Cricket isn't trendy, unlike football - which is why there are so many of those irritating new Manchester United Cfans' like that bimboid Zoe Ball cluttering up the country at the moment. The fact that the English cricket team is slightly less successful than a live sex show starring Bernard Manning and Barbara Cartland doesn't help. Anyway, you may remember that we reviewed Ian Botham International Cricket in Issue 37. Or you may not. You may have been in prison for gerbil-related sexual offences, for all I know. Let's move along. In Australia it was called EA Cricket - but EA declined to take up the offer in the uk, and it came out under Beam's own name. But now we have EA Cricket 97, and basically, it's IBIC in a Virtual Stadium. And it's really quite good.
A game of several temporal subdivisions
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Just as in the original version, you can play Test and One-Day matches, the World Challenge (which is a three-way competition modelled on the World Series) or a Fast Match, for people who are so impatient they can't even be bothered to pick a team. All the major Test-playing nations are represented, as are England. Unfortunately, the players all have fictional names. And you don't have in-game lunch and tea intervals, so it's reduced to being a game of two (or... er, four) halves. As well as the arcade side, there's a tactical element: you can set your own fields, swap bowlers about, and generally come over all Dermot Reeve. (Pause while Patrick checks that he's typed that last bit in the right order...)
Cricket Game 2005
It's far superior to the last version. For a start, motion-captured players look better than crappy old SNES-style sprites. And the in-game presentation is infinitely better with fmv footage of, and commentary by, Richie Benaud, the world's finest commentator. As you'd expect, he's excellent. Stuff like, I've seen worse running between the wickets over the years (pause)... it's difficult to remember when... Cool, and completely convincing. (He even crops up in the installation sequence and tells you what to do. And when he fixes you with the stare that must have scared the shit out of anyone who played for him, you do as you're told, too.) Just to show you that it isn't as easy as he makes it look, there's also footage of Ian Botham, who's more wooden than Noah's Ark.
Brian Lara Cricket '96
The one area where the game is still a bit on the weak side is in the shotmaking. The computer still plays shots that you haven't selected - which seems perfectly acceptable when you get a boundary, but a bloody pain in the arse when you're out as a result. This aside, though, the controls are intuitive and well-thought out, and it's actually a very playable one- and two-player game. If you like cricket, you'll like this. And even if you don't, it's still playable -although you're probably better off jumping on the football or American sporting simulation bandwagon.