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PDC World Championship Darts 2009

For: DS

More bull than bull's eye

Product: PDC World Championship Darts 2009 | Developer: Abducao | Publisher: Oxygen Interactive | Format: DS | Genre: Pub Sports | Players: 1-4 | Networking: wireless (adhoc) | Version: Europe
PDC World Championship Darts 2009 DS, thumbnail 1
When it comes to sports conversions, darts is one of the pursuits I've never been convinced about. Surely if you were that enthusiastic about pointy arrows and their wire-framed circular target, you'd prefer access to the physical version in your garage or go down the pub? After all, this is a social activity.

And, unlike the space required by a full-sized snooker table, even the smallest flat can accommodate the oche, so why would you want a virtual version?

A couple of solid reasons can be put forward, of course. One is to take an over-the-top wacky route of dart-related minigames: something we've seen on the DS with Sega's enjoyable Touch Darts.

The other is to take the more serious approach: get the licence, scan the players, ask whether players can beat Phil 'The Power' Taylor and Raymond van Barneveld? And so we have PDC World Championship Darts 2009 which, as the third annual release in the series, must have an existing fanbase.

This is the first version to come to DS, however, which brings us to the tricky question of the control method. Throwing darts is one of those 'simple to do, difficult to master' skills. For one thing, you've got to split the aiming part of the pre-throw from the actual letting go.

PDC World Championship Darts 2009 doesn't completely nail this. It adopts the same touch to aim, draw down the screen with your stylus for power and then flick up to throw as Touch Darts, but it's nothing like as tuned or fun. To be fair, Brazilian developer Abdução has layered on extra precision as you can put left or right spin on your throw by pulling down at a slight angle.

More subtlely, though, the mechanism of the power meter with its sweet spot - a small box with a mid notch - forces you to focus on trying to get the throw’s power exactly right, rather than looking at where you're throwing your dart, which would be the better and more naturalistic option.

Similarly, the pressure of the moment, which is the real factor that bedevils the professionals, is off-kilter and becomes frustrating rather than encouraging deeper skill. What happens is whenever you're going for a money shot such as the third treple 20 to get a 'one hundred and eighty' or your final double to win a game, the aiming reticule goes drunk and wobbly, as if the game wasn't hard enough already.

Indeed, in keeping with the licence and the 18 pros who are represented in-game, this is a rock hard experience to be successful at, even in the simple one-set Exhibition mode. The prolonged Tournament and Career modes, in which you have to work your way through round after round of games, approaches impossibility: at least it did for me, and that wasn't the hard setting either.

You can find some light relief in the Party Games mode, which includes dart-based fun such as Round the Clock, Killer, Cricket and Shanghai. These can be played with up to four players in hotseat mode, or two players in local wireless single cart mode.

More generally, the presentation is also a little lacklustre. The 18 pros are modelled in 3D and admirable attention has been paid to their style of throwing, flight design, and small animations of the eyes and mouth, but all seemed to be based off the same mesh.

Maybe dart players do share the same basic rotund form, but surely they're fairly individualistic, too. Equally, no attention is paid to the crowd or the atmosphere that marks the live PDC World Championship events.

Of course, I expect the game will find a ready, if small, audience of dart fans ready to stick it to untutored Philistines such as myself. I'd be genuinely surprised if it hits the bullseye for anyone else, though.
PDC World Championship Darts 2009
Reviewer photo
Jon Jordan | 29 June 2009
PDC World Championship Darts 2009 fulfils the brief when it comes to its licence but there's little to lighten the tone for those who just want a sociable game of arrows
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