Shot Darts.

Wild Bull Mrk II Review
Hello Dartz Nutz'ers. It has been almost two years since I posted(right before the forum switch). I have been darting on and off, played some tournaments like the portland open etc.

Recently I had the opportunity to pick up a used Wild Bull Mrk II Steel Tip Darts Machine from a club that was going out of business. I am a big arcade game fan as well as a darts player so could not pass it up. This is my second arcade darts machine the first being a cougar valley with honest ernie and my fifth arcade cabinet. However this and the wild bull live machine are the only steel tip machines out there that I know of.

From what I understand Wild Bull by merlin darts has its origins in a couple of college grad students who designed a steel tip detection system and turned it into a business. Merlin makes the Wild Bull, Wild Bull Live and the Revolution Dart Board.

Differences in product lines
The wild bull is a standard arcade darts game that came out around 2007. you can play against the computer or other in person people. The wild bull live is a more robust machine with flashy monitors and networked play. The revolution is their home version. I've never played the Live machine, and I almost bought the revolution home machine. The revolution retails for almost 800 dollars. It looks like a normal darts old fashion cabinet with an odd colored board and an led panel where the chalk would go. I will mention the reasons why I did not purchase that later on.

The Mrk II machine is has red theme that isn't over the top in the art department but seems fairly elegant for an arcade game. At first glance the menu system looks very impressive with its 118 buttons and multiple read outs.

However the sound effects department leaves something to be desired. The bleeps and boops almost sound like recycle windows 95 effects rather than cool arcade sounds. Although I don't have the manual one would hope that on a machine that came out in 2007 that there would be a way to swap sfx. voice samples(sid waddel any one?) but no it doesnt appear so...the guy from spaceballs did better sweeps bleeps and boops...

Menu, buttons and Scoring Functionality
The menu system is way over engineered to accomplish simple tasks. I mentioned previously that there are approx 118 buttoms most of them are used to correct scoring errors.

Yes I said it, scoring errors. The machine actually does a great job at detecting the darts but some times it thinks that on the wire darts(depending on the angle) are triples and doubles when they arent. It seems that the darts can go under the wire if they angle steeply causing errors. In about an hour I had this happen twice. At the same time I threw plenty of darts on the wire that it did a great job at detecting correctly as well. So accuracy is some where in the 85-95%

This is an area it is sorely lacking in. It offers several varients of each '01 including open out, double out, double in double out, and (double in master out which is not listed in the menu and I only found it by secretly trying stuff). It also offers cricket, killer cricket, shanghai, killer, countup and pounder. Another secret game I found was darts golf.

Now I know what youre thinking"thats not a bad list of games". However my gripes are that the computer can only play on '01 and cricket. Even Honest Ernie(Computer AI) on my 1987 valley cougar machine can play against you on more games than that.

On the 01 variants You cant double in open out, or master in double out, or open in master out but my machine 20 years its elder can.

Even though its the only steel tip machine out there, its competing soft tip machines that are way more hefty in their game offerings. Also there are no options to unsplit the bull. Most steel tip players would look at me crazy for saying that but alot of electronic games will allow you to do that . Think Bullshooter games or having beginner friends over.

The positive? There are 8 levels of difficulty that are fairly legitimate in their challenge. However setting up a game involves ALOT of keystroke which thanks to the weird menu system, as opposed to my 1987 machine where I can set up a new game in under a two second.

Post game stats
The machine does offer post game stats but they are difficult to understand and involve looking at the marquee on the machine for numbers then down by the buttons below the board for the lcd read out of what that is which by then youve missed.

the machine has taken steps to protect the 118 buttons by quarter inch clear rubber flaps that rest over the menu. The menu can be operated through the flaps but it is a pain resulting in lifting the flaps half the time.

The top score board is an elaborate LED board, and it looks like there is room to put plexiglass in front of it, but there isn't. Not that I would ever nail it but the machine I picked up was a used bar machine and you can tell it has been nailed a bit. No damage on mine but I could see the led's breaking with the right player and 25-40 gram darts nailing it(I've been playing 18-19 gram pencil barrels for the last year and a half and have been rocking it so...)

