You end up with an intuitive arcade sports title with plenty of replay value, even if the learning curve is a bit steep at first.
Darts games are hard to make. If you give the player a cursor, they can simply click where they want the dart to go, making the game way too easy and totally unlike the real thing. So you have to implement some kind of hand-shaking mechanic — but then it gets super frustrating when you can't get the cursor to move in the direction you want it to. The touch screen has eliminated these problems by introducing stroke mechanics. But the PSP doesn't have a touch screen, and Arcade Darts is a PlayStation Mini — how can it possibly work?
Well it manages to. Just. Instead of relying on just a cursor and encountering the problems above, Arcade Darts implements several gauges to define the position of your shot. First, you get the shaky cursor — but it's not frustrating. It moves quite freely and in the general direction of where you'd like it to. You can get it hovering over the treble-20 pretty easily. But that's not all there is to Arcade Darts' shot direction. You also need to define shot power (too hard and the dart will go over the target, too light and it'll fall under) and release direction. Think about it this way — if you release the dart and it skews slightly to the left, it'll miss the intended target. So you need to ensure you release the dart at the correct angle. Hit all the gauges in the right place and you'll hit your determined target. It manages to introduce challenge without feeling entirely contrived.
The problem is that Arcade Darts never really explains the optimal position of all the gauges. Sure you can work it out with trial and error, but it substantially boosts the learning curve in a needless way.
Still, once you get the hang of the game, you'll find plenty of content in Arcade Darts. There's an arcade mode which plays out similarly to a beat 'em up. Here you'll face multiple opponents in games of multiple types and rules. There's also a career mode which plays out similarly but introduces a tournament structure. As you play, you'll unlock new dart boards and dart types to mess around with. There's even a multiplayer component.
There's even a variety of game-types, with popular alternatives such as Cricket and Around The Clock on offer. It's an altogether beefy package, that hinges on its core mechanics. Thankfully, Arcade Darts is an enjoyable round of 501; and while it never contends with better darts titles such as the DS' Touch Darts, it never assumes to do so. It's just a good, honest old fashioned darts game, with plenty of content to keep you coming back.