'Lo there, lads, (not forgetting you lassies) - get them old plates up to the oche and let's get down to some serious flechettes. Bar Sports might have proved an all rounder on the Bar Wars front, but 180 will decide who slings the meanest arrer in town.
180 is, quite simply, the best pound for pound darts simulation you'll ever lay your mitts on. And if the noble art of pint pots and fag ends isn't your cup of tea, fear not, this stands up as a Speccy game in its own right, requiring the kind of hand to eye co-ordination any arcade adept would be proud to exhibit.
What's more, it's actually two games in one. The practice mode is not played in competition, but is a fine test of your own nerve. You have ninety seconds to go round the board from twenty to one. This not only teaches you how to throw at speed and find your way around the board but introduces you to the throwing technique. This is rather disconcerting on two counts. First the screen presents you with conventional dart and black boards. But hovering before it, like a hand of Orlac or a bit part from Friday The 13th is a well-realised disembodied hand. What's more, it shakes! Thinking this was me I partook of more liquid refreshment. Eventually the hand stopped but I found the room was revolving around me instead.
Though this game is keyboard compatible, joysticks suit it like Fergie loves Andy. The joystick motion needed to control the hand is doggedly diagonal whilst the hand essentially rotates in a wider and wider circle. So you can only fire on the move (tricky), and the earlier you fire the better, except, of course, you'll have less time to aim. Check the trajectory is correct too (depicted by the angle of the dart in the hand) then hit the fire button and, hewgh!, watch that tungsten bird fly home.
In a competition of 501, with the best of three sets, the technique is the same, with scores automatically deducted on screen, (nice chalk simulation here, Mastertronic) - and the bumf provides a very useful list of all the finishing combinations which saves on the brain-ache. There is a two-up facility if you want to quaff a can with your pals, but it's playing the computer that'll really hone your skills.
Your opponents come in nine guises like Belly Bill and Sure Shot Syd - don't be put off by the silly names! You'll always go first in the compo which, in theory, means you'll be first on the double - make sure you are cos these guys are hot stuff! After your throw, there's a simulation of the oppo's go - text tells you his target and what he gets while in the background pints are pulled and dogs cock their legs. Each player has different abilities and tactics - and I might be wrong, but they all seem to have the ability to raise their game - in other words, the better you get, the better they'll respond. Equally, if you start badly they won't rush into an unassailable lead, so you won't be demoralized.
In its presentation, 180 does veer toward the macho, crafty cockney Bristow school of darts rather than that of Gentleman John Lowe, but otherwise there's little to quibble about - a winner across the board!
When the oppo's at the oche there's nothing you can do but hope he gets too squiffy to throw straight. You won't see the board, but the text tells you his score, as well as his original aim. If you can't bear to watch, then keep an eye on the barmaid pulling pints and slinging them western style along the counter, or on the cocky canine showing his appreciation of the local brew.
Here's the dart bard and score board. The configurations remain the same in practice or competition mode, except that in the former you'll get your target number on the left, and the latter will show each dart's score and final total - all in a chalk style script. None of that namby pamby electric stuff with this mega-macho game.