Written by: Rik

Date posted: November 8, 2010


That was too full to sweep (if you know what this means, congratulations! You know about cricket – contact us for a prize!)

Oh, the hours I could have spent doing something other than desperately trying to glean some entertainment from the variety of flawed and woeful cricket games released over the years. If only there was a way to somehow get the time back and re-use it more constructively – I’d have months, years even, to play with. But it’s gone now, along with several hundred pounds worth of cash handed over, with breathtaking naivety, to ambivalent retailers on or around release day.

As addictions go, it’s not one of the coolest, admittedly. But its impact shouldn’t be underestimated. Entire weekends evaporate as you convince yourself your latest purchase is different – you just need to get the hang of it, give it more time, download the patch – there’s an almost inexhaustible number of concessions that you’ll be prepared to make. And then when the realisation finally comes that you’ve spent money on yet another turd of a game, instead of putting the box in the bin and going outside, you become so desperate for a fix of computer cricket that you load up some of your previous (and equally ill-advised) purchases, just to check that you were definitely right about all of them being shit as well.

I think I’m over it now, but it doesn’t take much to relapse. Even this, a game I correctly identified as a pale imitation of my favourite sport more than 15 years ago, started to play the same old tricks on me after a while – my main thought: “this game is fairly limited and boring” soon started to evolve into: “didn’t they release some updates which actually made it much better?” and sent me scrabbling across the internet to investigate.

You add pace, swing or spin to your deliveries by hammering enthusiastically at the keyboard.

What I should have remembered is that Audiogenic definitely did release several thousand other versions of this game, all using the same engine, boasting minor additional features but none that actually made much difference at all to the overall experience. And I should have remembered that, of course, because I bought them all once already, when they were first released. Such is the life of a cricket game fan.

Anyway, to the game at hand, and let’s start with the obvious: Graham Gooch World Class Cricket, compared with more modern cricket games, is limited and feature-light. But at the same time, it doesn’t really suffer in comparison to the overwhelming majority of its newer, more superficially-impressive, brethren. From a features and options point of view, it’s true that, for example, you won’t be able to play a World Cup, a Test series, or a tournament of any kind. “Boo!” you’ll think at first, “that’s a jolly rum deal”. But then you’ll realise that, even if those options were there, you really wouldn’t want to make use of them.

For all the many, many hours I’ve put in on cricket games over the years, the number of times I’ve actually played through a full-length test series or tournament can be counted on the fingers of one hand. And I like cricket! But whatever way you look at it, cricket matches aren’t started and finished in ten minutes or so, and a tournament is a time-consuming business. And more often than not during that time you’ll come to realise that the game you’re playing just isn’t worth that amount of effort.

Fielding is automatic, but your men are all too happy to allow the computer to take a quick single.

Anyway, once you’ve selected either a limited overs or Test match, you’ll be straight out onto the park for the action itself. If you’re batting, you’ll find that much of the tension and skill involved in the real-life sport has been removed by virtue of the fact that you can see where the bowler’s going to bowl the ball from the moment he starts his run-up. It’s a mistake that virtually every cricket game makes, but it’s a significant one. If you know where the ball’s going, you just have to select the appropriate shot and press the button at the right time, reducing this part of the game to a turgid test of concentration more than anything else. Some grim level of enjoyment is achievable should you eke out a competitive score or successfully chase a total, but it’s not easy, and it’ll take the patience of Job to resist the occasional irresponsible swipe in an attempt to break the monotony.

Bowling is, as always, hard going. Fast bowlers can vary their pace but don’t do anything with the ball. For this of course, you can always select a swing bowler or a spinner, but although you can achieve significant lateral movement through the air or off the pitch, it rarely results in a wicket. You can tinker with the field and move fielders into position for catches, but they seem reluctant to make much effort to get to the ball, sometimes moving out of the way, or letting an airborne shot go straight through them. Similarly, adding additional slip fielders seems to confuse the whole corden, causing them and the wicketkeeper to dive all over the place while remaining unable to take a catch cleanly. Wickets are mainly taken by bowling at the stumps or pitching short and hoping for a mistimed hook shot (or by the computer deciding to run itself out).

Something’s gone very wrong here.

Still, as long as you accept these limitations, there is a certain consistency about the game that’s almost reassuring. Unlike its spiritual successor Brian Lara Cricket, you won’t find the game arbitrarily deciding to make you edge behind the wicket or mis-time a shot when batting. And equally, when bowling, wickets do generally feel earned rather than a random event scheduled at the whim of the computer. If you bowl in a certain area, most of the time you can expect what shot the computer batsman will play. If it’s a good ball, it’ll be played defensively; if it’s short and wide, it’ll be slapped to the boundary as it should be.

So, simplicity is Graham Gooch World Class Cricket‘s greatest strength but also its greatest weakness. On the plus side, it doesn’t promise what it can’t deliver, or (like more modern cricket games) create millions of problems in its own internal logic by attempting to realise every gameplay feature on a cricket fan’s wish list. On the other hand, though, it’s not all that much fun, or that much like cricket. Which, you know, is kind of what you’d want from this sort of thing.