I've never been one for sport collection titles. I think of them in the same vein as mini-game collections for the Wii and DS. When the original Deca Sports came around I wasn't terribly interested, but after trying it I found that it has some aspects that easily topped the free Nintendo offering. With the decision to compress Deca Sports down to the DS I feared a good amount of gameplay fidelity would be lost. Which makes it all the more surprising that aside from less than impressive visuals, the gameplay holds up and works well with the stylus when it needs to. Mario and Sonic may have the brand-name recognition with their winter Olympic title, but Deca Sports DS has the variety to replace stuff like curling (yeah, I'll never be a fan of that, sorry readers).
Sporting a collection of ten different sports titles, gamers have their choice between some pretty esoteric events and the simple stuff like Ping Pong. For those looking to have a gaming experience that will remind them of Cool Runnings
, there's a Bobsled event, sans frightening crashes. If that's a little too out there for you and you want something a little more traditional, there is your typical golf title (which sadly will not hold up to a Tiger Woods title), or Clay Shooting, Arm Wrestling, or a sport I've never heard of; Sepak Takraw, which is like volleyball, except played solely with your feet over a lower net. There is a surprisingly varied amount of content between the ten sports, and you might even learn a thing or two (I finally understand Rugby).
However there is one event I could have totally done without: c
heerleading. It simply didn't click for me, and with the events on-hand I'm surprised they didn't throw in something like Jai Alai. The weakness to these games is that they are almost too simple in their offerings. The Bobsled event simply didn't have enough content to it; I was hoping for something a little more exciting than the basic turns and straight-aways of the courses provided, because once you've mastered the courses there is no perceived replay value and that lack of depth is reflected throughout the game. While each game is fun, the amount of content feels low, not enough different formations in Sky Diving, not enough course variety in the wall climb (though definitely not as stupid difficult as American Gladiators on the NES), or not substantially different different holes in the Golf course.
Controls are a mix of stylus use and standard buttons. Most games require simple flicks or taps of the stylus, and the button controls are minimalistic at best. Overall this mixture works and each game is controlled differently enough to keep the game from feeling too repetitive, even if you are just tapping or rubbing the screen, although some of the controls are a little confusing initially and aren't completely practical. The first event that comes to mind is the Clay Shooting event. In order to shoot you have to hold the stylus to the screen to display the targeting reticle, and then when a clay pigeon shows up, swipe the stylus up quickly to fire the gun. This at times leads to missed shots as the target reticle will move up instead of shooting if you move too slowly. Thankfully aside from this minor slip the rest of the game doesn't have any control problems that would keep casual gamers away.
Unfortunately where the game really suffers is in the graphics. The character models are obviously cartoon-like, but the faces are incredibly low-resolution and just do not look very good, especially when you can't tell when a character is a male or a female. The rest of the game features decent effects and looks fine so long as the characters are not zoomed in on. Audio is unremarkable, but functional. I must say the despite how the game looks, it's not that big a factor in the face of some fun game play, but the transition from the Wii to the DS has obviously taken its toll on the visuals.
Deca Sports DS is a decent collection of mini-sports titles, but unfortunately they come up lacking in the content and visuals departments. The game play that exists is quite fun for almost all of the events, but it grows old pretty fast, as the only changes you will experience will be in the form of difficulty that shortens the times set by other teams. However if you're not up for playing against the computer you can use just one cart to share the game with up to five other players which is a rarity these days. If you've had your fill of Mario and Sonic and your typical Olympic fare, then Deca Sports DS is a decent pick up.