Hands On: DECA Sports II

I am not a Wii player. Glad we got that out of the way early. That’s not to say that I’ve never played it; I just don’t own the system and my experiences with it usually are from playing Boom Bloxx at a friend’s house. It’s with that particular frame of reference that I took on trying out Deca Sports II from Hudson Entertainment. While I expected nothing more than Wii Sports v2 I came away surprised by the elegant simplicity of the game’s execution. Featuring ten new sports-related games, Deca Sports II expands on the simple premise of pick-up-and-play controls with games that everyone knows and that made Wii Sports so popular. The games include hockey, kendo, dodge ball, darts and a host of others. During my play test I was able to try out hockey, dodgeball, and kendo.

I was really concerned about hockey. The NHL 2k series hasn’t exactly set the Wii on fire with its control scheme, so I was worried that Deca would have similar issues. Using the Nunchuk and the Wiimote you control player movement. Shooting is accomplished by moving the Wiimote vigorously while holding the “B” button, while passes are made with simple movements. All of the aiming is handled automatically, making the gameplay easy and fun. Checking is accomplished simply by running into other players, and is based on how large the players are. It’s here that I had a brush of nostalgia that made me smile and vaulted Deca Sports up several notches for me.

If you ever played the original “ice hockey” game for Nintendo you remember that you picked a country’s team and then picked players that were either skinny, normal, or big. Skinnier guys were fast but couldn’t check and big guys were lumbering and could knock down anyone, but couldn’t really outrun anyone. Deca Sports works the same way. Before entering your sport of choice you choose a team setup. You can customize the team anyway you like with combinations of short, medium, and tall players. The results are the same for Deca hockey as they were for the Nintendo version. It’s a really simplistic way of creating a team, but the throwback to the original Nintendo and the ease of use was incredibly impressive.

Dodgeball was similarly successful as hockey, though the control felt a little tougher as you are forced to try and aim your throws rather than just have the game handle it. More than a few times I flung the ball clear to the other side of the court. It takes a little getting used to, but becomes easier the more you do it. Control again has you using the nunchuk to move characters around. I chose entirely tall players, because as the movie Dodgeball taught us, always choose the big strong players…it worked out in my favor.

The final sport I got my hands on was kendo, sword fighting basically. The Wiimote is all that is needed, using the d-pad to move the character back and forth. Swinging it makes your character attack and the attacks are contextual based on how you swing the Wiimote. It isn’t a 1-1 transfer, more that if you swing down your character will make an over the head attack, while swinging across makes your character attack the body of his opponent. Blocking is accomplished simply by holding down a button which is a bit of a letdown since it doesn’t require you to swing the remote and react at all. The game proves pretty easy since you can just hold down block and wait for an opening to attack. The A.I. is pretty predictable but competitive multiplayer is probably more engaging.

DECA Sports II is not just some throwaway add-on. It expands on the simple fun that is Wii Sports while giving players access to an ever growing list of athletic events.