Even the way you say the word (Dah-Tss: like checking your breath for the threat of halitosis before hissing at a pantomime villain) feels unkempt and low culturish. It's one of those sports, like Rugby Union, Polo or pitbull-fighting which, when played in Britain, comes with a heavy sort of social baggage. These are all games intrinsically linked to the type of people who play them and the environments in which they're played. Darts is a game about fat men, gold chains, ropey pubs, peroxide blondes and beery carpets; Polo is about prissy paddocks, pure-bred horses, fox-hunting aristocrats and voting Conservative. Pay no attention to the virtue of the gameplay and let the broad brush strokes of prejudice painted by your upbringing dictate whether you approve or not.
Thankfully, in their other-dimensional presentation, videogames have a cute way of bypassing these sorts of tired class considerations of sport to reveal the underlying game for what it really is. Which, in the case of Touch Darts, turns out to be a pretty excellent one all told. Of course, this isn't the first game to try players' hand at the sport. However, for console gamers at least, the most recent iterations have mostly taken the form of minigames tacked on to larger projects. Be it in the game parlours of Sega's multi-million pound camp soap opera, Shenmue, or deep in the belly of Nintendo's 42-All Time Classics, Darts has usually played insignificant sideshow to another game's main attraction. So it's good to see Sega focus its efforts to bring us the definitive package onto Nintendo's handheld.
The rules of the game, for those who only frequent wine bars or gentlemen's clubs of a weekend are straightforward: two players compete in a game of physical accuracy and mental arithmetic to reduce their starting score of 501 or 301 points to exactly zero before their opponent. During your turn you can throw three darts which must hit a segment on the dart board to score. Each segment has a score marked at the edge of board which is subtracted from your current total when hit. If the dart hits the narrow outer ring you score double points while the inner ring scores treble points. Wires separate the segments and your dart will bounce off these if it hits one. The centre of the board is the bull's-eye which has an inner and outer part worth 50 points and 25 points respectively. The final dart, that which reduces your score to zero for the win, must land either in the outer ring of the board (i.e. a double) or on the bull's-eye otherwise it's counted as void.