Review: Hooked on Darts
I'm a big fan of casual games on phones - for me, sitting down for an hour's gaming on a tiny 4" screen isn't my idea of immersive fun. But I do love quick games that can while away a minute or two waiting for a bus or waiting in line..... Hooked on Darts fits right in with this game philosophy, simplifying the actual game while still keeping it fun.
Darts purists will hate this, of course. There's no scoring down from 501 or 401, etc, to end on a double. In fact, there's no opponent at all. Just playing against your own high score - you have 20 darts to score as high a total as possible. In fact, showing that Hooked on Darts seems to have evolved from a game programming demo, there's not even an online high score table, you're just playing against yourself.
None of which sounds that promising, especially given that this is commercial software (though only costing 79p/$1, typically), but Hooked on Darts is saved by virtue of its tremendously responsive dart control.
Mimicking the throwing of a metal 'arrow' on a computer screen has vexed programmers for years, with various timing/aiming control options, but it seems that using 'analogue' touchscreen flicks works best - and Hooked on Darts has the flick-to-dart-mechanics algorithm absolutely down 'pat'. After throwing/flicking a handful of darts you'll have the idea and I found that quite precise control could be achieved, i.e. actually aiming for 'treble 16' rather than flicking and hoping.
In fact, I was achieving similar accuracy in Hooked on Darts as I get in the real world. Which isn't saying much about my skill, but it does mean that this small game title has hit upon simulation nirvana - the point at which you can almost suspend disbelief and enjoy the game as much as the real thing.
After each game, tapping on your score on your own high score table brings up a report showing where all the darts hit - should you feel the need to remind yourself of your stellar accuracy...!
To add interest to the rather basic 'total after 20 darts' game, there are two variations included: Breakaway, in which sections of the board which you hit get 'broken away', reducing the targets available for your next dart; and Spinning, in which the entire board spins - making hitting any target almost impossibly hard. In practice, I spent most time in the Classic and Breakaway game modes.
What's needed here, of course, is investment from the developer to bring his excellent dart throwing engine to a much more sophisticated game framework, with at least one of the classic Darts games - with or without an AI or online opponent.
Hooked on Darts has received one update in the last fortnight alone, so it's good to see the developer still on the case. I'm hoping this casual game can progress further - even in its current form though, I found it worth a few pennies or cents - if only to encourage further development!
Reviewed by Steve Litchfield at