It's easy to get excited when some games make the transition to virtual play. Others seem so, well, dull that you wonder why the concept was even developed.
So, we were skeptical when given the chance to try "Elite Darts" by Patch Products. Darts seemed less than exhilarating, and we had difficulty picturing how it could be even remotely engaging on a computer.
Well, we were wrong.
The first exposure some of us had to darts as kids was with a board set up in the basement, where we could throw the steel-tip spears without our parents worrying that we would destroy something valuable. Indeed, one of the scenarios in Elite Darts has the board hung over the basement washing machine. The three other locales are an English pub, a sports bar and, our favorite, the pool hall.
The practice mode is the best place to learn how to throw a dart. You must first position your hand represented by a transparent, ghostlike appendage, then lock the position in by clicking and holding the left mouse button. Players then move the mouse forward and backward to determine the speed and trajectory of the dart.
To fire the dart, release the mouse button. At first it was all we could do to get a dart to hit the board, much less a specific number or the bull's-eye. In time, we found that focus combined with force landed the most accurate shots. The skills needed to succeed were reminiscent of those used to accurately swing a club in computer golf games.
Once you get the hang of pitching a dart, you can choose to play Cricket, '01 Games or Baseball. In Cricket, competitors must make three "hits" on every number between 15 and 20, plus three bull's-eyes. In all '01 Games, you must score a three-digit point total ending in 1, such as 101, 501 or 901.
Baseball consists of scoring "runs" by landing your dart on the number that corresponds to the inning you are playing. Up to four people can compete at once, either in person, modem-to-modem or at the MSN Gaming Zone Internet site: www.zone.msn.com.
We found the hybrid software to be well-designed and enjoyed the bright, sharp graphics and realistic, fluid play. The options were easy to access and the controls were responsive.
Although called suitable for all ages, the game requires a degree of dexterity that might be difficult for young children to master. The instructions were complete, but long. The tutorial movie was simple and helpful in illustrating the basic techniques.
PC users require: Pentium 75 MHz, 8 MB RAM, 15 MB free hard drive space. (The manufacturer suggests Pentium 166 MHz, 16 MB RAM, 70 MB free hard drive space).
Mac users require: System 7.x or better, Power PC, 8 MB RAM, 15 MB free hard drive space. (The manufacturer suggests 16 MB RAM, 70 MB free hard drive space).
"Elite Darts" has a suggested retail price of $19.99.
Information: 800-524-4263 or http://patchproducts.com.
Pub Date: 05/31/99