Cricket Revolution December 19, 2009

Gameplay for purists

Not pretty, but offering deep, challenging and rewarding features

Cricket Revolution is a PC-only cricket game that plays rather differently from the better-known Ashes Cricket, in the way Pro Evolution Soccer plays differently from FIFA.

Cricket Revolution features rather hardcore gameplay that challenges you to master its nuances, and rewards you with far greater satisfaction when you finally meet with success. While playing Ashes Cricket at the easiest difficulty level, I was cracking successive boundaries and clearing the infield within minutes. Cricket Revolution mocked my efforts to do this - my first game resulting in a sad scorecard of 12 for 8 off 10 overs. But after spending a few hours at the very nicely implemented nets (the game gives you useful feedback on timing and footwork), I was eventually able to improve to 56 for 3. This is not a game where you can hit every ball to the ropes - you'll have to approach it like actual cricket, settle in, push into the gaps for singles, and hit only the bad balls, in the self-confessed manner of Virender Sehwag.

The highlight of Cricket Revolution is undoubtedly its challenging and deep batting system. As opposed to Ashes Cricket's more forgiving system, which picks your shots for you, Cricket Revolution demands that you gauge the line, length and pace of the ball, look at the field, and manually decide the shots you play. The pleasure of building an innings, working the singles, settling down, and finally unleashing a flurry of boundaries is sure to thrill cricket purists.

The only area where Cricket Revolution's batting system lags behind is in the confusing "placement" system, which isn't as well-implemented as Ashes Cricket's, but it's fine once you get used to it.

Bowling is far more conventional - you have a twitchy aiming reticule to decide where you pitch (think all those PC Darts games), and decide on swing/cut/spin and pace by a single press of the spacebar.

The bat-ball physics are the best seen in a cricket game to date - my early batting misadventures included inside edges, chinese cuts for four, miscues and top edges. These were reduced considerably when I took the time to improve my batting and choose the right shots - a clear demonstration of the game's intelligent and realistic approach.

Cricket Revolution is not without its drawbacks, though.

The artificial intelligence is unfairly biased, and even appears to be cheating at times. Fielders almost always will run you out. Batsmen will walk right across the pitch and hammer your deliveries. However, this is not an issue in multi-player, and indeed, the game is much more fun when you're playing a human opponent, either online or on a local network.

The presentation, sadly, is leagues behind Ashes Cricket. There's no commentary, and none of the visual flourishes that modern gamers have come to expect. There are no editable teams, since there's no official license, so you're stuck playing international cricket with guys with generic names such as R Peter, D James and Cricinfo's very own S Rajesh. However, on the plus side, this game will run on even a modest PC, and with most on-board laptop displays.

Finally, the realistic approach to the gameplay is far batter suited to longer matches, making you wonder why Test matches aren't in the package. I can't imagine anyone who would prefer Cricket Revolution to Ashes Cricket for quick, slam-bang matches (which are essentially about big hitting, which is far easier in the latter game), but it's arguably a superior game for Test matches. In the sequel perhaps?

But nitpicking aside, Mindstorm has done a fantastic job in bringing out a great, enjoyable cricket game on what is probably a very limited budget. It's a stunning achievement for a small, independent studio based in Pakistan (not a country widely known for game development).

Cricket Revolution is for people looking for a challenging, realistic and ultimately more fulfilling cricket game, and are willing to look past a few shortcomings. Like real cricket, the game gives you as much as you put into it - take the time to master its controls and nuances, and you'll be rewarded with hours of deep and engrossing cricket gameplay.

Cricket Revolution
Mindstorm Studios
Available on Steam
US$ 19.99

Anand Ramachandran is a writer and humourist based in Mumbai. He blogs at bosey.co.in