There was a time when he would have dragged that board back to his cave and eaten it.
Darts gets relatively short shrift in the world of contemporary sports. But was it always this way? Presumably there was a point in human history when the ability to throw a pointy thing with accuracy was more useful than being able to kick an inflatable bladder and fall over convincingly. However, now we’re able to pick up edible experiments involving bum-holes, eyelids and breadcrumbs on the way home from work, such skills have fallen by they wayside. Darts players should be worshipped as Gods – and not just at the Lakeside Centre. Instead they’re more like the hypothetical punch line to a joke involving the components “not”, “what’s” “sports” and “?”.
Top Darts for the Playstation Move is an interesting contradiction (bear with me): on one hand the developers clearly love the game, and take it to an appropriately grandiose level. Or several, in fact. Along with the de-rigueur Irish bar, you get to step up to the oche in what appears to a Triad boss’ office, the set of Peter Andre’s Mysterious Girl video and the Illuminati’s chill out room. On the other hand, however, they are also clearly aware of the sport’s less glamorous reality of nylon shirts, pork scratchings and Elizabeth Duke jewellery, and pepper the game accordingly. The most notable example of this is probably the commentary, which is about as funny as a leprous Chuckle Brother. I guarantee turning off will become second nature after calibrating the controller.
Thankfully, the mechanics of Top Darts are somewhat more successful. Line up your shot by holding down the button with the squiggle on it before moving the controller back and releasing it on the ‘throw’. As with real darts, your speed dictates the height of the shot. And while the reticule seems overly sensitive on the default view, on most difficulty levels you can zoom in with the X button, which makes it easier, if not more realistic. To combat this, you can always hold the controller above shoulder level, which isn’t essential, but helps you accomplish your goals – especially if they include ‘Looking like a mental’.
After a few throws you gradually begin to understand the mechanics and make most of your shots land where you want. To aid your transition into Robo-Bristow, your previous shot is marked on the reticule, allowing you to alter your next shot accordingly. Obviously it’s not the same as the real thing, but it’s a respectable approximation and more importantly, fun. The fact you don’t have to worry about putting a hole in the village idiot is also a bit of a bonus – but I accept, your local pub may vary.
Unfortunately when you move up the levels on single player things get slightly more erratic. The problem will be obvious to anyone with even a passing knowledge of the game: the Move controller just isn’t that similar to a dart, and, without the game’s assistance, you’re left flailing. It doesn’t help that on anything above silver level, your opponents suddenly turn into plaid shirted ninjas. It’s like stepping up to the oche to take on the bastard lovechild of Bobby George and Stretch Armstrong, armed with only a cucumber and a blindfold.
On any of the more advanced levels it becomes hard to get a handle on the controls and progression becomes more a case of luck than skill – which is a bit too much like real life for my liking. You could always play one of the many games of multiplayer, which gives you all the same handicap. But if you wanted to play a social game of darts with your pals, you’d be better off going down the pub, for a number of different reasons.
It is possible that some players may be able to pick up the controller and throw darts instead of large vegetables. It’s also fair to say that there are no problems with the game that can’t be fixed with a more forgiving update. In all other areas the game excels, especially for a downloadable title. The presentation is surprisingly good and while its claim of being the ‘World’s first 1080p darts game’ seems about as impressive as someone demonstrating an ornate suit they’ve just had made for a mouse, it does look very nice.
Along with a variety of sparkling rooms, in which to throw pointy things at a number of different targets, there are some nice visual touches and a welcome level of attention to detail on display. And while it’s not going to win any awards for breaking new ground, it has a level of visual fidelity and care far greater than you might be used to from a downloadable title. There’s also a fair amount of content included.
You can play in cups and leagues with 1 to 8 human players spanning 4 separate divisions. There are also a number of separate game types for one-off games, including variations on classic rules, High Score, Around the Clock, Noughts and Crosses, and Cricket, which is a darts game widely played in America, and therefore just not cricket. At present there is no online multiplayer, which is a bit of an oversight, but it’s not the only PSN title guilty of that. Although those lucky enough to own two Move controllers and one friend can take their shots at the same time.
