WiiWare | Big Blue Bubble | 1 Player / 2-4 Players (local multiplayer/co-operative play) | Out Now (North America) | 500 Nintendo Points
Controller Compatibility: Wii Remote (pointer)
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8th January 2010; By KnucklesSonic8
As soon as you begin playing the game, you'll learn of the basic approach the developers went for with this release. With some hoedown music playing in the background, the Main Menu contains three mode selections: Options, Change Profile, and Game. It may be barebones but it definitely helps with the game's pick-up-and-play appeal - something that should be clearly evident in a game like this. The Options mode, accessed by clicking on a colourful jukebox, allows you to adjust audio settings, and even disable in-game Tutorials. When you enter the Washroom area, you'll encounter up to 8 squares where you can assign individual character profiles with a background of the typical washroom wall. You can choose one of 20 dart designs and patterns and select one of 12 characters to represent you during gameplay (sorry, no Mii support!). Players can even use Stars to rate yourself based on your skill level which is a nice feature, but a bit more could've been done with this.
Choosing the Game option will present you with 5 different gameplay options. There's the popular 501 option, Cricket, Around the Clock, Baseball and even Killers, a rule not as commonly-known. It's interesting that the game features the 501 ruling, and yet players don't have the ability to play 301 or 701. In any event, each option features a simple tutorial prior to game setup which teaches you how to play, a feature that comes in real handy, especially for the less familiar dart games. When it comes to game setup, all you have to do is choose the number of players. Three of the games will allow you to play in teams with up to four people (namely 501, Cricket and Baseball) if you feel so inclined. Then, choose your profile, select the skill level of the CPU, and off you go! Simple, no?
As you probably already guessed, players hold the controller like they would a normal dart. Players use the Wii Remote's pointer to aim at the dartboard to set up their shot, then lock it with the A Button. Then, with a forward thrust of the Wii Remote you release the A Button to toss the on-screen dart towards the board in front of you. Although it may not be as realistic as you might like since it doesn't show your dart while its airborne, the game does give evidence that your follow-through is taken into consideration. For example, twisting the Wii Remote to either side just a tad will be reflected pretty accurately in where the dart lands on the board. Just like in real life, if you mess up your shot even by a bit, it'll show in the result. Throwing too hard may cause the dart to veer off towards the side of the board, and if you don't throw hard enough, the shot will turn out to be a complete flop. The controls work pretty well once you get the hang of them and in a game like this where broken controls can easily pop up and ruin the fun, this is great to see.
The game has a very basic setup that doesn't complicate matters more than it needs to. Off to the side, you'll see your current scores and how many darts you have for the current round. Overall totals are tabulated on a chalkboard that can be brought up at any time with the press of the 1 Button. The characters that you assigned to your profile are simply used as images and won't appear on the sidelines or anything. Some may complain about the lack of character models since this may have allowed you to watch your character replicate your motions on-screen whilst adding an extra layer of depth and realism, but really, it's not all that necessary. Mind you, it might have been nice to see a meter of some sort to see how the game is reading your throws, so you could tell if they're too powerful or too weak. Again, it's pretty clear that the developers didn't want to add more than what was necessary, but in this scenario, it's a justified decision.
Obviously, there's very little in the form of single-player enjoyment, but that's to be expected. After all, how much fun can you get out of throwing darts at a board on your own in real life? Darts is really meant to be a social experience. For that reason, solo players have the ability to play against the computers, a feature that actually be proves to be quite a bit of fun for a while. The CPU's do put up a good fight and even on Novice (the easiest difficulty setting) they're pretty good, which ultimately helps you guage your own personal skill level. When playing with friends, though, Pub Darts can be seen as a good purchase for those times when you don't feel like venturing out or if money is tight. The game is awfully quiet, though, featuring only a few sound effects here and there of random chatter, and bottles clashing. For that reason, some light music would've been nice to make the game more entertaining to play through. Nonetheless, if you enjoyed playing darts in WarioWare, you'll enjoy Pub Darts even more, especially since this not only features more modes, but because controls are also a bit more precise.
That's pretty much all there is to the game and really, that's just the problem with it. There are many ways in which Big Blue Bubble could've made Pub Darts an even stronger package, simply by offering more to the player. For instance, the press release for the game essentially says that "bragging rights" will prove to be your most sought-after prize. This is true, but more could've been done to place an even greater emphasis on this aspect. There's no sense of progression whatsoever (except for, perhaps, defeating the CPU's), and it would've been cool if the game awarded you stars for doing well instead of leaving it up to the player to assign them. There's no record of any form of statistics, and such things as looking up your accuracy rating and number of wins could've gone a long way for a game as basic as this.
It would've been cool if you could grab a photo from your Wii Message Board or SD Card and plaster it on the dartboard, but that's asking a bit much from small-scale developers. If the game allowed players to unlock dart flights instead of having them available all at the start, this would've extended longevity even more in order to keep the players coming back. Furthermore, in the same way one would choose a pattern for their dart, it's too bad that the developers didn't allow for other kinds of dartboards. Some retro or even disco-themed boards, for example, would've been a nice touch to liven things up. Although most may not necessarily mind that the dartboard doesn't change, those who are avid players of the Baseball ruling may find themselves a bit disappointed. Some wooden dart boards in real life have been designed specifically for this rule, and it ultimately would've been more fun if the game had a Baseball-dedicated board with home plates, strikes and more.
Because of the game's simple approach, it's likely that thoughts about online incorporation will be called to mind. Really, the game does fine without it but as an extra, it would've been a worthwhile endeavour. Of course you wouldn't have the same experience as playing with friends in the same room, but it still would've done much for a game that's a tad lacking in substance. With nothing to strive for, the game will mostly see play time during multiplayer bouts and nothing beyond that, and it doesn't keep you coming back as much as it should.
As the first Darts game on the service and priced at only 500 Points, Pub Darts isn't bad at all for those who want to have a Darts night with friends. In fact, it's probably the next best thing to buying a real dart board, which could cost anywhere from $10 to $50, or more. Even if you do go to the bar regularly, in the end this becomes a cheaper alternative if you're just looking for your darts fix. It'll be interesting to see how Pub Darts will fare in the future when other developers bring their own simulators to the service. Moreover, because of the total lack of extended content and replay value, it might be best to hold back on purchasing this for the time being.
17/30 - Okay/Average
Gameplay 7/10 - Controls work pretty well, multiple rules to play, no power meters, doesn't innovate or go the extra mile
Presentation 5/10 - Goes for absolute basics, lack of real music during gameplay, no Mii's or even character models
Enjoyment 3/5 - Multiplayer is where all the fun lies, playing with CPU's can be good for a challenge
Extra Content 2/5 - Individual profiles, multiplayer, 5 modes of play, no stat tracking, lacking in extended replay value
Equivalent to a score of 57% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating)