Review: California Super Sports (DSiWare)

A bad sport

To understand what California Super Sports is, start with Wii Sports. Do you have the handful of mini-games fixed in your mind, complete with simple rules and bobble-headed athletes? Good; now trade in your Wii Remote for a DS stylus. Next, systemically break every intuitive gameplay system and control scheme in sight. Then sabotage the visual design until nothing is left but a morose skeleton, lifelessly grinning back at you. After that, run the sound effects and music through a paper shredder, preferably on the maximum setting. Lastly, rip out the multiplayer without worrying about internal bleeding. When the dust settles and you pry open your tear-filled eyes, the horrifying wasteland before you is California Super Sports.

After squinting through a messy bundle of text that briefs you on your new West Coast paradise adventure, you’ll inevitably find yourself at the single player menu — as opposed to the non-existent multiplayer menu, that is. Six events are at your disposal: Croquet, Lawn Darts, Dodge Ball, Shuffleboard, Football Target and Rollerblade. The selection may sound a little on the dull side, but that’s not strictly true. In fact, each and every game is excruciatingly tedious, oftentimes forcing you to spend more time waiting for the dog-food-for-brains AI players than putting your own skills to the test. Shoddily stuck together with Scotch tape, these remarkably lame sporting events are bare bones, uninspired and at times flat-out busted.

Half of the games — Croquet, Lawn Darts and Shuffleboard — use identical control schemes that, despite utter straightforwardness, manage to be baffling. Tugging down at a floating ‘X’ with the stylus winds up your shot, but oddball detection makes this a shaky affair. Flicking upwards shoots off your ball/dart/puck at varying speeds depending on your momentum, which would work out decently enough if not for wonky physics that can turn a croquet collision into a bizzaro world of mistaken gravity. Although each mini-game plays differently in practice, they’re all tied down with the same awkward controls and crushing boredom. Stilted, slow-paced, and devoid of anything resembling a good time, you’ll doubtless grow tired of the flick-heavy snore-fests immediately — but they’re not the worst offenders by a long shot.

Dodgeball allows up to six combatants to line up and hurl round objects at each other until one team is eliminated, offering you direct control over your character via old-fashioned buttons rather than the stylus. This was a mistake. The chaos of Mii-rejects tumbling around the beach like a troupe of unskilled marionettes is jarring at best and mildly sickening at worst. You can pull off a few acrobatic moves to make things more interesting, which does admittedly distract from the abominable gameplay, but putting a top hat on a walrus does not make it sophisticated.

Unfortunately, Rollerblade is a few rungs further down the quality ladder. This is an on-rails race that relies on your ability to copy coloured patterns in the air with a stylus, but said coloured patterns are blurry and clearly intoxicated. You’ll be so focused on gauging the proper stylus speed and deciphering sporadic arcane symbols that you’ll hardly notice your character’s low-frame animation, let alone the horrific environment popping in and out of existence all around you.

On the other hand, Football Target is a surprisingly non-offensive competition that has you chucking projectiles at wooden targets. It’s a rather pathetic version of a mini-game you’ve probably encountered in countless better titles, in all honesty, but it gets a comparative thumbs-up.

Conclusion

Taken as a cohesive package, California Super Sports doesn’t come off as merely lazy; it comes off as halfway catatonic. There’s not an ounce of charm to be found anywhere at all, and poking into every corner will take no longer than half an hour. It’s doubtful many players will even make it through all of mini-games before quitting in disgust, which is a lucky break considering Rollerblade is last on the list. Parting with any amount of currency for this downloadable sham is ill-advised, as is playing for free or thinking too hard about it. California Super Sports may look like Wii Sports on the surface, but like your old friend who fell to the infected jaws of a zombie, there’s nothing more than an empty husk left. Also, it might consume your brain.