Apologies in advance to any non-UK readers, because this review is going to be one great big confusing clump of words. For those who do live in Britain, however – especially those who have been round the block for long enough – Bullseye needs no introduction.
The darts-based gameshow was something of a national institution in the late 20th century, running for a full 15 years between 1981 and 1995 and delivering more than 350 episodes in the process (take that, Friends).
Everyone of a certain vintage knows the theme tune off by heart, can recite the catchphrases and still dreams of one day owning a Bendy Bully, one of the consolation toys given to contestants who failed to win the speedboat. Yes, the speedboat.
This Switch version of Bullseye is an astonishing accomplishment, in that it somehow manages to portray almost nothing that made the show so well-loved. Instead, it takes a source material that’s positively rife with potential nostalgia and reduces it to one of the most soul-less, frustrating experiences we’ve had on the Switch to date.
For starters, it doesn’t even have the theme music. When that couldn’t be secured the project should have just been scrapped there and then, and yet here we are.
The round setup is also different from the way it was in the original show. It all starts well enough with the traditional category round, where the board is split into different categories and you have to try to hit the one you want to get a question on that particular topic. So far, so faithful.
The second round is similar to the Pounds for Points round in the original show – where you throw darts at a standard dartboard and are given questions worth the point total you landed on – but instead of having six darts you’re given a set time to get through as many darts as you can. Not entirely accurate but hardly offensive.
It’s when you get to round three, Bully’s Prize Board, that things start getting outlandish. In the actual show, round three was the most popular round by far and the one most people associate with the show to this day. In this round, the board was split into 16 segments: half of them contained a prize and half contained nothing.
The board looks the same here, but there are no prizes. In the Prize Round. Just more points and questions. That’s like The Simpsons without yellow paint, or Bo Selecta without sketches that couldn’t possibly air in 2021. With a bit of thought the game could have offered you comedy ’80s era prizes like the ones from the show – a sewing machine, or a teasmaid, or a giant cuddly bear – but instead the whole thing is completely charmless.
“There are no prizes. In the Prize Round. Just more points and questions. That’s like The Simpsons without yellow paint, or Bo Selecta without sketches that couldn’t possibly air in 2021.”
Finally, the last round – in which players get to gamble everything they’ve won up to that point on a grand prize (which is where the aforementioned speedboat comes into play) – is also messed up here. Like the show, you’re given six darts to get 101 points, but each still comes with a question you have to answer, which wasn’t the case in the show.
At this point, you’d be forgiven for accusing us of nitpicking. Sure, the game’s format has changed a bit, but surely doesn’t matter too much? And surely the lack of the proper theme song isn’t a criminal matter? (It is, incidentally.)
Well, we’ve saved the worst for last. This is a darts-based gameshow where it’s nearly impossible to accurately throw darts.
On paper, the controls sound reasonable. You move the dart around with the left stick, rotate and tilt your aim with the right stick, then hold the ZR button to set a power meter. The problem is, everything is so ridiculously temperamental that it’s practically impossible to throw your dart anywhere near where you want it to go.
We lined up two nearly identical shots, aimed slightly to the left of the centre, with similar power. The first throw hit the bullseye. The second flew so wildly off the board that it didn’t even hit the black bit. We’d hate to have been in the audience, put it that way.
There’s just no rhyme or reason to where your shots go, which in a game that’s requires accuracy to hit specific categories and points values means the thing is broken. You may as well hand Bully the darts and ask him to use his big cartoon hooves to hurl them in the general direction of the board, for all the good it does.
It’s strange, because there are one or two areas where you can tell there’s at least been some attempt at authenticity. The set design is a fairly accurate rendition of the one from the ’80s, and the big rotating board looks great. Bully still does his bellow when you run out of time on a question (and it’s the original sound effect), and you still get that weird ethereal music when the board rotates.
“You may as well hand Bully the darts and ask him to use his big cartoon hooves to hurl them in the general direction of the board, for all the good it does.”
You even get some of the show’s catchphrases, like “there’s nothing in this game for two in a bed”, even though they’re delivered by an announcer who sounds oddly like a man who’s 50% Jim Bowen and 50% Dave Spikey, with 0% of the enthusiasm of either.
Ultimately, though, when the thing is nearly impossible to control then Bullseye isn’t worth the £12.99 currently being asked for it.
Nostalgia is a powerful thing but anyone seeking to reminisce about the days when pub games were prime time TV viewing should just head to YouTube and watch reruns of the original show rather than stumbling through this mess, where the only thing in common with pubs is that your throwing technique is that of a heavily drunk person.
Instead, drop £12 on this bag of nails and before long you’ll find yourself sadly browsing the eShop again, with Jim Bowen’s ghost looking over your shoulder and forlornly saying “have a look at what you could’ve won”.
The show was great, but this is a shambolic attempt at recreating it. A darts game where you can't throw your darts properly is a load of bull, frankly.
- Bully goes "AROOOOO" when you run out of time
- The worst dart-throwing mechanic in gaming history
- Doesn't have the iconic theme tune
- The prize round doesn't have prizes in it
- Bully's brave smile hides a broken heart