Top Darts is a fun, well-presented game with a generous amount of single and multiplayer content and some fun options for customisation. Move into higher levels on single player, however, and you may find it a virtual exercise in genuine frustration. You could argue that the passage of time has dulled our ability to throw sharp pointy objects with accuracy, but, in truth, it probably comes down to the fact that motion controllers just aren’t that much like darts. And it’s not just the village idiot who’s a little bit disappointed by that.
Robocop greatly appreciated Jimmy’s efforts.
Here’s a rule of thumb for maintaining your hardcore video gaming credentials: never invest in anything that your grandmother could beat you at. Like, for example, the Nintendo Wii, scourge of the hardcore gaming elite.
My own grandmother passed away several years ago but, as the Wii’s raison d’être seems to be in allowing old people to experience the joys of ten pin bowling without having to replace their slippers for lace-up petri dishes, I think even she has a good chance of beating me at the Wii’s most hardcore multiplayer experience: Jedward’s Pejorative Party.
I’ve so far avoided the Wii, despite the occasional flashes of gaming brilliance because I know I’d inevitably end up having to buy reams of shovel-ware for house guests who can’t work a controller with more than one button. Strangely, none of my dinner guests have ever shown much delight at watching me watch Metal Gear Solid 4, but it seems a solution could be at hand with the Playstation Move.
The Move promises to satiate the hardcore gamers’ unfulfilled desire to stand in their living room and move around like a complete prick. It also promises a more acceptable face for motion based gaming peripherals, something that seems at odds with the physical appearance of its controller: a black cone with a glowing orb at the end that, basically, looks like Robocop’s todge.
However, the controller is just the means to experience the next level of gaming right? Well, yes – unless you’re talking about Microsoft’s Kinect, which seems more like a videogame version of Brian DePalma’s The Fury. Maybe that’s why Peter Molyneux cancelled Milo? He probably came home to find the angelic little fucker floating on the ceiling, before trying to push him out of the window.
The Move’s claims to offer something a little more hardcore than the Wii means the inevitable sports compendium – Sports Champions – offers an eyebrow-raising array of lesser-known events. Alongside volleyball, archery and table tennis, you have disc golf, bocce and a gladiator type thing, which is kind of like Soul Calibur as retold by The Arsehole Theatre Group. In fact the only obscure sport they appear to have missed out is this…
Peter Duncan’s Wood-Beast Challenge – a highlight of Sports Champions 2?
Despite the slightly random sports on offer, what they’ve included is a pretty good selection, offering solid and satisfying mechanics, with the added bonus of feeling like they’re games you can master. Well, as much as getting better at virtual ‘bocce’ could be considered a bonus. But if there’s anyone out there whose life goals include “beating a racial stereotype at ping pong” then get that marker pen ready, you’re about to tick some boxes.
Among the parade of wankers that make up the “Champions” is a black man, whose interests run from hip hop to dancing, a Brazilian woman (Giselle, natch) who does capoeira and shakes her booty, an oriental chap who likes swords and electrical goods, a cowboy who likes oil and sleeping with his sister, and a Scotsman, who’d play his deep-fried bagpipes if only he could stop concentrating on not spending money.
And speaking of Connor, you’ll notice that he bears more than a passing resemblance to the world’s most dangerous chicken and lager fanatic: Raoul Moat, which adds some much needed credibility to The Star’s (mysteriously deleted) GTA Rothbury ‘story’. It also explains why ‘fishing’ and ‘armed robbery’ didn’t make the game’s final lineup.
Moat – enjoying Disc Golf from beyond the grave?
Despite being little more than a tech demo, in Sports Champions, the Move ably demonstrates that the nuts of bolts of ‘hardcore’ motion control are more than fit for purpose. Now all it needs is for someone to find a weightier use for Robocop’s wanger than just hurling virtual frisbees. That’s for someone with far more vision than me. In the meantime it means my dinner party guests no longer have to fear two-hour soliloquies on the nature of war after their dessert. And that’s something like a win-win.
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