The Wii Sports killer?! Nope, just kidding…
When the Wii was released, everyone got a taste of what was to come as gamers got up from the couch to play their games. Packaged along with the console was Wii Play, a simple tech demo used to introduce players to motion-sensing and infrared controls. Ironically, the game remains one of the most popular titles for the hardware, even with its simplicity. With that in mind, it’s surprising how long it’s taken a third party to try and replicate that simple, yet engrossing, formula. Hudson Soft’s Deca Sports aims to do just that, but, unfortunately, it fails to capture the same engaging gameplay as its Nintendo-developed inspiration, and doesn’t even require you actually stand up to play.
Accessible, with a catchy theme song, but that’s about it…
Although Wii Sports got things right with its five sports games, people wanted more. Deca Sports aims to fulfill that call with 10 sporting events; yet, more isn’t necessarily always better, as the included events don’t make for a more fun experience.
Hudson’s Wii Sport wannabe comes equipped with 10 different sports: Badminton, Kart Racing, Curling, Snowboarding, Archery, Motocross and Beach Volleyball, only use the Wii-mote; but Figure Skating, Basketball and Soccer, require an accompanying Nunchuck to partake in play. Each game is simple and Granpa/ma-friendly, requiring little more than tilting and flicking the Wii-mote, or pressing any one button.
Accessibility is where the game’s positives end, however. Even though Wii Sports was a convincing demo, worthy of standalone action, its “free” price-tag was the ultimate seller. Such is not the case with Deca Sports; it may only be $29.99, but its lack of depth negates any price point declarations it’s able to make.
The game is deceptive: Booting up the game introduces you a catchy theme song that is reminiscent of an early 90’s workout video—in a good way. However, things aren’t as catchy after clicking past the main menu. You soon find out that despite four different modes of play, and a Locker Room, to track your records, there’s actually less depth to Deca Sports than its Wii Sports forerunner.
It doesn’t matter what you pick, it’s basically all the same…
In the single-player mode, you can choose to play various game types: Open Matches, where you choose a single event, one of eight teams (divvied up into classes of co-ed or single-gender, and balanced, speed or strength oriented) and the rules you’d like to play with; Deca League, involves a competition across all ten events for team supremacy; Tournament, which plays a couple of rounds in a ladder of a single sport for top prize; or Deca Challenge, where you compete to break a target score.
All of the different modes look good on paper, but when you go to play, you discover there isn’t much difference between them. The only difference from choosing to play an Open Match, as opposed to a Tournament, is the carrot on the end of the string for participating in bracketed games: a trophy for your Locker Room. The Locker Room itself does little more than show you how many times you’ve won an event, in a particular game mode; there aren’t any comprehensive stats to be found. Similarly, the game types are fairly shallow, and arbitrary. During a tournament, your first round will be ridiculously easy, while the following round will be an overt challenge.
That’s not all folks…
Playing these different modes wouldn’t be half-bad, if the sports looked good and played well. Just about each sport has a complementary one that plays nearly identical to it: Badminton and Beach Volleyball involve swinging the Wii-mote up and down; Kart Racing, Motocross and Snowboarding have you tilting the Mote; Curling and Archery involve you making pushing or pulling motions; and Figure Skating, Basketball and Soccer use a combination of button mashing and flicking movements to initiate moves.
Sadly, all of the games do little to excite and aren’t affected by what type of team you choose. For the most part, you can win just about anything after you get the timing down, raced one of three tracks enough times, or just get lucky; the racing is entirely up to the computer if it wants you to win, the ball games are slow and have defective shooting and stealing mechanics, and the net-based offerings leave you at the mercy of unresponsive AI.
A game with curling? Normally, I would be sold…
Not all is lost, however, as Curling, Archery and (surprisingly) Figure Skating are exceptional experiences. Curling matches turn into strategy games, while figure skating involves rhythm and timing to match performance elements across three different programs. Archery is a fun distraction, but you’ll find a better option in Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games.
Having three fun games out of a possible ten doesn’t bode well for a game where up to four can play in multiplayer matches. Technical issues further mar the already lackluster game, as there are numerous hit detection issues in Badminton and Volleyball, no rules and arbitrary steals in Basketball, and a lack of Mii support. Complete with a dull, overly-simple presentation, and short, ridiculously-repetitive game-specific tunes, Deca Sports just doesn’t have much going for it.
Don’t put away those demo discs just yet…
While we were all captivated with Wii Sports’ innovative play, it’s safe to say we’ve moved beyond it. If the public wants to play simple sports games, they have the disc which came with their hardware. Deca Sports tries to capitalize on the accessibility of the Wii, but what we’re left with is a mundane product that only has a few average standouts; and paying for three mildly-fun games doesn’t fit the bill, especially when there are better alternatives.
+ More curling, please
+ Figure skating is actually okay
Oh, hell no:
- Repetitive, uninspired single-player experience
- Lackluster games for party action
- Visually disappointing