The Nintendo DS is perhaps the greatest parenting aid ever invented, behind the pacifier. Can’t be bothered amusing the kids for a while? Give them a DS and let them lose themselves in Pokemon for a couple of hours whilst you polish off that second bottle of gin. For best results we particularly like it when two kids have to share the single console between them whilst on public transport with their mother, as they fight and scream over control of it. Meanwhile the erstwhile mother lies back and thinks of places she’d rather be. Like a beach somewhere, receiving a massage from a strapping blonde Aussie or perhaps enjoying a quiet drink whilst relaxing on a pedalo. All of which, conveniently enough, brings us to today’s game review.
As you might have picked up on in our Wii Cricket review, we’re rather taken by novel control schemes here at 51allout. Anything a little more original than your usual cricket game controls (press A to bowl fast, push forward to drive, etc) never ceases to pique our interest. And it’s for that reason that Shane Watson’s Cricket caused a minor stir in the office, even generating a minor squabble over who would get the honour of reviewing it.
Shane Watson’s Cricket is all about novel control schemes, in that the game is entirely controlled using the touch screen on the DS. There’s no button pressing at all. Which is convenient if you have no fingers, I guess, although holding the stylus will probably still be something of an issue. Whether batting or bowling the camera is positioned behind the batsman and it’s your job to direct things via the stylus. For batting this means drawing out the stroke you want you play, a straight line for a drive, or one to the right to cut, for instance. The skill factor comes in when you consider that the faster you draw the line, the worse the shot is. So for best results you need to line up your shot early. Which can be quite difficult when the ball is hooping around all over the place like at the Oval on a overcast morning. Except when England are bowling, of course.
For the bowler the scenario is similar, in that you draw the line of the delivery with the stylus, and set the length with a cursor. You can get pretty creative at this stage, and swing bowlers can have all sorts of fun sending down deliveries that bend the world of physics to its very limit. Enjoyably enough the game rewards you for bowling bodyline tactics, as each successful shot builds up a power meter, which is instantly emptied if you manage to scone the batsman.
The graphics are, for the DS at least, not all that bad. Each game takes place at the same stadium, which mixes the famous Lord’s Pavilion with a bunch of other crap the designers presumably thought it would be fun to throw in. The animations are fairly dodgy, as to be expected, and the ball seems to come out of the bowler’s hand at the point at which you least expect it. Which makes it a bit like facing Sohail Tanvir, but you get used to it in time.
You might notice we’ve said very little about the game itself at this point. And with good reason. Because it is utter rubbish. The premise of the game is to belt the leather off the ball, and pick up ‘runs’ based on how far you hit it. Hitting details in the outfield like the scoreboard earns you extra runs. Unfortunately braining Lord’s Members in the pavilion seems to have no reward. But as far as gameplay is concerned, that’s it. There is a training mode also available, that takes place in the nets, but it’s otherwise exactly the same.
All in all the game plays like one of those bad flash based games that you can play for free on the PC. There is absolutely no depth to the game and once you have the timing of the batting worked out, almost no skill. We would be surprised if anyone other than a toddler or David Warner couldn’t master this game within twenty minutes.
Which is disappointing as the core concept is fine, and we’d liked to have seen it extended to a proper cricket game, rather than the extremely limited slog fest that the developers saw fit to shove out the door. Using the stylus to control the batsman is a neat concept, and if built upon could have delivered a halfway decent cricket game. Instead what we have is essentially a tech demo, something that looks like it was thrown together in order to show the publisher what they could do with the concept if they were given the opportunity to make a full game. Needless to say, it seems that that opportunity was not forthcoming.
So instead we ended up with this, a title that feels too poor to even justify a spot in a bargain bin, and would probably be better at home in a mini-game collection, rather than being flogged as a game in its own right. We are just sad to see Shane Watson’s name dragged through the mud like this. We couldn’t care less about Andrew Flintoff’s name though, as dragging it through the mud is essentially his full time job now.