EnjoyUp Games' latest eShop release moves the party into the pub with Darts Up 3D, a motion-controlled iteration of the classic tavern target-toss game. While not a deep or polished experience, it's a fun little game that will appeal to fans of darts and simple multiplayer games in equal measure.
There are three modes to choose from in Darts Up: Classic is a simple, high-score game of darts for two to four players, Arcade is a multi-round score challenge for one, and X01 is a multiplayer variant where the objective is to count down to zero from a starting score of either 301, 501, or 701. The rules to X01 are poorly explained in the manual, which is a shame as it's definitely worth getting to grips with - it's a fun variation that makes for a much more involved game than normal darts. Regardless of which mode you choose to play, the core game is the same: you'll throw three darts per turn at an archetypical dartboard, using the 3DS' gyroscopic sensors to aim for sections of the circle with different point values, and pulling the Circle Pad back and releasing to fire.
3DS owners might be somewhat skeptical of motion controls by now, but Darts Up 3D is actually a great example of motion done right. Aiming with the gyroscope is natural, if somewhat sensitive, and acts as a commendably serviceable stand-in for the challenge of actual darts: since there's no reticule, you'll have to judge exactly where the centre of the screen is for yourself, and take the darts' path into account when sizing up your shots. Sure, you might not get a bullseye every time, but we think this is one instance where motion controls make more sense than buttons. Throwing the darts by pulling back and releasing the Circle Pad also feels great - it's a pleasingly tactile input that's as satisfying here as in Nintendo Land's The Legend of Zelda: Battle Quest.
Our sole complaint with the game's motion controls is that there's no way to manually recalibrate the screen if it slips off-centre. If you accidentally begin a round with the system at an odd angle, for instance, you're stuck playing out that turn in the position you started in - even if that means aiming up at the ceiling or down at the floor.
The other element that brings Darts Up down a bit is its presentation. The graphics are fine - though nothing to write home about - with a mild 3D effect that does its best to remain usable during movement, but the big problem is a lack of variety. There's exactly one dart board to look at, and one cutely decorated arcade in which the game takes place. The soundtrack is pleasant, but similarly repetitive, consisting of one main melody. Being able to use your Miis is a nice touch, as are the action-cam replays, but in terms of trappings, Darts Up feels more like a tech-demo than anything else; it's essentially a single-screen mini-game, and a little visual variety would've gone a long way towards giving it some personality.
Finer details like visual monotony and manual recalibration tend to fly out the window when you're having a good time with friends, however, and Darts Up 3D offers a generous quiver of multiplayer options that turn it from a one-shot time-killer into a viable party game. Up to four people can pass-and-play on a single 3DS in either Classic or X01 mode, and you can also transfer the entire game via Download Play for multi-system play. It's still very much just a round of darts, but the easy to learn, skill-based gameplay makes for a fantastically fun pick-up-and-play game with friends. For local bragging rights, Arcade mode also saves the top-ten scores on the system, with each player's Mii's proudly posted alongside.
Darts Up 3D is an extremely simple game, and a bit off the mark with its presentation, but fun gameplay, satisfying motion controls, and a bevy of multiplayer modes for single- and multi-system play nudge it much closer to the centre of the board than the edge. It won't be enough for everyone, but players with a soft spot for darts, well-implemented gyroscope controls, or quick multiplayer fun on the cheap will enjoy this dependable time-killer and its party-play potential.