Throwing Darts…with Buttons?
Darts is a simple game, generally played in pubs and at social gatherings. The game itself is simple, and involves throwing small wooden or metal darts at a circular board marked with various point values. Although professional dart throwing leagues exist, the game is largely used as an “ice breaking” tool among amateur players.
Because of this game’s cultural status as a tool of social gathering, darts doesn’t seem a likely subject for a full game. However, the PSP Minis line of mini-games makes a perfect venue for this type of narrowly-focused title. Arcade Darts tries to recreate the experience of playing darts in a pub. Though there are plenty of modes and the game does have a PS3 remote play option, the game’s repetitive dart-throwing system makes this a title that falls far short of its potential.
The game has several modes you can start up immediately, including a practice mode, career mode, and tournament mode. The practice mode is the easiest place to start, but it will only take you a few minutes to get the hang of the dart mechanic. To throw a dart, you start out with a moving reticule. This reticule moves in a circular motion and hovers near the center. Once the reticule is over the part of the dart board you want to hit, you press the X button to lock the reticule into place. From there, you will see the dart icon in the lower right-hand corner begin to move left and right. You can press the X button again to lock in an angle to throw. Finally, you will see a meter on the left side of the screen. Pressing the X button again will lock in a speed and launch the dart. Based on these three variables, the dart will hit the board in a specified method.
One of the big problems with Arcade Darts (and perhaps any non-motion based dart game) is that this triple-variable method can be mastered easily. Although they throw in the odd miss just for realism, it is not hard to line up all three variables and hit the target perfectly every time. Adding to this issue is the fact that there is no time limit or interfering factors. For instance, if you miss hitting the button when the reticule is closest to the center of the dart board, you can just wait for the reticule to come back around. This really lowers the skill level and makes success in this game more a matter of patience rather than practice.
Still, if you don’t mind the dart-throwing system (or just love a game with easy success parameters), there is a lot of content in Arcade Darts. There are two main modes you can play through. The career mode sees you choosing from a set of twenty pre-defined avatars and working your way up to the professional dart leagues playing the standard game of darts.
The tournament mode offers a little more flexibility and allows you to run through a short set of opponents playing through any of the six variations of darts included in this game. The included variations are 701, 501, 301, Cricket, Around the Clock and Around the Clock Reverse. These variations involve different scoring methods as well as different point values for the dart board. The different modes add some good variation to the game, but the aforementioned issue with the dart-throwing system makes these extra modes feel stale at best.
The final mode I checked out is was the multiplayer mode, which allowed two people to take turns throwing virtual darts on the PSP.
The two-player mode is structured like the practice mode and allowed you to select the gameplay type as well as the conditions of play (number of sets, legs, etc.). Once you’ve set the rules, playing with a friend is as easy as passing the PSP between two people.
If you decide to go through the different modes and complete the tournament and career modes, you can unlock bonus content, including different dart boards, playing venues, and new avatars. While this unlockable content isn’t the most amazing thing, it does provide some replay value and makes this mini a great value for virtual dart enthusiasts.
As far as production values go, Arcade Darts is a mixed bag. The visuals aren’t bad, and the dart animations look decent, even if the environments are bland. However, the sound in the game is awful. The game’s soundtrack is comprised of a single tune that loops so many times, you can actually hear the loop winding down and then picking back up again. If you do decide to pick this title up, I would turn the sound down immediately to prevent yourself from going crazy.
Arcade Darts is a good effort. I applaud the developers for including a plethora of game variations, modes, PS3 compatibility, and unlockable content. However, the game’s dart throwing system really sinks this title and makes the included content feel repetitive instead of new. I’m sure developing a game based on darts is a challenging process. Although, by making the method of throwing the darts almost entirely mathematical (and only introducing the “miss” variable a few times per round), the game simply becomes a test of how regularly you can press a button. This just doesn’t make for great gameplay.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 2.6 Graphics
The animations are passable, but the dart boards offer little variation in design. 3.0 Control
The dart controls are not very intuitive but can be mastered with some practice. 1.3 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The music is repetitive and becomes grating after only a few minutes. 2.2 Play Value
Although there are plenty of modes, the dart-throwing mechanic gets dull after only a few minutes. 2.3 Overall Rating – Poor
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.