Deca Sports (Sports Island in the UK) has simple and genteel controls that mean you won’t be destroying any hardware - or indeed your wrists - and it’s a far less hectic proposition all round; ice skating, curling and badminton are hardly in the same adrenaline-pumping class as pole vaulting, hurdling and hammer-throwing. It’s also a game that’s far more enjoyable when played with friends, just like its freebie cousin Wii Sports.
You will, however, find myriad options when playing alone. There are eight teams to pick from; each comprising five athletes who have a leaning toward strength, speed or balance, and you can play to these individual attributes by choosing the right type to compete in the relevant sport. Each of the preposterously named teams (Mad Maidens, anyone?) also has its own squad colour, and all the kit is sponsored by Adidas, no less.
You can tackle each sport on its own, play in a single-sport tournament or in a ten-event league. There are three difficulty settings where relevant - there are three karting courses, for example, and in the ice skating there are three different routines to perform set to three different classical music tracks. Likewise there are three AI difficulty settings. But for all this, if you play by yourself there isn’t enough of a draw to hold your attention for any longer than a couple of sessions. While there’s a trophy cabinet and records room where you can view your progress, there’s nothing tasty to unlock as an incentive. Unless they’re hiding a gold-plated Adidas jockstrap and leotard somewhere that we’ve not found…
Some of the sports are weak, too. The ice skating, curling, badminton, snowboard cross and basketball are all decent. Football is okay but lacks pace, and the kart racing is fine but you’ll laugh it off the island if you’ve played Mario Kart - which you have, so you will. But the archery and supercross are barely worth bothering with, and the volleyball is only feasible for two or four players. So the real issue is whether or not this stands up alongside Wii Sports and Mario & Sonic as a multiplayer title that’ll hold your interest for more than a weekend. Unlike our earlier short answer, the short answer here is ‘yes’.
Seven of the games support up to four players, while the three others are only two-player affairs. There’s a decent mix of simultaneous split-screen play (like the karting and snowboarding), everyone being involved on one screen (like the volleyball) and events where you take turns (like the ice skating). It’s all good clean fun with friends and the presentation is generally crisp, clean and pleasant. The controls are unashamedly simplistic whatever the event (a sure indication of the game’s intended market), and their functionality and accessibility gives us little to complain about.
May 13, 2008