There have been fully fledged darts games in the past – mostly on 8-bit tape-based formats such as the Spectrum – but we can only think of darts mini-games in recent times. Shenmue II had a cracking dart-based distraction, in which Ryo’s throwing hand shook in an alarming manner. With Shenmue III possibly never to be released – or even made, for that matter – it may never be known why. We reckon it was an acute caffeine addiction though – he was always drinking carbonated soft drinks from vending machines.
So, how do you turn mini-game fodder into something more substantial? Answer: bulk it up with dozens of different modes and party games, likenesses of all the big name darts ‘celebrities’, a choice of venues, TV-like presentation and commentary, a variety of tournaments, and the chance to create your own beer-bellied dart thrower. In a fit of originality, we called ours Bully.
Phil ‘The Power’ Taylor and his rivals look the part, although their lack of blinking is slightly unnerving; the commentary is hard to complain about, with such quips as “Oh my giddy granny!”, and helpful reminders of how many points you need to win. The darts make authentic dart-like noises as they stick into the board – or hit the metal – and they even spin in the air realistically.
The problem is that it’s far too easy to hit exactly where you want. The throwing system is similar to that found in the Tiger Woods’ games: move the analogue stick down then quickly back up between markers. If you fail, the dart will stray off course. As early as half-way through our first match we were hitting continuous bullseyes. The only variation is for important throws, when the pad vibrates to simulate a heart beat and the cursor starts to wobble.
To get your money’s worth – this a full price game, not a budget effort – you’ll ideally need a few friends around to play through the party games – Around the Clock, Killer, Cricket, Shanghai, 701 etc – as the career mode gets dull far too quickly. Which is what we expected, really – there’s only so much virtual dart throwing you can manage.