Monday 13 July 2015

Jocky Wilson's Darts Challenge (Atari 8-bit review)

Developer: Ian Copeland, Richard Beston, Adam Gilmore
Publisher: Zeppelin Games
Released: 1988

Jocky Wilson's Darts Challenge was one of two Atari games to feature the former champion (the other was Compendium of Darts).

The user interface isn't intuitive and I immediately had to consult the manual to see what each icon referred to! Round the Clock challenges you to hit every number on the board from low to high. Unfortunately there's no time limit so it's more of a practice area than a challenge mode. The main mode is a one-player tournament where you compete against 15 other opponents and each match takes place over several legs and sets. Compared to 180 (1986, Atari 8-bit) where the throwing motion can be mastered in seconds this game has a much higher learning curve. The dart constantly hovers around the screen in a bee-like movement and trying to move it to your desired location is tough. It's difficult to line up your shot properly and getting doubles or trebles is harder than it needs to be as the hit spot is very small. During your opponent's turn a nice overhead angle shows the action and the venue which includes player ramps and bar tables. The first couple of rounds aren't too hard as the CPU plays terrible; however, once you reach the Semi-Finals you'll need a perfect game as it doesn't miss a shot. This rapid increase in difficulty is to the game's detriment as it starts off giving you a chance and then quickly shows you how rubbish you are! The graphics are bland during your turn as it's predominantly black and white with colour reserved solely for the dart. There's no music or ambient sound effects during the matches either so there's little personality. The opening music is seriously impressive though and sounds like it's been ripped from an action-platformer! The two-player mode isn't too interesting and consists of a single match.

Jocky Wilson's Darts Challenge does grow on you but it lacks any atmosphere and has a tricky control system that few will take the time to learn. If you're looking for a more accessible darts game on Atari 8-bit computers try 180 instead.

Random trivia: Ian Copeland also programmed a number of other Atari 8-bit games including Mountain Bike Racer (1989), Ninja Commando (1989) and Blinky's Scary School (1990).

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