In what universe is snowball fighting "extreme?"
Hudson's been making Deca Sports games for a while now, yet they seemingly haven't run out of sports. None of the games have been particularly good, but they haven't been dreadful, either. I can say the same for Deca Sports Extreme, the series' first foray into 3D territory. The game features 10 distinct sports, and they all feel different, but none of them feel exactly right. Part of the problem is that it's just not a cohesive experience—going from sport to sport feels disjointed and since each one has a different control scheme, you never really get in the zone.
Your first task is to create a team, which takes way too long. You give them names, faces, and colors, assign special moves, assign home court colors, dole out stat points (one out of your four players will get the shaft), etc. There are unlockable faces. Using your team in just about anything will generate experience, which of course leads to leveling up, which then nets you challenges, new special moves, and…faces.
The game itself is broken into very simple modes: Open Match, where you play one match of a sport of your choice; Random Match, where you play a random sport to try and win a best-of-3 or best-of-5 round; Tournament, which is obviously a tournament with the CPU teams; and then Championship, the "meat" of the game, where your team starts out in 30th place, and you battle through the ranks to reach that coveted Number One Spot, which takes forever.
The sports included are as follows:
Basketball – Like Soccer and Hockey, Basketball feels too loose, and your opponents are needlessly aggressive. They're basically in your face 24/7, and actually getting a successful basket is shockingly rare.
Tennis – Your AI partner in doubles play is a moron, and it is WAY too easy to hit the net from your end of the court. It's also not really clear how the hit types differ.
Snowmobile Racing – Basically a straight-up Mario Kart slalom without power-ups (well, see below). You power-slide your way through a snaking course for three laps. This sport is halfway decent, but the controls aren't as tight as they need to be.
Trampoline – This is somehow a sport now. Your character bounces really high, and at the apex of the jump, you pull off some Guitar Hero-esque button combination with a finicky sense of timing, and your character does a flip. Then you direct him or her to land without flying off the trampoline.
Bowling – The problem here is that, unlike most of the other sports, this one uses the touch screen. It's the old "pull back and flick forward" problem that pervades this sport, where the slightest left-or-right lean on your forward flick will cause the ball to lazily roll too far left or right, sometimes resulting in a gutter ball. Exaggerated left or right flicking (like, you meant to do it) results in spin. The game needs a "safe zone" where a forward flick is a forward flick without subtle pitch or yaw. Flawed from the outset, but somehow engaging.
Soccer – Two-on-two doesn't work because your opponent is always in your face, stealing the ball, and the camera has a bad habit of suddenly showing where the ball is NOT. The opponent's goalie is basically a god, too, almost never missing the ball.
Sumo Wrestling – Two characters in fat suits try to shove each other out of the ring. This game is actually ridiculously easy because you can spam certain moves, like the rush forward attack. If there's one flaw, it's that it is much tougher to break your opponent's crotch-grab (yes, crotch-grab) then for him to break yours, lending the CPU an unfair advantage.
Snowball Fight – It's really Capture the Flag. You run around a field with boards protecting your team's "base" while throwing snowballs at each other and trying to grab a central flag to take it back to your base. Your AI partner will very often focus on opponents on the other side of the field instead of the one five feet from you, who's ready to bean you with a snowball. One round takes far longer than it should, but, like Bowling, this is another oddly fun sport.
Dart-Blowing – This game sucks. It uses the 3DS' gyroscope to aim your shot, but it's WAY too sensitive. Then you blow really hard into the mic (which is, itself, hard to do) and hope that you reach a sort of "minimum air force" to make your character blow a dart into a dartboard. There are so many problems with this game, it's hard to know where to start. It's clearly trying to be Wii Sports Resort's Archery game, but fails miserably.
Ice Hockey – Avoid it at all costs. You move with the Circle Pad and use the touch screen to control shots, passes, etc. As a lefty, it's basically impossible for me to play this.
Those special moves I told you about earlier can help turn the tide of some of the more frustrating games. You activate them by pressing L, but you first have to collect a bunch of rainbow-colored orbs on the playing field to use them. That means you're often fighting between actually playing the game and running around looking for orbs so you can activate your special ability (which differs from game to game) and maybe win.
Deca Sports Extreme offers multi-card play, where two players can use their customized teams against each other, and a simplified, generic team-based single-card download play. The game has stylized graphics that, while colorful, just don't pop, although the 3D effect is well-used in at least two of the games. The music is bouncy and varied, but overall this package of sports games feels half-baked. It's like a lot of devices these days: the more things it does, the less well it performs any single thing.
Far from being extreme, this Deca Sports title is best ignored. I think Hudson would do well to start making games with fewer sports in each title so they can focus a little.