from the mutant zombie hordes. He does so with the requisite small number of one-liners, which he delivers with wooden non-aplomb. There is also an in-game currency called “Shaqra.” These parts are fine.

But the game is joyless in spite of itself. Shaq runs forever, on one of three parallel paths. He can run right into normal zombies; they’ll die instantly. “Unstable” zombies require punching before they die, and armored zombies have to be avoided. The game’s three bosses require you to dodge bombs and attack with otherwise unnecessary projectile weapons. That is the entire game, and it becomes rote in seconds.

So it goes on the pile, with all the other lousy bits of cultural ephemera to which basketball folks have lent their names over the years. Maybe one day, we will remember it fondly. Don’t go near it until then.

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24 Responses to “Alley-Oops”

  1. Effigy_Power says:

    Shaq is still a thing?
    Sheesh, I really hope the release doesn’t push back “Larry Bird’s Cyrodiil Express” or “Kareem’s Tape Deck Adventure”…
    Sheesh. Are we so out of marketable “role models” (I actually hate that word) that we have to drag this guy virtually out of retirement?
    It doesn’t so much make a bad statement about Shaquille O’Neal as it does about the current roster of media-compatible athletes.

    • Cheese says:

      I think using Shaq is part of the joke. He’s got a long built-in history of terrible non-basketball media, so this just fits in his canon. Kobe or LeBron wouldn’t lend their likenesses to a game like that, but I think we can all agree that Shaq has and would do it again.

  2. Cheese says:

    This makes me want to have an NBA player terrible film festival. What should I show other than Space Jam and Kazaam? 

  3. Aurora Boreanaz says:

    His health/energy bar is around an icon of a basketball, because of course it is.

  4. PaganPoet says:

    The sad thing is, based on the screenshot above, it looks like the game has pretty decent artwork.

    • Chum Joely says:

      I hope you’re kidding…

      Or maybe my definition of fine artwork has just been distorted after all my time with the painterly masterpiece that is Fallout: New Vegas.

      • PaganPoet says:

        Ummm, well, maybe not art DIRECTION…or design. *sigh* I guess it’s really not very good after all.

        I guess I just like HD, hand-drawn sprites.

        • George_Liquor says:

          Ironically, I think this may be the rare game that would actually benefit from a retro 16-bit art style.

      • djsubversive says:

        Okay, I love pretty much everything about New Vegas, but calling it a “painterly masterpiece” is just a tad hyperbolic. It’s not bad (landscapes are nice, as long as everything actually shows up), but there are many prettier games (even prettier games that use Gamebryo! Divinity 2: The Dragon Knight Saga is one of them).

        I have attempted to remedy this by installing upwards of 60 mods to my game. Granted, most of these are not visual upgrades, but I do have a texture pack (Poco Bueno) and a weather mod (Project Reality) that help a lot. If you’re not on PC, I’m sorry. :)

        • Chum Joely says:

          I was totally kidding, the art in New Vegas is kind of crappy except for the landscapes…. sometimes. The idea was, “I shouldn’t really criticize because I adore this other game which is actually kind of shitty-looking considering it came out in 2010”.  (Obviously still better than Shaq, though.)

          And I am on PS3 so I have seen some bad stuff. Like at the very end when General (?) Lee Oliver shows up and the smoke just suddenly clears and all of the Securitrons kind of pop awkwardly into view.

  5. ItsTheShadsy says:

    Apparently the working title for this game was Shaq Fu 2. That makes me so happy.

  6. Chum Joely says:


  7. His_Space_Holiness says:

    At least we’ll always have Charles Barkley Shut Up and Jam: Gaiden.

    • ItsTheShadsy says:

      ShaqDown is definitely a game for TREND, CORPORATE ATTITUDE, and STONER. Not for true DOOM-MURDER HEADS.

    • djsubversive says:

      Barkley: Shut up and Jam: Gaiden is the best. And by “best” I mean “most awesome in every possible way.”

  8. Drew Toal says:

    Thanks, Joe. I’m inspired to find Allen Iverson’s album on the Internet just to disprove your th… Nope, you were right.