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California Super Sports - DSiWare Review

Game Info
California Super Sports

DSiWare | Cypronia | 1 Player | Out Now (North America) | 500 Nintendo Points
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28th May 2013; By KnucklesSonic8

Long before SEGA pushed Olympic videogames into more mainstream territory, a company known as Epyx crafted a line of titles with a similar, athletic foundation for the Commodore 64. Originally starting out as a single entity where the only tie-in was the official events its activities were inspired by, succeeding iterations spawned a full-blown series that later proved signature for the system. Now, I have no idea what the basis was for Cypronia developing California Super Sports, but I instantly thought of those compilations as I prepared to explore this one. Whether or not California Super Sports was to function as a direct throwback to these endeavours is moot, for all I ended up getting from the game's vibes was that of a DSiWare-bound Game Party lacking in direction.

    With a shared theme of popular recreational activities in the United States, six events are found under the game's loose umbrella: dodgeball, inline skating, shuffleboard, croquet, lawn darts, and (target) football. Inline skating I can understand. Not so sure about croquet, though. The balance between alternating and simultaneous play swings more to the left, with the first two events making their own small cluster of those featuring direct competition. (Incidentally, they're also the only events that don't have much of a strategic element.) Under that context, the game's energy is more laid-back than pulsating, which may already prove confining as far as which crowds could possibly find this approachable. And you'll later come to understand what else contributes to such a distancing effect. All the same, I sought to discover if there was anything "super" about California Super Sports, in the hopes that at least one of the included offerings would give it status beyond what I feared it would be relegating itself to.

    To start with, I'll address the trio of Croquet, Shuffle Board and Lawn Darts, as they each make use of the same drag-and-release control system. How it works is, the stylus must be pulled downwards from a very tiny icon on the Touch Screen. Then, after it locks, you must quickly push up and release according to how much power you'd like to apply to your throw or swing. It's a functional scheme, but only until you realize there is a way to manipulate it to achieve full results in ways not intended. You may, in fact, come to this realization immediately (as did I) that the system is broken in a certain respect, but this does not prove ruinous to the individual exercises.

Getting into specifics, Croquet and Lawn Darts don't require further explanation. You just need to know that they work as designed and as expected. What needs isolating with regards to Shuffle Board, however, is the organization. Ten frames are featured here, with players being allowed two shots on each board. When you observe the time spent on each turn and add up the overall duration, you could well be looking at a 15-minute exercise! It's impractical, only rectified by restricting the affair to a two-person competition -- you don't have the option to make any more detailed customization than that. It's nuts, and I can't see anyone approving of all this wait time for computer opponents, never mind actually having a good time in the process.

    The rollerblading event falters in similar ways. Fashioned almost in an Elite Beat Agents sort of way, individual drag and position-based patterns are assigned for sections of the track -- elongated Z's for rail grinds, circles for bends, arches for straights, and lines for ramps. In the initial stages, there is some enjoyment to be had. The system's responsiveness to your actions is satisfying in some ways, with momentum and speed building with consistency. Problem is, the duration of the event wears on you to such a point that you won't be too thrilled about participating more than a few times (if that). Defining the track length doesn't help a great deal either, though you'll be extremely grateful about the longest track not being imposed on you each time you play. At that length, you might as well call it a marathon! As is the running theme for the game at large, the event is briefly fun for one or two tries, but it is by no means going to keep you around or develop in you a desire to return.

    Switching out civilian cut-outs and shotguns for dartboards and projectiles is Target Football, a shooting gallery-style offering where each player is given 30 seconds (minimum) to knock down as many of the appearing targets as they can, done just by tapping or holding and releasing for charge shots. Making it a more strategic affair is the variable of stamina, which is decreased with every throw but can be regained either gradually or by wiping out the two torch flames in the background. Your player remains stationary as throws are made but can move to either side using icons at the bottom of the Touch Screen, the purpose of this being to avoid negative targets that appear on occasion.

Four rounds must pass before the game is called, so to put things into perspective: That's 30 seconds per round, multiplied by four gives you two minutes, which when multiplied again by the number of participants (4) works out to be an eight-minute event. There's really no need for all this, so to cut your time considerably, you can eliminate two of the CPUs and just make it a one-on-one match on a difficulty of your choosing. Of course, this still doesn't account for the activity itself being, like the others, only mildly enjoyable at best.

    In terms of instant pick-up-and-play appeal, a round of dodgeball is the best option you have. While simple in form, you do have an average sense of control, able to roll out of the way with L and R, squat with B, as well as both catch and charge throws using the A Button. Yellow balls inflict more damage than others, taking away two of the three lives everyone starts off with. Also, in place of a full King's Court rule, defeated teammates can be brought back to the game if you hit a target at the very back of the opposing court. Other than that, it's straightforward and doesn't present any immediate design faults.

    Coming, now, to the game's looks, California Super Sports' technical performance seriously detracts from the experience and will be found repulsive to some. Backgrounds are stale and show no effort to disguise their technical inadequacies, while character models in some events move in a rather sloppy manner. The menu layouts and artwork could do with some improving also, with one character's drawing having an eye deformation. Glitches and other inconsistencies are present when playing shuffleboard and dodgeball, but these are most prominent in the rollerblading event. Besides just the design revealing an aging engine, sidewalks and other textures seen off to the sides flicker out, while the best "transitions" in the background are when a wall of colour shoves one part of the track out of view. Though the swiftness of the control markers might have you think otherwise, it is when camera views change (as when turning the corner) that the lack of stability here is revealed to be rather embarrassing.

It's tough to say for a certainty what the biggest blunder is here, between the poorly-thought-out design decisions and occasionally inept technical execution. But I imagine any doubts will be re-adjusted after learning that California Super Sports has omitted any sort of multiplayer beyond CPU opponents. Evidently, the team's belief is that the activities on offer are so involving on a solo front that it redeems the game for not making human interaction possible. Given what's been said above concerning the fun factor on individual terms, this isn't the case at all. This does not undermine whatever morsels of fun exist, but if you already find the game boring to bits and in need of some rejuvenating, then what reason do you have to continue playing? Certainly not the game's weak achievements.

    Though the effort doesn't boldly shine through, I do believe Cypronia legitimately tried to construct something of value here. It's just a shame that by about any standard, the game isn't worth anyone's time. The lack of multiplayer capabilities really harms the game, but it's not more detrimental than the design itself and some of the bad ideas they've enforced to suck most of the fun out of the activities. California Super Sports may not be the most dreadful game you could play, but it's still in the running for one of the worst sports games created on this platform. Though some fun does exist, it's but a fraction of what could so easily be amassed elsewhere. And sadly, there's just no making amends with a game that presents little-to-no secure reason for willful involvement, either for the future or in the present.

13/30 - Very Poor

Gameplay 6/10 - Activities often basic in form, some average and responsive setups while others aren't so positive, lousy organization in areas
Presentation 4/10 - Visuals are inadequate in many ways, glitches seen in at least half of the events, embarrassing inconsistencies and mishaps
Enjoyment 2/5 - Not much fun to be had, presentation and design decisions are very off-putting, bad rule enforcement sucks the fun out of some events
Extra Content 1/5 - Six activities, worthless achievements, longevity and appeal harmed by the omission of multiplayer, not worth paying for

Equivalent to a score of 43% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating) - Our Rating System

Review by KnucklesSonic8

California Super Sports
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