Many reading this may be aware that this title was previously released on the 3DS as Darts Up 3D, and you might be expecting a more fleshed-out experience on the Wii U’s considerably more powerful hardware. As it stands, this version of the pub-game simulator is largely the same as the portable instalment. You aim with the GamePad’s motion controls and throw a dart by pulling back on either of the control sticks and releasing; the whole experience is centred on that core principle.
As a starting point, the presentation of Darts Up isn't particularly good. The character selection screen presents you with an array of semi-Mii-like figures; the only reason for selecting a character is to give you a visual clue as to whose turn it is, and only serves any purpose if you happen to have forgotten your player number. Despite every logical reason there is no way to use your own Mii characters as player icons in this game (a feature that was present in the original 3DS version). When you’re actually playing the game you can view the slightly garish surroundings by moving the GamePad around, but there's little need to do so.
In total there are four modes to choose from: ‘Classic’ tasks you to get the highest score in a set number of rounds, ‘X01’ requires you to get a specific score rather than just accumulating points, ‘Arcade’ asks you to beat a certain score with a limited number of darts in order to progress, and ‘Combo’ — a mode exclusive to the Wii U version — plays in the same way as Classic except certain combinations of darts in a round gain you additional points. None of these modes really change the gameplay up enough, with the exception of X01 which behaves as a typical game of darts; that makes it considerably more challenging.
This lack of variation really shows and will likely leave you bored and unfulfilled in a matter of minutes if playing alone; there are online leaderboards for the Arcade mode which show you how you rank globally and how you fare compared to your friends, which is a nice touch, but isn't really enough to make the mode especially engaging. The game does improve with the addition of multiple players, and you can get some fun out of the title if you have a larger group, but don't expect to be playing it for hours on end, as with just a small amount of practice scoring 180 stops being too much of a challenge.
Darts Up also contains elements that can tarnish the gameplay — for instance, every time you enter a new round the GamePad’s motion coordinates reset, meaning that if you place the controller on a flat surface and pull back the control stick three times, you will get 150 points without even trying. Amusingly when you do get a bullseye the screen mistakenly displays the words ‘BULL EYE’ in large letters. All that being said the motion controls are responsive and accurate, and despite the limited and repetitive gameplay there is some fun to be had – particularly for younger children. The budget price means if you're looking for a quick, pub-themed gaming fix this could be an option for you.
Darts Up is a game of limited appeal and has been taken straight from the original with minimal vital improvements, but if you can get past the poor visuals and repetitive gameplay you may find a little enjoyment. Consider Darts Up as a game you’d play with some friends not too keen on taking anything too seriously – much like the pub sport it emulates.