You wait years for a darts game to come to PlayStation 3 with little success and then two turn up in the space of a month – such is the power of the PlayStation Move and its suitability for bringing the sport to life. While PDC World Championship Darts: Pro Tour was a good effort aimed at those who know their Phil Taylor from their Robert Thornton, Top Darts tries to take the game of arrows and turn it into a party experience. The results, you might be surprised to hear, are very enjoyable.
Controlling your dart is very simple: an on-screen cursor allows you to aim your shot, then you hold Move and make a throwing motion to send your arrow flying through the air, the speed and straightness of your throw having an effect on where your shot ends up. There are varying degrees of shot-smoothing on offer, with the highest difficulties stripping most of the assistance away, meaning there's a definite learning curve and skill to pick up as you advance.
Top Darts features the usual 501, tournament and league modes, though without PDC's licences these aren't quite as exciting as in the other title. It makes up for it, however, with a range of darts-based mini-games that prove to be the game's real draw. Stack Up, for example, tasks you with hitting numbers on a board as indicated by falling blocks to the right-hand side. Each time you hit the number, the blocks disappear, but if the stack reaches the top then it's game over. It's a curious blend of darts, Tetris and board geography, but it quickly becomes chaotic as the blocks come down faster and begin to mount up.
Other mini-games include bomb darts, power-ups and more, and playing these with another person in the simultaneous two-player mode gives rise to every bit as much sweaty-palmed competition as any other sports game. Bomb Darts proves a winner as you knock your opponent's darts off of the board before they explode, and Cat and Mouse is a fast-paced chase game where accuracy and speed are essential. Sadly, the multiplayer modes are limited to local, offline play, with no network features included.
Whereas PDC split the screen for the authentic TV-style presentation, Top Darts devotes the entire screen to its range of locales and boards, all rendered in full 1080p with a surprising amount of graphical polish. Darts leave holes in the cork after they've been removed, particles of dust hover around the board and the whole graphical experience far exceeds anything you'd expect from a £7 downloadable title about darts.
The audio side isn't quite so accomplished, however, with "Voice of Darts" Sid Waddell lending his chatter to the sound presentation, and although it's not quite as irritating as his verbal contribution to PDC Darts, it's still something that will grate after a few matches. The rest of the music and sound is decent, with some nice ambient chatter and background effects for each location, but with the emphasis on party atmosphere you'll likely be contributing your own aural effects.
Top Darts is enjoyable, polished and best played with a group of friends, though the lack of online play might limit your opportunities on this front. The Move controls are straightforward, but higher difficulties will offer enough challenge for players who want to master the skill. There are plenty of other party games for Move that are arguably more likely to get the festivities started, but if your guests are open-minded and don't mind standing at the Oche this is worth a purchase.