John Lowe’s Ultimate Darts is safer than a trip to the pub in COVID times

Some sports seem to lend themselves naturally to video games — that’s why we get so many soccer, American football, baseball, hockey and golf games. With that in mind, the appeal of games like John Lowe’s Ultimate Darts from Gremlin Graphics might not be all that obvious — but spend a bit of time with this game and you’ll discover there’s actually a fair bit to like.

This game, which released for Atari ST, Amiga and Commodore 64 in late 1989, allows you to challenge John Lowe and a number of other darts stars from the era to a variety of different darts-based games, including conventional 301, 501, 1001 and “round the board” rules, as well as the creative “soccer” and “cricket” darts variants.

Check out John Lowe’s Ultimate Darts in action

Featuring a simple mouse-based control scheme on the 16-bit versions, playing John Lowe’s Ultimate Darts is a straightforward matter of taking aim at the virtual dartboard, then clicking as your slightly shaky “hand” wibbles and wobbles around, presumably to simulate the typical inebriation level of a professional darts player. Your timing will determine how accurate your shot is — though sometimes it feels like you whiff anyway even despite the perfect aim!

John Lowe’s Ultimate Darts also features a “Real” darts mode, where you can simply use it as an electronic scoreboard while playing a game on an actual dartboard. This is a nice touch, but its usefulness is perhaps questionable — would you want to play darts next to valuable computer equipment? With my general level of cack-handedness, I probably wouldn’t — though your mileage may vary if you’re actually capable of playing real-life darts without making an absolute tit of yourself.

John Lowe's Ultimate Darts (Atari ST)
Atari ST version

John Lowe’s Ultimate Darts is obviously a fairly niche-interest game — but it’s also a relatively early example of a casual-friendly game. Even those who don’t typically play video games — but who do like darts — can engage with and enjoy this game thanks to its simple controls, and its variety of game modes allows players of all ages and ability levels to compete against one another across numerous different challenges.

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So while it may not be a game that is destined to go down in retro gaming history as one of the all-time greats, it still has a certain amount of value, even today. So if you’ve got a means of playing it and a darts-loving friend or two, give it a go — you might be surprised how much fun you end up having!

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