Does it hit the bullseye?
Review written by
September 16th, 2014
I have never played darts in my life.
Sure, I'd seen it played in pubs and on television, but I had no idea what the rules were, which part of the board did what.. I was about as casual as you can get when it comes to darts. But last year, developer EnjoyUp released Darts Up 3D on 3DS. It was a simple, fun darts game with some interesting motion controls and simplistic approach to its gameplay. I hadn't played much of it, but people had told me it was a great way for novices to get into darts. Now, Darts Up has made its way to the Wii U. How does it hold up on Nintendo's home console?
Graphically, the game looks ok. Obviously, being a darts game, it only really matters that you can read the board, and you can do so well. You choose from a selection of characters to play as, each with a Mii-like appearance, but the odd thing is that Mii functionality seems to have been removed. It was available on the 3DS version, and for some reason, it's not present here. I doesn't matter all that much, as you can't ever see your player character. It's really only for identifying which player's which in multiplayer, but the option to have Miis would have been appreciated.
Sound-wise, the game has some chirpy jingles now and then, but mostly, there's just the ambient noise of the arcade, and little else, save for an overenthusiastic announcer. It helps to draw you into the game, and the lack of cheerful music during play is a good thing.
The game has four modes of play. Classic, in which you play several rounds to get a high score; X01, where you can choose between different scores and have to match them to win; Combo, in which you can pull off different combinations of points to get the highest score; and Arcade, where you play through different levels and are tasked with reaching a certain score threshold. I'm going to cut to the chase here, these modes really don't change the game all that much. Granted, the rules in X01 and Combo are different, but other than that, the game just gives you darts and a dartboard and says "Hey, go nuts." This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but to those new at darts, it can be rather confusing. The rules to X01 really aren't explained very well, and novices will probably have to check the manual a few times. The game could have benefited from having some optional in-game tutorials, because without knowing how to play, you'll end up pretty lost in the game.
The gameplay takes place predominantly on the GamePad screen. The TV screen doesn't really show that much useful information (except for a combo list in Combo mode) and considering the control scheme, it makes sense. Like its 3DS counterpart, you aim with the gyroscope. You can even turn around and look around the virtual arcade you're in. It works very well, albeit less than accurate, due in part to the lack of an aiming reticle, but it's understandable why they didn't add one. The game would just be too easy at that point, and indeed, if you find the right place to keep still, you can get bullseyes most of the time. Luckily though, modes like X01 and Combo mean that you probably won't be aiming for the bullseye as much.
One issue that the control scheme brings up however is that the accuracy just isn't there, and it means you'll potentially miss shots. Pulling the analog stick down to ready the dart often means you'll be pulling the GamePad down too. It's aggravating aiming straight for a triple, only to hit a single instead. But again, this really only matters in Combo and X01 mode. Most of the time, the game allows you to aim where you want and fire when you want to. There are no time limits, no stress, in this game. It lets you play at your own pace, and I give EnjoyUp a lot of credit for that. There's even local multiplayer, and it can be quite fun at times. The only real issue is that the game can only be controlled with the GamePad, so you'll have to pass it around and take turns to play. Darts Up feels rather simple, and it's not bad to be simple. It doesn't try to be anything it isn't, except a cheap darts game. For better, and for worse.
If you're a darts enthusiast, you probably won't enjoy Darts Up. It's by no means the game's fault, of course. It's just that it's very much a beginner's darts game. It's not meant to be a competitive simulation with realistic physics and online multiplayer. It's just a simple darts game, with an online leaderboard for high scores. It revels in its simplicity and it definitely wants to be an easygoing title, but this means that darts aficionados may end up bored by the game, and alienated by it. Indeed, even myself, as novice as I was, had pretty much had my fill of the game in a good three hours. There's simply not enough to do here to satiate everyone. It feels very much like a beginner's darts game, and indeed it does that quite well. I did learn about darts as I played. But it often feels like a gateway game. You'll play it to get to grips with darts and then move on to other, more fulfilling darts games. Or indeed, just play the real thing.
Darts Up struggles against better titles, but it does a good job of introducing you to darts. If you're completely new to the game, Darts Up may be good for a few hours. But, if darts is something you love and know inside and out, you might want to give this one a miss. It's just too basic and too empty, and sadly, its simplicity is its downfall. Darts Up misses the bullseye, and ends up hitting a single.
Wii's World is not officially affiliated with Nintendo! (but they wish we were).