Deca Sports Review - The Next Level

Game Profile

Nintendo Wii
Release date:
May 13, 2008
Hudson Soft
Hudson Soft

Deca Sports

More is not the same thing as better.

Review by James Cunningham (Email)
June 30th 2008

Wii Sports is a difficult game to clone. It's not just a collection of mini-games, but the individual sports aren't as in-depth as a full fledged treatment either. There's a balance between too simple and too complex that it nailed perfectly, and now Deca Sports is aiming for the same territory. It hits the scale part of the equation just fine, but blows it in the gameplay department. While the ten sports-lite events that make up Deca Sports provide a good variety, the motion controls are either unresponsive or just poorly thought out in too many of the games.

Take Curling, for example. Curling is the sport of sliding a weight (called a stone) down a stretch of ice and on to a target, with the team getting a stone closest to the center winning. The stones aren't removed after a throw, so it's possible to knock an opponent's stone away or one of your own closer to the center with a good throw. As you stand at the starting point a power bar rises and falls, and you need to slide the remote forward with the right timing for the power to take the stone to the center. Too light and you can wiggle the remote back and forth to have the sweepers smooth the ice, lowering the friction and letting the stone slide farther. If the throw is too hard then it's a lost cause. None of this matters, though, because it's almost impossible to throw with precise force. The motion sensing isn't precise enough to land a hit on the power bar where you want it, so most throws become a cross between aim and wishful thinking.

Finally, while Basketball is decent enough, Deca Sports gets it right at last with Soccer, which felt quick, responsive, and even intuitive at times.

Volleyball is another good example of this. When your teammate sends the ball into the air it gets a blue ring for a short period of time, indicating it's spiking time, and a red ring that's there for just an instant indicating maximum smash potential. Swinging straight down sends the ball, logically enough, straight, while swinging down and to the left or right fires it at the corners of the court. In theory, at any rate. Using the practice mode showed that direction and timing were taken under advisement while the game decided if it felt like taking the requested shot.

Less fun than Volleyball is Badminton, which plays very similarly except for the nagging feeling that the timing is completely wrong. Unlike Wii Sports Tennis, which has the physical remote swing lined up perfectly with what you see on the screen, Badminton requires the swing well in advance of when the on-screen character would actually make it. It never feels right at all.

Not all sports are a disaster, though. Go-Karts and Motocross are passable, and Snowboarding is almost fun. Archery plays exactly how you'd expect, even with the tacked-on motion control of pulling back on the remote to draw the bow, and Figure Skating is simple but amusing. Finally, while Basketball is decent enough, Deca Sports gets it right at last with Soccer, which felt quick, responsive, and even intuitive at times. Tapping a button (it doesn't matter which one) to change player almost always gets exactly the right one, and shaking the remote to steal the ball gets a fast and frequently effective response. While it won't be giving Pro Evo a run for its money, Deca Sports manages a decent round of ultra-simplified soccer.

The problem is that three bad games plus six ranging from barely adequate to decent plus a final "pretty good" one doesn't add up to anything worthwhile. There's a full tutorial and a variety of game modes to give extra life to the package, but the without the core gameplay there's no reason to bother. Multiplayer, mini challenges, and tournaments aren't going to turn "adequate" into "fun". Deca Sports really wanted to be a deeper version of Wii Sports, but ends up little more than a poorly-executed clone.

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