The construction of the cabinet itself is a little more questionable but not terribly so but it could just be that my was man handled in shipping. The back of the machine collapses into the machine for transport then there is a pnematic jack that automatically lifts it up and you screw in these bolts with giant facet handles to secure it, leading to slightly dubious alignment. Its hard to tell but I think my bull might be a little below 5'8" hard to measure it though.

Fun Factor
Overall I do enjoy the machine alot simply because it is an arcade machine and it is the only decent steel tip electronic machine I know of. The detection system is pretty rad even with the 95% accuracy. The menu is pretty terrible though. Old fashion arcade plunger microswitch buttons would've been better and more durable especially for something designed for a bar. Sound effects are terrible. When I win the least it could do is play a little tune or something. No league options('course thats their selling point on the live machine).

Customer Service
First, I did not buy my machine from merlin darts. However previous to buying my machine from them I tried to contact them about the cost of getting a live machine(networked play is something Id kill for) and or the revolution home game. Neither of which I really ever got responses too.

They seem like their business is not really designed to interact with customers or provide support especially to the general public. Seems their business is more designed to deal with bar and club operators.

They have never provided me with a price as a private non operator who inquired on the live machine.

Finally when I had the opportunity to buy a machine used and wanted to source parts I messaged them and I DID get a response and it was fairly helpful albeit slow because of a lack of that infrastructure again.

This time around I gathered that there are two people involved with the company, Steve Pope(as seen on pdc tv with bristow and taylor demo'ing the machine) and Rudy who is the tech who I gathered builds the machines.

Rudy and then later steve provided me with the prices of the replacement boards for the machine and the price of a manual for it(yes It costs 20$ for a pdf or paper copy of the manual which is stupid).

During that exchange though they were shocked that I found some used machines for sale and were insistent on finding out where and the what the serial numbers on the machines were. Once again I got the impression that the machines are not to be sold to the general public ??

Compare that to Shelti(who once was valley who still makes arcade games). I emailed them and with in the hour I got a free pdf of the manual for their machine and free technical advice.

My mark II machine is cool and it provides me with a steel tip opponent any time I want it(reason I bought it). I would give it 4 out of 5 stars on the basis that the menu stinks and the sfx are crappy and annoying, but they lose half a star because Merlin Darts the company is still young which is evident in the difficulty I've had trying to contact them.

Reason I didn't buy the revolution machine
Dart board looks like its crap quality in the pics and has a weird color scheme. Looks like there is no protect on the LED scorer parts for stray darts. A-z sells the replacement boards for the machine but not the machine itself so they werent able to demo it for me. Machines are only available direct from merlin and they wouldnt respond to my questions or my inquires asking to see videos of it in use, and it was 750$ retail(with a free set of cheap tungsten darts!). I bought the Wild Bull arcade machine for 699$+shipping, and have seen them go for 650 to as low as 350 for a broken one on craigslist and ebay.
oh and Dartboard Quality.
Wires are blade style wires but about twice as thick and painted white. Which wouldve been a cutting edge board in 2007 and is still really good but isn't championship quality today. But it does make the treb's and doub's seem smaller which is good for practice right? Staple free. Sissal isn't super great quality but I have yet to get the replacement board So its hard to judge fairly. You can tell this board got damp and that people used gripper tips because soe of the segments are beat to hell. Ill update this when I get the replacement board. They are 70$ fyi
Evening/low light play
Right now the conditions in my house are rather dim because the sun set about an hour ago. So probably pretty close to pub/bar conditions right now.Something that immediately becomes apparent is the shadows the machine casts. The marquee is alot shallower than other dart machines I've played on.(the light for the board usually hangs out of the bottom of the marquee part of the cabinet.)

As a consequence the angle of incidence for the lights is steeper causing ALOT of shadows.The wires are fairly deep too so they compound the problem.
Welcome back Vallyr I remember you, good to see you back in the action Guests cannot see images in the messages. Please register at the forum by clicking here to see images.

Great review, have you got any pics?

Sounds like the machine some one posted a youtube clip of Bristow and Taylor playing on it?
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I actually own the Vortex version of this machine and am trying to find a manual or source of parts for it. Seems increasingly difficult since Merlin Technologies is now out of business and there aren't a lot of these things out there anymore. If anyone has a manual, parts source, or knowledge of the machine itself please let me know.

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