A sequel to Target Toss Pro: Bags, released on WiiWare in 2008, Target Toss Pro: Lawn Darts brings the same style of play to a different variety of games, this time using lawn darts. We thought the previous release was good but needed some work – did Incredible Technologies hit the mark this time?
Lawn Darts is an outdoor sport designed to give kids exercise and fresh air. It is perfectly good and healthy in every way, besides causing a few injuries and fatalities. For these, the game was banned for sale in the United States and Canada in the late 80's, but thanks to the Wii, you can now play the sport indoors with slightly less fear of being killed.
The real sport is played by throwing large spikes with wing attachments that players hold to toss the dart into the air with the intent of hitting a target at a distance. This tossing action is not unlike the act of tossing a beanbag. In fact, when mapped to Wii Remote motion controls, it turns out that they are exactly the same. Thus, Incredible Technologies was able to reuse the same engine from Target Toss Pro: Bags in this game and merely change the item thrown from a beanbag to a lawn dart.
This is not to say that the developers were lazy. Far from it, in fact, as they have added several new features to this release that were not present in Bags. For starters, there is surprisingly extensive documentation included on how to play each game. We’ve played card games on WiiWare that don’t actually give instructions on how to actually play Poker, while here you get extensive instructions on this just so that you can play Poker Darts, one of the four game types. There may, in fact, be more explanation and documentation here than for any other WiiWare game.
Additionally, online leaderboards have been added whereas in Bags, there were only local leaderboards. Here, you can see how your top scores compare to others outside your immediate circle. It’s a small but positive step, and it shows a desire on the part of the developer to improve the overall experience and not merely repackage the same thing with a new name.
Where Bags only had one game type, there are now four to choose from, each with different goals and rules. Classic Lawn Darts plays like Bags except with lawn darts. It's the most authentic lawn darts game in the bunch as it’s just a straightforward "try to hit the bulls-eye" game in which landing your dart closer to it earns you progressively more points. It also happens to play a lot like Bags, but it's far less satisfying because there were so many nuances to the art of the beanbag toss that are simply not present in darts, which we've detailed below. But this is only one-fourth of the game and likely where you’ll spend the least amount of your time.
Another mode, 501, plays like a common game of darts where you throw your lawn darts at an actual dart board laid out on the ground and score, or subtract, points based on where you land. The first to count down from 501 to zero wins. This game should be familiar to anyone who plays regular darts and was our favourite variant of the four. We also like the fact that, thanks to this game, we now no longer have to store a giant 12’ diameter novelty dartboard in our garage.
Cricket plays on the same dartboard as 501, but here, your task is to hit only the numbers 15 through 20 and the bull’s-eye three times each. We found this a good deal more frustrating than 501 because it required a lot more accuracy with our throws to hit a specific target, unlike 501 wherein hitting a particular target is preferred but not a requirement.
Poker Darts is another great concept to add to the sport. Instead of a giant dartboard, here a giant deck of cards is laid out on the field. It’s unlikely that anyone ever played lawn darts in real life with a giant deck of cards, so this is a good example of what playing in video game form can do to improve over the real sport and provide variety. What doesn’t work, however, is that, like Cricket, the game tasks you with hitting specific targets. Your goal is to pick up a poker hand with five tosses, and the player with the best one wins. Throwing your dart to pick up an Ace is hard enough, but hitting another Ace elsewhere on the field to pick up a pair can be quite frustrating. And going for a straight? Forget it.
Combined, these four game options make for greater variety than was available in Bags, and the developers clearly put the time and effort in to improve upon their original formula. Unfortunately, none of these games is actually as much fun as Bags was. Where Bags excelled at multiplayer and allowed for the thrill of interfering with your opponent, with Lawn Darts there is very little interaction between players. Bags can be knocked off the target by well-placed slider shots, while lawn darts just land wherever they land and there’s nothing your opponent can do about it. As a result, multiplayer in Lawn Darts feels a lot like playing the single player game at the same time as someone else and never satisfies the competitive itch that Bags did.
Moreover, while we marvelled at the surprising accuracy of the motion controls in Bags, in that game your goal was always to throw in as straight a line as possible, unless you were trying something intentionally tricky like targeting your opponents’ bags. Here, however, that same throwing system does not work as well because of the need to hit a variety of specific targets. Where before you were always trying to throw in a straight line, which was challenging enough, here you have to throw at an angle on purpose, which is quite a bit more frustrating as with that sort of throw is more difficult to judge where your shot will land.
It’s tough to recommend Lawn Darts over Bags. With multiple game modes and greater challenge to make the single player game last longer, Lawn Darts looks better on paper. Although the developer clearly put some effort into improving the overall experience and adding more variety, though, the improvements cannot outweigh the fact that Bags was just more fun.