A new darts game doesn't raise too many questions about what to expect, which is no bad thing. After all, mystery often leads to disappointment, while realistic expectations are easily met. Pub Darts 180 does exactly what it says on the tin (except serve you beer), and does it with half a smile and a well-polished oche.
The only thing of any uncertainty is quite how the dart throwing mechanics in a sporting title like this will manifest themselves. Naturally, there needs to be some form of dexterous skill involved, as placing a stationary cursor on the treble-20 isn't much of a challenge. But squeezing a dartboard onto the micro-screen and still allowing for a skilful shot is no simple matter.
Pub Darts 180 vaults these two design intricacies quite admirably. The dart board is segmented into quarters – enabling players to select which area of the board they want to look at with the thumbstick (or keypad).
Once zoomed in to the relevant section, a fluctuating circular crosshair is intersected by a second, 'metronomic' line; fixed at the bull's eye and swinging randomly about the magnified quarter of the board. Hit '5' as the crosshairs flit past your target and that's where the dart lands. Simple, but highly effective.
A skilled shot is always within the player's grasp, while a timer for each throw ensures there's not too much procrastination at the oche. The available games are, naturally, 501 (the first player to reduce the number to zero, while finishing on a double or the bull) and a round-the-clock game (requiring players to count upwards from one to 20) accompanied by a survival mode – you're given five lives in which to hit each target in turn.
A multiplayer mode is a welcome addition. Simply passing the phone between yourself and another council estate-dwelling, beer-soaked pub athlete (we tease) is a great game to play over a pint, while the mock flock wallpaper on the screen and dingy lighting provide a most suitable in-game atmosphere.
To be honest, the title speaks for itself, and if you particularly fancy a mobile darts match or are looking for a new casual game for tomorrow's commute, Pub Darts 180 is a sharp contender at the top of its niche genre.