Deca Sports: All Star or Bench Warmer?

May 30, 2008


Wii Sports has long been a dominating force in showing off the versatility of the Wii's remote and nunchuck. The playability across its five events has made it a part of pop culture lexicon. It also has the advantage of being free. It was only a matter of time before the imitators showed up and recently Sega and EA have both taken a stab at the formula with mixed results. Next up is Hudson's DECA Sports. Featuring an odd mix of events, where does it fall in the pecking order of athletic endeavors on the Wii?

While Mario and Sonic appeals to audiences with its all-star cast of characters and Mii support, DECA Sports provides just eight generic teams seriously lacking in the personality department. Each squad is rated in just two categories: speed and power--though any extreme differences are hardly distinguishable.

Individuals on each team are rated in each sport as good, average, or bad and by their height. Taller players are better at basketball, and smaller players are more streamlined for go-karting. It's all very simple and irrelevant.

DECA Sports lets you choose between 10 different activities right out of the case with some rules stripped away to make each one user friendly. There are no offsides, throw-ins, or corner kicks in soccer, and traveling, shot-clock violations, or even fouls are completely ignored in basketball. It's every sport distilled down to its fundamentals.

You also get badminton with no doubles option. And then there are go-karts and motocross with three different courses to race. There's also snowboarding, but without being able to pull off any tricks it's far too tame--even for a simple game like this. Curling surprises, however, since it involves quite a bit of strategy. Figure skating, archery and volleyball round out the rather eclectic collection of events.

The sports are accessed through a variety of modes. Open match is what would normally be called exhibition in other sports games. It's quick access to all the teams, AI, and sports. There's also a single-elimination tournament where you pick a sport and compete against each of the other teams. With no continues, it can be surprisingly tough.

In Deca challenge mode each of the sports offer a little twist in their gameplay, such as hitting targets in badminton, or scoring as many points as you can in a solo game of basketball. The most traditional mode, Deca league, is structured a lot like a grand prix. You earn points as you compete against the computer throughout each of the 10 sports, putting an emphasis on mastering each.

There are a lot of modes and options in DECA Sports, but it all really comes down to playing the same 10 events as well as possible. The lack of Mii support is disappointing, and multiplayer could have been handled better, but at a discount price you're getting a fair share.

As any fan of Wii Sports will tell you it's all about swinging that baseball bat or golf club and it feeling pretty close to reality. This is where DECA Sports falters. It's a total waggle and tilt fest.

Archery, curling and figure skating are among the better events. In archery, you simply point at the target and let go of the B button to shoot your arrow. It's kind of difficult to screw up the pointing functionality, but wind realistically plays a factor in the trajectory. Curling, the most demanding sport, lets you choose the speed, direction, and curve of your throw to great effect. Figure skating is one of three games to utilize both nunchuck and remote as you waggle at the center of each colored circle.

In the racing events, the tilt steering isn't up to the task. Often times the remote won't recognize tight turns, and you'll be forced to back up and try again. There's no sense of speed and it looks like the track rotates around the vehicle. Snowboarding makes you hold the Wii remote like the old TV standby while tilting, but it's far too easy to gain speed and wipe out.

Basketball and soccer controls are easy enough while badminton and volleyball are hit or miss. Smacking the ball over the net is easy enough, but any hope of strategically placing it is joke.

There are ups and downs with the gameplay in DECA Sports, but it's mostly downs. The irony is that the events that play well are likely to garner the least interest. It's a shame too because a competent volley ball game could be a lot of fun.

First of all, expect to hum the DECA Sports theme song on your drive home from work or in the shower. It's catchy, but the visuals, and the rest of the sound for that matter, are just kind of there. It just lacks any sort of style—good or bad. The characters have zero personality, and overall, the game feels a bit like a blank slate. Some sports feature passable presentation, while others were possible on generations of consoles long since passed.

Wii Sports is still the reigning champion when it comes to party sports games. DECA Sports is, if anything, a distraction, and worth renting if friends are coming over. Those with sore elbows from Wii Sports addiction will be enticed by its discounted price, but keep going for the cross-court winner while the wait goes on for a successor.


Reviewed on Wii.