During our occasional sober moments here in the 51allout bunker, when we either haven’t enough money for more gin or no amount of whipping will cajole the work experience boy out into the typical English summer deluge to buy us some, we tend to consider some of the key philosophical concepts that govern our lives. Like what, exactly, do the English selectors see in Samit Patel or how does Mark Nicholas sleep at night? Our prime query, though, is why nobody has been able to make a decent cricket game in years. Putting together a decent simulation of the sport doesn’t seem all that difficult to us, but then what we know about computers extends to knowing where the on switch is and how to delete our internet search history.
One of our main gripes with cricket games are their controls. Pressing a button to swing the bat is too abstract for our simple minds to grasp and doesn’t nearly cover the variations modern batsman (excepting the current West Indian ODI team of course) employ. So there was a great deal of anticipation in the office the day we received our copy of Wii Cricket (or stole, Nichael is sketchy on the details of exactly how he came about our office copy of the game, a Wii and a child’s bike all in the course of one Christmas Eve), with the promise of using the Wii Remote to emulate the style and grace of our batting heroes, from Ian Blackwell to Chris Martin.
Considering the first reviewer we sent to cover this game is still struggling with addiction to his anti-depressant medication, it’s probably safe to say the promise of Wii Cricket was never realised. In fact Wii Cricket is probably the worst cricket game we have ever played, and only saved from being the worst game outright by the fact that some of us have had the misfortune to play Superman 64. There are a plethora of issues with the game, some of which will we cover below, but the main one is that the concept of using the Wii Remote, whilst interesting in theory, is absolutely rubbish in practice, to the extent that the game is effectively ruined by that failing alone.
Holding the Wii Remote as if you were holding a cricket bat seems a good idea in practice. Not only can you play all the typical cricketing strokes, you can also twist your wrists to open or close the face of the bat and play all sorts of classy glides and flicks. To cash in on this appeal, there’s even a cricket bat accessory on the market, which the Wii Remote clicks into to form the handle. All of which promised to provide a batting experience that no other cricket game could hope to emulate. Or so we thought.
The problem is in the execution. In that it’s bobbins. Using your wrists to finesse your strokes (careful now – Ed) has absolutely no effect; the game has only a certain number of pre-animated strokes, which means there is no opportunity to get creative at all. What’s worse is that the game only sometimes recognizes the extravagant swipes of the controller as legitimate shots and reproduces them on screen. Most of the time it doesn’t, which results in your batsman standing there, giving their best Shane Watson impression, as they leave a delivery that goes on to plow into middle stump.
The inevitable outcome of this is that batting is absolutely no fun at all, as you have no idea if your batsman will react at all, let alone with an intelligent shot, leading to you wildly thrash the controller about hoping that it will elicit some sort of onscreen response. And since batting is by far the most (often only) enjoyable aspect of any cricket game, one where even batting is rubbish means this game is the absolute pits. Even if the game was excellent in other areas (it isn’t), that issue alone is enough to consign it to landfill.
After the horrible balls-up that the developers made of the batting, it seems almost redundant to touch on the game’s other features, all of which are as horribly implemented. Bowling is your usual ‘move a cursor about and waggle like crazy’ mess that cricket games seem to universally insist upon. Needless to say it’s utterly tedious and has no redeeming qualities whatsoever. Fielding is likewise horrible and like in most cricket games you have barely any time to react before the ball careers to the fence, meaning boundaries are by far the most common scoring shots.
The presentation is likewise shockingly poor. Although the game features all of the Test playing nations, only England and Australia feature real players. Even then the graphics are so shoddy that we are still getting over the nightmares that Andrew Flintoff gave us. The animations, whilst also extremely limited as mentioned in conjunction with the faults of batting above, are also horribly implemented, and would have been laughed at if they had appeared on a last generation console, let alone a current(ish) one.
All of which leads us to believe that Wii Cricket was a game thrown together at the last moment and chucked out the door before Christmas in a desperate attempt to fool gullible parents. It’s now a frequent inhabitant of bargain bins everywhere, and some members of the 51allout team consider hovering around said bins, dissuading curious customers who are considering parting with a few dollars for the game, as qualifying as part of their community service order.
The most disappointing aspect of this whole sorry episode is that we still believe there is potential in creating cricket games that take advantage of new control methods, other than your typical control pad or keyboard setup. Using a remote controller to control a batsman and play a variety of strokes is a far more intuitive method than simply selecting from a strict set of generic shots. Unfortunately the Wii Cricket experience (we cannot comprehend there being enough gullible parents out there to warrant the game making a profit) means developers will be extremely wary of following their lead, and any new cricket games on the horizon will probably stick with the tried and tested (and appallingly limited) control techniques they have been relying on for a decade or more.
Which is a bit like how everyone has spent the past decade trying and failing hopelessly to find an Adam Gilchrist-esque ‘keeper-batsman really.