Big Blue Bubble are a Canadian developer best known for their work on mobile games, but with the advent of WiiWare, they have decided to shift focus slightly towards this emerging platform. Their latest WiiWare title, Pub Darts, as hinted at by the title, is an attempt to recreate the game of darts in a pub atmosphere.
The game takes full advantage of its platform by having the player use the Wii's motion controls to simulate throwing a dart. Players hold the Wii Remote like they would hold an actual dart, with their index finger on top to reach the A button. Once players have picked a spot on the dart board, and held down the A button to lock onto that spot, the camera will promptly zoom out, and all that's left to do is to make a quick forward motion and let go of A to throw the dart.
This process can feel a bit awkward at first because the Wii Remote is back heavy while the controls require players to grip the front. However, the most glaring issue with the controls is the accuracy, or lack thereof. The game never properly teaches the player how to become accurate, which makes the outcome of throws feel random; with a bit of luck players will hit the spot they aimed for, but if not, players' darts might end up off the dart board all together. In addition, there are no realtime tips on how to improve a throw, which turns the learning curve into complete trial and error. What makes matters worse is that there is no way to see the path of the dart. Once the dart has been thrown, the camera immediately cuts to a close up of where it landed on the board. All of these issues put together make Pub Darts a surprisingly difficult game to learn.
The game's overall presentation can be summed up in one word: bland. The menu screen that is supposed to resemble a local pub consists of nothing more than a jukebox, bathroom door and dart board. The only other setting is a close-up of the dart board while the game is being played. It all seems quickly patched together and hollow. Sound wise, the game consists of one repetitive song played on the menu screen and ambient restaurant noises such as dishes moving around while a game is in progress. With a name like Pub Darts, it's assume that there would be an emphasis placed upon a friendly, vibrant pub environment, but that's just not the case here.
Some of these complaints can be ignored because Pub Darts has a multiplayer setting and everything is better with friends, right? Well not in this case. Pub Darts does support up to four players but all this really does is make for frustration as a group instead of alone. However, if players do end up playing solo, they will square off against a computer opponent that seems as though it's there purely to mock. Even on the easiest difficulty setting it can be a real challenge to win. Perhaps the feeling of frustration would be lessened if there was some kind of practice mode included in the game, but instead players are forced to take turns with the computer while trying to get a handle on the controls.
These problems are consistent across the game's five modes: 501, Cricket, Around the Clock, Killer and Baseball. While this may appear to be a solid variety of game types they all end up playing the same way. The controls issues also don't help when certain game types require players to consistently hit a specific, tiny section of the dart board. A professional darts player may appreciate the variety of game types but there's no reason why they would enjoy this experience over the real thing.
Pub Darts is a bland game that tries to recreate darts on the Wii, and after giving it several chances, it does not succeed. The controls, plain and simple, don't feel accurate. The lack of basic components, such as an actual tutorial and feedback for the player, don't help the situation. The game's other hook, the pub atmosphere, feels empty and poorly executed. It becomes difficult to think of an audience that would enjoy this game, casual darts players have little incentive to master the controls, and experienced darts players are already playing real darts. Ultimately, Pub Darts is hard to recommend.