Review: Mobile Darts
I've long been a fan of sports simulations, bringing outdoor games and activities into the virtual world of your always-with-you smartphone. So, even if you're stuck on a train or just lying in bed, you can still go driving, for example, whether in a car or on the golf range(!) Mobile Darts aims to take that most unathletic of sports and bring it in similar virtual form into Symbian smartphones. Which it does, at the expense of introducing an unexpected level of ability frustration...
You see, it's a fair bet that anyone who makes a beeline for this game (which itself is bound to be a labour of love from the developer) is already a darts fan. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that anyone who buys this title is probably also someone who actually plays the game for real when he or she gets the chance.
Now, we can't all be Eric Bristow or Phil Taylor, but the chances are that the buyer of Mobile Darts can probably get most 'arrows' roughly where they're needed, right down to eventually finishing a game with a 'double'. For example, I might be aiming at treble 16 and hit the single, or hit 7 or 8, but I'm unlikely to stray as far as 11 or 19. That's the sort of amateur accuracy that most casual players are blessed (or cursed!) with. It makes for a happy enough five minute game without it taking forever to get the scores needed.
However, imagine the scene when your wives or girlfriends take the 'oche'.
[disclaimer: many females are very good at darts - I'm generalising wildly here, so please bear with me - or, if you're a lady and your husband is rubbish at darts, substitute 'him' for 'her' in the following text, etc!]
Their accuracy is far less than yours and the scores are far more random. Some darts may miss the board altogether, when aiming for a particular segment they'll miss by a good six inches fairly regularly and the tidy world of darts scoring, tactics and skill becomes a lottery. Even worse, the games take an eternity, since scores are dramatically lower and no player is capable of finishing the game on a double, a feat which requires extreme accuracy. So you stand around watching for half an hour, for a game which should only take five minutes, downing beer and wishing they'd get out of the way to let the people who know what they're doing have a go....
It's at this point that Mobile Darts, on Symbian, is relevant. You see, it's sufficiently hard, sufficiently sensitive, sufficiently random, that it reduces you, the darts fan and (probable) decent amateur player to the same level as the aforementioned wives/girlfriends (or husbands/boyfriends, as per the disclaimer!). In other words, you'll try and try and your accuracy won't even get close to that which you have in the real world.
Playing either Cricket (where you have to score one or more of each number displayed) or "Oh one" (the most traditional game, where you start with 301, 401 or 501 and work your way down to zero, finishing on - by default - a double), darts are thrown by flicking your finger up the touchscreen from below the green line. The speed and direction of the dart depends on where you started your flick from (i.e. left or right), on how fast your flick was and on how perfectly 'vertical' it was. In other words, you've got full analogue control of each dart.
In practice, you've simply got 'approximate' analogue control, with the aforementioned frustrations. A better system would have included a touchscreen aim point (i.e. you highlight 'double 16'), with the accuracy of the flick determining how close you got to the aim point.
The graphics are well presented and animated and there's even a sense of atmosphere in the presentation, with informative and relevant sound effects. It's just that the game is too imprecise and, as a result, not that much fun to play. Extras include a lengthy Help screen and a Bluetooth mode, where another player with Mobile Darts loaded can play you wirelessly. A nice extra, although since darts is a 100% turn-by-turn game anyway, it's just as easy to pass the phone to the other player directly.
With some refinements to the control system, I could see myself liking Mobile Darts. In its current form, it's almost at 'proof of concept' level. Consider it, therefore, 'unproven'. But count me in for testing "Mobile Darts 2" if and when it appears!
Steve Litchfield, AAS, 24 April 2011
Reviewed by Steve Litchfield at