Darts is a sport that has not quite taken off in the good old US of A. Instead we think of it as more of a leisure activity, or a bar game. As it stands the sport is actually quite popular in the UK, so much in fact that it is the second most-watched sport on television next to Soccer (football for our overseas readers). Oxygen Games has decided to bring over the hugely popular PDC Darts series to the US for just about every console. The experience ranges depending on which console you choose, but as a whole they all capture the sport surprisingly well.
Amazingly if you are a fan of darts this game comes packed with just about everything you could imagine. There are three main modes, and a slew of customization options that let you tailor the game to your liking. Fans will recognize the familiar faces associated with the game. There are tons of pros to choose from including the game’s spokesman Phil “The Power” Taylor. You can even customize your own dart player with the in-game creator, but be warned options are fairly limited. The party mode allows you to customize the rules to create game types that anyone can enjoy, so if you are not keen on the default rules, it is nice that the game lets you create your own.
The core game revolves around career mode, and it is where you will likely spend the bulk of your time. At first it takes some getting used to aiming and judging the power of dart throws, so it might be best to take a few exhibition games in before tackling this mode. The reason is that the computer AI is absolutely relentless. There are no freebies here, as you will be tested right out of the gate. The career mode also allows you to customize your selected champion to your tailored style of play. The atmosphere is further accented by the voice of Sid Waddell, who commentates every toss with authority.
Controlling the game on the DS is an interesting endeavor. One might imagine (myself included) that you could simply tap the screen and score big points for the win. This is entirely too easy of a concept, and truly would lead to a boring experience when you come to think about it. Instead you aim the onscreen cursor at the desired spot on the board, drag the stylus back, and then push forward to release. Accuracy and power are both taken into account, and the first time I did it, my darts went flying off the board. It takes some adjusting, and is easily the hardest of the three versions to get the hang of. Throwing darts with a stylus simply does not feel intuitive, and for that the game suffers more than the other versions.
Visually the game is a mixed bag. The character models look spot on, almost to creepy levels of realism. However, the backgrounds and crowds are a disappointment. They feature blurry textures and some hideously poor animations. When pieced together the game has an odd visual perspicacity to it; everything seems disproportionate to each other. The sounds are actually well done containing music licensed from the tournaments, and the audacity that Sid Waddell brings to the table is enough to get your blood pumping…for dart throwing.
PDC Darts for the Nintendo DS is a prime example of a series that simply does not work well on the handheld. The controls are cumbersome at first, and even after you get the hang of them, they are not as intuitive as the other versions. If you enjoy darts, especially on a professional level, the other versions of the game are better interpretations. If you have the option, go for the Wii outing, as it delivers the most authentic experience. If your only option is the DS, you may want to simply invest in a real dart board, as the controls here are way more convoluted than they need to be.