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Top Darts
Score: 85%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment America
Developer: Devil's Details
Media: Download/1
Players: 1 - 8
Genre: Classic/Retro/ Simulation/ Sports

Graphics & Sound:
Have you ever played darts before? If you've ever played darts - even casually, at home - you probably already know that it's one of those games that is quite easy to understand, yet much more difficult to master.

And, if you've ever stepped foot in a bar with a dart board, you've probably noticed that a game of darts is somehow enhanced by that environment... it may be the sound of people as they watch (or go about their own business)... the more expensive dart board and decorations that you'd spring for in your own game room... or maybe it's just the freedom of knowing that the dart you throw isn't about to stick into you're own bedroom wall, but either way, there's an extra bit of excitement to the game.

Top Darts recreates this bar room environment in your living room, with not one, but a number of different bars, each with its own style and appointments, from a hometown Irish bar or an outdoor Tiki bar to a High-Roller Vegas bar or a very Zen-spired Asian bar. And, to heighten the excitement a bit more, there is a referee/announcer who directs and officiates the game, using colorful dart terms and keeping you aware of what's going on in the game. The announcer sounds like he probably owns and operates the Irish bar and, while it's strange that this same voice is used at all of the bars, it is well done, with a reasonable bit of variation. I never got tired or annoyed by the voice, at any rate.

The sound effects are well done, too, from the sounds of the darts hitting the dart board or, occasionally, bouncing off of it, to the sounds of the audience and other patrons. And, where the sound is pretty good, the graphics are delightful. The different locations are well modeled and have their own feel. The Vegas location looks very elegant, for example, while the Irish pub has a very welcoming, lived-in feel to it.

Top Darts is strictly a PlayStation Move game, of course, and the PlayStation Move requires the PlayStation Eye camera. Top Darts makes use of this camera quite a bit, since you must have it to play, anyway. You can capture a picture of yourself to use as your Avatar in the game - either normally or by fitting your face into a themed template which gives you a change of outfit and hair, much like one of those painted scenes at tourist traps that you can place your head into and have your picture taken... only better.

Not only can you use pictures for your Avatar, but you can also customize the background image on the dartboards - again, by capturing pictures with the PlayStation Eye.

These uses of the camera are neat, but I personally find that there is way too little light in my living room for the camera to get a decent picture. Even when I add some supplemental lighting, my pictures turn out grainy. This isn't a problem for Top Darts, per se, however; I've had this same problem with other games. If you've taken good pictures with your PlayStation Eye in the past, then it shouldn't be a problem for you.


Gameplay:
Dart are fun. There's really no question there. Merely taking small, pointed objects and hurling them and watching them stick into something is great fun. Adding a target and scoring system merely takes it up a notch, moving it from "play" to an actual "game."

What I didn't really realize until I played Top Darts is that, while there are different slices marked with different values, it's not merely an "add up your score and see who wins" sport... there are actually a variety of different dart games, with different rules. Top Darts presents nine classic dart games including 701, 501, 301, Around the Clock, Soccer & Warfare, as well as some interesting challenges based on time limits, target scores, and accuracy. You'll want to familiarize yourself with the rules of each new game you try; sometimes the bullseye is the best thing to hit, while other times you have to hit specific targets in a certain order. Not only that, but some games are turn-based, while others are real-time, where you are both throwing darts simultaneously. Crazy.

To "throw" the dart, you hold the PlayStation Move controller in one hand, as if it were a dart, pointed toward the screen. You hold down the (Move) button as you are moving the dart around and lining up your shot. When you're ready to throw the dart, you pull the dart back and then move as if you were going to actually throw it forward, releasing the (Move) button when you want to release the dart. After that point, all you can do is watch to see how you did. Top Darts takes your angle, thrust, point of release and other measurements into consideration and simulates your throw in-game.


Difficulty:
Anyone who's tried playing darts and making them go where you want them (not just getting them to stick into something, which is cool, as well, of course) likely knows that accuracy and precision may be two different things, but they're both difficult.

Top Darts' physics is spot-on. I've seen just as many unbelievable shots playing Top Darts as I do when I play with a dart set, from darts that stick in at a hard-to-believe angle, to darts that hit a metal divider and actually bounce back, to one dart that actually failed to stick and hung between two other darts that had stuck close to each other on the board. If you're a good player in real life, I would expect you to take to Top Darts relatively quickly, once you get past pretending the much more awkward Move controller is a dart. If you're not much of a player, you could teach yourself to play darts with Top Darts, but again, when you try playing in real life, you will need to get used to the different weight.

There are different games, with different challenges, and when you play a cup or tournament, you can select what division you want to play in, be it Amateur, Semi-Pro or Professional. Do well in your cup or tournament and, at its conclusion, you'll be promoted to the next division.


Game Mechanics:
It's a bit awkward using something the size of a medium-sized flashlight to simulate throwing something smaller than a pencil, but, with practice, it's passable. Initially, I found that, in order to get my throws to do what I expected them to do, I had to actually let go of the PlayStation Move controller, letting it hang from the wrist strap each time I threw it. This did wonders for my accuracy, but I had to find a different way to play when I tried out a game that wasn't turn-based, as it was taking too much time to get the Move controller back into dart position in between throws.

One question that one might ask oneself is whether darts is a game that should be simulated. You can pick up a dart set at almost any store with a sport or toy department, starting at just over ten dollars or so. For that matter, since the whole game is about projectile physics, why simulate what you can demonstrate? This is, for some, a very valid point. However, Top Darts can be played without fear of sharp metal objects sticking in your wall or, worse yet, your big screen television. Mind you, not all darts have metal tips, but even sharp plastic things can hurt quite a bit when thrown into a passerby or stepped on while barefoot in the dark. Furthermore, while you can easily find a cheap dartboard, you'll have to spend more time and/or money if you want a particular pattern, color or sports logo on the dartboard. And, even in the simulation, the surface of a dartboard gets chewed up by the darts over time. Every time that a dart hits a dartboard, something is wearing out. You'll have to replace the darts or the dartboard and some point... unless it's all simulated. Yes, in the simulation, every dart leaves its mark on the dartboard, but the next game you play, they're all gone. Fresh dartboard. Plus, you can customize your dartboard surface with any picture you like and can customize your darts to have different grips, shafts and tails, each in a variety of different colors and designs. So, at just under $10 USD, there just might be some good reasons to pick up Top Darts. I can definitely see myself coming back and playing this from time to time.


-Geck0, GameVortex Communications
AKA Robert Perkins

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